Margaret Diorio, 73, poet and editor

December 16, 1997|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

Margaret Diorio, a Baltimore poet whose work celebrated and illuminated the ordinary events of daily life, died Dec. 7 at St. Joseph Medical Center, five days after suffering cardiac arrest. She was 73.

The author of four books of poetry, Mrs. Diorio also was poetry editor for Icarus Books, a publishing company she and her husband, David, operated.

She corresponded over the years with such poets and writers as Marianne Moore and Robert Penn Warren, and was a mentor for younger poets.

"There is something gently moving about Margaret Diorio's poetry, with its quiet tone of voice, its sense of simplicity and completeness, and its illumination of the most 'ordinary so-called events in daily life,' " Anne Tyler, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, said of Mrs. Diorio's third book, "Bringing in the Plants."

Poet and translator Willis Barnestone said, "In her best poems, Margaret Diorio makes the ordinary lucid, the family act a scribble in the book of the world's history."

Dorothy Day, editor and publisher of the Catholic Worker, newspaper that printed five of Mrs. Diorio's poems, said, "The anguish of some of these verses pierces the heart, even while the beauty of them heals it."

Mrs. Diorio was born Margaret Toarello in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 17, 1924, and attended public schools. In the late 1940s, she enrolled in Columbia University, where she studied liberal arts and met Mr. Diorio.

They were married in 1955 and lived in Manhattan. In 1968, they moved to Towson. He was an analyst for the Social Security Administration while she wrote poetry and reared their two children. A Quaker since 1961, she was a member of Stony Run Friends Meeting and enjoyed gardening.

Mrs. Diorio's other books were "Morning Fugues," published in 1952; "Listening," in 1973; and "End of Summer," in 1993. In addition to her writing, she devoted much of her time to providing an outlet for other poets.

She edited Icarus, A Poetry Journal, which published the work of hundreds of poets from 1973 to 1979. From 1986 to 1995, she coordinated summer poetry readings as part of the Arts and Peace Festival on the Friends School campus in Baltimore.

Mrs. Diorio's cardiac arrest was attributed in part to Parkinson's disease, which she developed in 1994. It progressed rapidly, weakening her to the point that she could not walk or care for herself. But she continued to write until the last year of her life, composing a poem about Parkinson's and a love poem from the point of view of a person with the disease.

Diane Scharper, a Baltimore writer and poet, described Mrs. Diorio as "a very kind, welcoming presence" on the poetry scene.

"Sometimes that scene can be fraught with competition and be hurtful," Ms. Scharper said. "I'd heard about Icarus at the College of Notre Dame and was advised by Sister Maura [Eichner] to send poetry there. When I first met her at Artscape, I was surprised Margaret knew my name and was so very warm and friendly."

Friends Journal said Mrs. Diorio's last book, "End of Summer," was "marked by simplicity, economy and the clear voice of personal testimony," adding, "It's no surprise that a Quaker poet such as Margaret Diorio would seem right at home in this milieu. Most of the poems describe moments of heightened feeling in her daily life."

"Lost Boy," one of the collection's poems, ends in a double blessing, the child's return and his oblivion. It first appeared in The Sun in 1991 and ends:

Suddenly he pedals into view.

He did not know he was lost.

For a long time he stood

Listening for deer.

Thomas Dorsett, a Baltimore pediatrician and poet, considered Mrs. Diorio a good friend. "Only a first-rate poetic mind could accomplish what Margaret did: the transformation of intense personal experience into poems of universal meaning," he said.

A memorial service is planned for 1 p.m. Sunday at Stony Run Friends Meeting House, 5116 N. Charles St.

In addition to her husband, Mrs. Diorio is survived by a son, Christopher Diorio of Catonsville; a daughter, Julie Houk of Timonium; and two grandchildren.

More obituaries on next page.

Pub Date: 12/16/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.