In 1966, Martin Willitts Jr went to the Chicago Institute Of Art on an invitation for interviewing to enter the college program. He carried his large canvases (he had stretched his own canvases) in a portfolio, taking a train from Syracuse, New York, to Chicago, took the El to the college, and sat in a waiting room with other students. Out of curiousity, the students began showing each other’s paintings. Martin became so intimidated, he left without showing his work to the professors. He took the train back home, and ended up working with the American Friends Service Committee in Vietnam. He was like a medic, doing triage and First Aid during, bringing back the wounded, assisting in the operations, and handling the body bags.
He never saw the letter from the college until almost four years later, offering him a full scholarship to become an art student. The letter said that he really did not need to show his portfolio. The professors had seen his paintings in New York State high school art shows.
Flash forward to 2005. Martin took up paper cutting and origami as methods to control his hands. He can still identify works of art and dates, by sight. He can tell you the story behind the paintings and something about the artists. He is a Librarian, after all.
One time Martin was in a museum and he became so excited, he began talking about the paintings and artists. The next thing he knew, he had a crowd convinced he was a museum guide.
Martin Willitts Jr never intended to become a poet. He wanted to become a Playwright. He took a Creative Writing course in 1982 to get feedback about his plays, but the instructor insisted that they would only read poetry. From 1972-1984, Martin published hundreds of poems, and three chapbooks. Then he stopped.
He did not write again until 2001. He was invited to participate in an online magazine special feature about 9/11. The editor said, "Are you the Martin Willitts Jr. Are you sure you are not dead?" He is back now; apparently from the dead.
Martin Willitts Jr is a retired MLS Senior Librarian (a trainer of trainers) living in Syracuse, New York. He is currently tutoring 4th grade students, evaluates Prior Learning Evaluations for SUNY Empire State College, a professional Oral Storyteller telling stories from around the world from memory, and he is a “Science Magician” able to throw playing cards into watermelons and bounce eggs. He is a Quaker, a healer, and an organic gardener. He is a visual artist of Victorian and Chinese paper cutouts. He was nominated for 5 Pushcart and 3 Best of the Net awards. He provided his family and children’s hands-on workshop “How to Make Origami Haiku Jumping Frogs” at the 2012 Massachusetts Poetry Festival to over 90 adults and children, combining haiku and origami, teaching math, poetry, science, and even physics through the program.
He has print chapbooks "Falling In and Out of Love" (Pudding House Publications, 2005), “Lowering Nets of Light” (Pudding House Publications, 2007), The Garden of French Horns” (Pudding House Publications, 2008), “Baskets of Tomorrow” (Flutter Press, 2009), “The Girl Who Sang Forth Horses” (Pudding House Publications, 2010), “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers for Cezanne” (Finishing Line Press, 2010), “Why Women Are A Ribbon Around A Bomb” (Last Automat, 2011), “Protest, Petition, Write, Speak: Matilda Joslyn Gage Poems” (Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation, 2011), “Secrets No One Wants To Talk About” (Dos Madres Press, 2011), “How to Find Peace” (Kattywompus Press, 2012), “Playing The Pauses In The Absence Of Stars” (Main Street Rag, 2012), and “No Special Favors” (Green Fuse Press, 2012).
He has three full length books "The Secret Language of the Universe" (March Street Press, 2006), and “The Hummingbird” (March Street Press, 2009), and “The Heart Knows, Simply, What It Needs: Poems based on Emily Dickinson, her life and poetry” (Aldrich Press, 2012).
His forthcoming poetry books include “Waiting For The Day To Open Its Wings” (UNBOUND Content, 2013), “Art Is the Impression of what an Artist Sees” (Edgar and Lenore's Publishing House, 2013), “City Of Tents” (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2013), "A Is for Aorta" (Seven Circles Press, e-book, 2013), "Swimming In the Ladle of Stars" (Kattywompus Press, 2013), “Late All Night Sessions with Charlie “the Bird” Parker and the Members of Birdland, in Take-Three” (A Kind Of a Hurricane Press, ebook, 2013).
Martin Willitts Jr is the winner of the inaugural 2012 Wild Earth Poetry Contest for his full length collection “Searching for What Is Not There” (Hiraeth Press, 2013).