Saturday, March 8, 2014


In honor of this special day I present to you Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia. Elena was the first woman in Europe to graduate from a University. She studied and received her degree from the University of Padua, Italy.

Elena was born in Venice on June 5, 1646. Her father, a wise man in my opinion, wanted his daughter to be educated (a novel idea for those times). Elena was an avid learner, could speak several languages, was fluent in Latin. While at the University she had sought a degree in Theology but the thinking of the times did not allow women in the field of Theology. The degree conferred on her was a Doctorate of Philosophy, she received it on June 25, 1678. It is reported that 30 thousand people showed up for the graduation ceremonies which took place at the Cathedral. Records show that her acceptance speech lasted three hours and was given totally in Latin. Elena died a young woman at the age of 38. The date was June 25, 1678.

Vassar's Thompson Library honors this fabulous woman with a beautiful window which tells Elena's story.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

 A Christmas poem by Francesco Politano

E’ nuovamente Natale

E’ nuovamente Natale
nelle case e nelle vie del paese.
C’è chiarità d’azzurro nel cielo,
quiete di terra tra gli alberi
e un abbraccio infinito d’onde.
                           Francesco Politano

Buon Natale a tutti!
Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Francesco Politano e la sua poesia

Francesco Politano from Amantea, Calabria, is my cousin’s husband. He is a poet, essayist, teacher for over thirty years. As a poet, he has received a number of awards, and has published several books of poems. The following are the titles of some of his books:’ Il rumore del silenzio’; ‘Le parole, gli anni’; ‘Nel bosco dei palazzo’; ‘ Nell’atelier del cuore’; ‘ Il fruscio delle cose’. His poems have been translated into Spanish, French, and English.

Francesco’s last book has been published in both Italian and Spanish. The titles are: ‘Il fruscio delle cose’ in Italian, and ‘El murmullo de las cosas’ in Spanish. My interpretation of the title is ‘The Whispering Of Things’.

In this last book he has included a poem dedicated to me, and one dedicated jointly to my husband and a cousin in Italy.

In his poems Francesco looks for meanings beyond the superficiality of things/people, tries to find the roots/core of meaning. He looks for ties between present and past, youth and old age, animals and inanimate objects, internal and external situations. His verses are usually narrative and descriptive, characterized by conciseness.

1. Poem dedicated to me, in Italian, Spanish, and English. The English version is my rendition, hopefully the author will forgive me if I missed the gist of the poem.

La Cugina Americana

“E’la fantasia piu’ grande
La realta’ della vita”,
nel suo blog la cugina americana
dice agli antichi e ai nuovi amici.

La Prima Americana

“La fantasia mas grande es
La realidad de la vida”,
dice en su blog la prima americana
a los antiguos y a los nuevos amigos.

The American Cousin

“The biggest fantasy is
That life is real”
Writes the American cousin in her blog
To old and new friends.

2. Poem dedicated to my husband and our cousin Carmelo:

Fred e Carmelo

Fred e Carmelo, fotoartisti d’oggi.
Respingono il banale
Cercano d’afferare
Il profondo splendore delle cose.

My translation into English:

Fred and Carmelo

Fred and Carmelo, today’s photo artists.
They reject the ordinary
Attempting to grasp
The profound splendor of things.


Friday, October 18, 2013

Please help in the restoration of the Statue.

Restauro della statua secentesca di S. Michele Arcangelo di Librizzi. Contribuisci anche tu!

Please make a donation to help in the restoration of the historical statue of S. Michele Arcangelo in Librizzi. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

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Ognuno sta solo sul cuor della terra
trafitto da un raggio di sole:
ed è subito sera.

Everyone stands alone at the heart of the world,
pierced by a ray of sunlight,
and suddenly it’s evening.

These three verses constitute a whole poem written by Salvatore Quasimodo, my favorite Sicilian poet.
I identify with the sentiments expressed in this poem and after a life of many challenges I, like Quasimodo, have concluded that life indeed is a brief, painful moment, followed by death.

The poem titled’ Ed è subito sera’ is part of his first collection of poems Acque e Terre (Waters and Lands), published in 1930. During this first phase, Quasimodo’s writings belong to a hermetic poetic movement which reflected on the existential condition of man. Solitude, the pain of living, and death are the three themes expressed in the poem. The author, while living in the hub of life’s activities, tragically feels alone, incapable to communicate with others.  His second verse talks about human life and that even though there are rays of happiness at the same time there is pain due to the knowledge that death is to follow. The third verse is the dramatic conclusion which is death. Evening being the metaphor for death.

