While they were writing, two poets found love

Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello ’14 and Guillermo Cancio-Bello ’12, both alumni from FIU’s Creative Writing master’s program, met while working on their poetry with Professor Campbell McGrath. Photo credit: (c) Gary H. Nun.

Where did you meet your Valentine? At a party, during class, on your way to the movies? How about while waiting to speak to a professor during office hours? As unlikely as it sounds that’s exactly how a pair of FIU lovebirds met.

In 2012, Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello ’14 had just begun her master’s in Creative Writing at FIU. Guillermo Cancio-Bello ’12 was finishing his last semester in the same program. They didn’t have classes together. But every week, they both raced to creative writing professor Campbell McGrath’s office hours. And the office wasn’t big enough for the both of them. Marci saw Guillermo as her office hours rival. At the time, Marci was sure of two things: she would never date a writer and Guillermo wasn’t her type. He was blonde, tall and fit. And, in true Pride and Prejudice style, Marci made several assumptions about Guillermo.

One day, while Marci waited outside the office for Guillermo to finish discussing his master’s thesis with McGrath, Guillermo pulled his back. She helped Guillermo by placing her elbow in his back (her mom is a holistic practitioner). She also helped him to the car.

“It was the first time I talked to him,” Marci says. “I saw he was a really nice guy!”

Photo credit: (c) Gary H. Nun

Since then, the two have been inseparable. From going for coffee and sharing each other’s poetry to touring Miami, their relationship blossomed from friendship to romance.

They married in 2014. The great thing about a couple of poets: their love pours into their writing, too.

“I fell in love with his poetry,” Marci says. “He was one of the best poets I’d seen in the program. I found we had very similar perspectives on what poetry is. A lot of the poems felt like he was writing them for me.”

Guillermo wrote Marci a series of sonnets – which Marci says are the best sonnets she’s ever read.

“When you can be yourself with someone that’s just a good indicator of connection,” Guillermo says. “Someone I could be quirky with, serious with, and cry with. I don’t think I had ever had that. There was something about our relationship, that made me go to those places and make me grow. She brought that out of me and she still does. Just truly being intimate with somebody else in every way is an amazing thing – I couldn’t have done that with anyone but Marci.”

Photo credit: (c) George Street Photography.

What they’ve learned so far is that marriage is a lot like writing.

“Sure, there’s the magical feeling that you found the one, like the feeling that you’re going to be a great poet,” Marci says. “But the work you put into your writing, you have to put the same amount of work, energy and earnestness into your relationship in order for that to work. People have misconceptions about poetry being ethereal and easy, and relationships, too. Being attentive, empathetic, conscious and aware is important for a relationship to continue growing.”

Marci recently won the prestigious Donald Hall Prize in 2015 for her poetry book Hour of the Ox, which was originally her master’s thesis. Guillermo’s poetry has appeared in various publications, and he currently works as a marriage and family therapist. Click here to read one of the poems he wrote for Marci.

Elli (left) and Hopkins (right) are both named after poets.

They have two dogs – one they adopted on their way to an FIU Football game – both named after poets: Elli for Elizabeth Bishop and Hopkins for Gerard Manly Hopkins.

“I would not be married if it was not for FIU,” Marci says. “FIU gave me a husband, a dog, a book and many of my friends.”

Do you have an FIU love story? Share your story with the university community in the comment section below.