Natalie Marino on Capturing a Childlike Sense of Wonder in Poetry

the night's stars by natalie marino in capsule stories summer 2021 edition

Natalie Marino is a poet, physician, and mother. Her work appears in Barren Magazine, Bitter Oleander, Capsule Stories, Dust Poetry Magazine, EcoTheo Review, Kissing Dynamite, LEON Literary Review, Literary Mama, Midway Journal, MORIA, Oyez Review, and elsewhere. Her micro-chapbook Attachment Theory was published by Ghost City Press in June 2021. She lives in California.

Natalie Marino’s poems “The Night’s Stars,” “Firefly Songs,” “Evanescence,” “Summer Starlight,” and “Going Home” are published in Capsule Stories Summer 2021 Edition. These poems are about the joy of summer from children’s perspectives, and how that perspective often changes in adulthood, and how joy in childhood is often very universal, but we all change in unique ways as we mature. “Firefly Songs” in particular examines joy between people who love each other despite the necessary difference in perspective between them.

Capsule Stories: Several of your poems explore the connections between generations of your family. In “Summer Starlight,” you write: “In a photograph taken in 1911 / my six-year-old grandmother / holds hope in her eyes. // I see the same dreams / in my daughters.” What draws you to exploring generational themes in your poetry? What do you hope to find?

Natalie Marino: I started seriously writing poetry in 2020 right before I turned forty-two years old. I started writing in an attempt to record my thoughts and feelings about my life and close family members for my two young daughters, who were nine and five years old at the time. Love and art are two of the most important things to me, and writing about family—my mother and father, my sister, my husband, and my children—remains a primary focus of my work. 

Capsule Stories: These poems are simple in language and form but brimming with a childlike sense of wonder at the world. In “Evanescence,” you write: “My child eyes see // truth tellers dancing naked / to their own joy songs / under stars being born.” How do you tap into this childlike sense of wonder in your poetry?

Natalie Marino: In watching my own children grow up it has become apparent that there is a burst of creativity in childhood. During the COVID-19 pandemic when my children did not have in-person school, I spent a lot more time with my children doing creative things, such as painting, singing, dancing, and writing, and these activities helped me remember and tap into the creativity I had as a child. 

Capsule Stories: In “Firefly Songs,” you write: “When we watch // the open sky / with a tin telescope, / we laugh at not seeing / the same bright stars.” This idea of looking at the same night sky and not seeing the same stars, of having different perspectives, is striking. Can you talk about this idea and how it informs your poetry?

Natalie Marino: As a physician I have spent over ten years learning how to better communicate with patients. And while some communication between two people can come close to complete understanding, it never quite makes it. And perhaps my interest in how to better understand a patient’s disease and concerns has drawn me to poetry. With every poem, I try to get as close as I can to the truth, or really, my truth. However, two people cannot have an identical perspective, and this fascinates me. 

Capsule Stories: In “The Night’s Stars,” you write: “The air around us is black / and we are still / like babies the moment before birth.” The imagery of babies the moment before birth feels so unexpected here. How did you land on this simile to describe a quiet night under the stars? 

Natalie Marino: Much of my poetry discussed life as cyclical. The idea of “The Night’s Stars” came to me when I thought about the night I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with my husband. And when I thought about how much I love my husband, I couldn’t get away from the idea that all love, whether between mother and child or husband and wife, is wrapped up in the same cycle, from the moment of birth to the moment of death. 

Capsule Stories: What other writers and poets have influenced your writing? 

Natalie Marino: From an early age, music has influenced me a lot, and it still does. One of my favorite musical artists right now is Gregory Alan Isakov. His music is beautiful, and his lyrics have a very poetic quality. As for poets, some of my greatest influencers have been Louise Glück and Lucille Clifton. Both of these writers have seemingly straightforward syntax, but in their poetry there is also a lot of mystery. The beautiful sadness of Louise Glück and universal yearning for optimism in Lucille Clifton’s work is amazing to me.

Capsule Stories: Between being a physician and a parent, how do you make time in your life to write? 

Natalie Marino: I find I have to be really intentional about creating space to write, because as a physician and a mother, there is so much I want to do every day! My husband also works very hard at his job so that I can work part time as a physician, and I am grateful for this.

Capsule Stories: What are you working on next?

Natalie Marino: Probably like a lot of people, I am increasingly concerned not only about the future of our planet, but also for the basic health and well-being of our children, and so I have been writing a lot of eco-poetry as of late. I am becoming increasingly interested in incorporating nature imagery and lyrical language into my work.

You can follow Natalie Marino on Twitter at @n_marinopoet, and you can find more of her work at nataliemarinopoet.com.

Photo of Natalie Marino
Natalie Marino

Read Natalie Marino’s poems in Capsule Stories Summer 2021 Edition, now available in paperback and ebook.

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