Another poem from ‘Acque e Terre’ that I treasure in my memory is ‘Vento a Tindari’ (Wind at Tindari).  This poem is set in Tindari a town that can be seen from the one of my birth, Librizzi. Tindarys (Tindari) has a long historical background that goes back to the Greek roots of Sicily, here was established the last Greek colony.  Later the Romans added their footprints, and it is here where the revered Black Madonna has her beautiful cathedral.  The poem ‘Vento a Tindari’ is inscribed on a wall in Tindari and it was here where I discovered Salvatore Quasimodo. In the 1970s my family and I visited Tindari and while walking to the Greek amphitheater we found the poem, and my love for SQ’s poetry had its beginning.

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‘ Tindari, mite ti so’

Tindari, I know you
mild between broad hills, overhanging the waters
of the god’s sweet islands.
Today, you confront me
and penetrate my heart.

 I climb airy peaks, precipices,
following the wind in the pines,
and the crowd of them, lightly accompanying me,
fly off into the air,
wave of love and sound,
and you take me to you,
you from whom I wrongly gathered
evil, and fear of shadow, silence
– refuge of sweetness, once certain –
and death of spirit.

 It is unknown to you, that country
where each day I go deep
to nourish secret syllables:
a different light bares you, behind the windows
clothed in night,
and another joy than mine
rests on your breast.

Exile is harsh
and the search, for harmony, ending in you,
changes today
to a precocious anxiousness for death,
and every love is a shield against sadness,
a silent stair in the gloom,
where you station me
to break my bitter bread.

Return, serene Tindari,
stir me, sweet friend,
to raise myself to the sky from the rock,
so that I might shape fear, for those who do not know
what deep wind has searched me.

Salvatore Quasimodo was born on August 20, 1901 in Modica, Sicily where his father was a stationmaster with the Italian railroads. After the devastating Messina earthquake of 1908, his father was sent to Messina to help with the reconstruction of Messina. Salvatore was educated in Messina until 1919.  From Messina he went to Rome to study engineering but did not complete his studies, instead he held a variety of jobs until 1926 where he became an employee of the Civil Engineering Board. He was transferred several times to other areas of Italy and finally in 1938 he left his job to become the editor of the weekly Tempo.  In 1941 he became a professor of Italian Literature at the Giuseppe Verdi Conservatory of Music.

During WWII, Quasimodo was involved in the anti-fascist movement and was briefly imprisoned.  The work that he produced during and after the war he addresses and interprets contemporary history, social conditions, and the persistence of hope.  His wokd ‘Giorno dopo giorno’ (Day after Day), 1947, tackles Italy’s hardships and his horror with Italy’s role in the war.  This book of poems is considered the best book of poetry to come out of WWII. Below is one of the poems from ‘Giorno dopo giorno’ :

‘Man of My Time’

You are the creature still of stone and sling,
man of my time. Yours was the cockpit
of malignant wings, the gnomons of death,
– I saw you – in the fiery chariot, at the gallows,
at the torturer’s wheel. I saw you: it was you,
your exact science devoted to extermination,
without love, or saviour. Again you kill,
as ever, as your fathers did, as the creatures
that saw you for the first time, killed.
And the blood still smells of that day
when one brother said to the other:
‘Let us go to the field.’ And that echo, chill,
tenacious, reaches down to you, in your day.
Forget, o sons, the clouds born of blood
risen from the earth, forget the fathers:
their tombs sink down deep in the ashes,
dark birds, the wind, cover their hearts.

Quasimodo was also known for his translations of Greek and Latin poets such as Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Virgil. He translated Shakespeare, Moliere, and contemporary poets such as e.e. cummins, Pablo Neruda, and Conrad Aiken.

Quasimodo received many awards and prizes, among them the  Premio San Babila (1950), Premio Etna-Taormina, 1953(together with Dylan Thomas) (1953), Premio Viareggio,1958 and, finally, the Nobel Prize for Literature, 1959. In 1960 and 1967 he received honoris causa degrees from the Universities of Messina and Oxford, respectively.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Flowers and Dedications.

Here are some photos dedicated to my Librizzi relatives and friends. And of course the relatives and friends who live in nearby towns.

When I think of Librizzi in Spring, I think of Poppies and Ginestra (Broom Plants). I have not been able to grow Poppies in my area but I have succeeded to grow Ginestra.

Azaleas and Redbuds are two of the many flowers that typify the area I live in in Virginia, USA. I hope that you enjoy the photos.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

SONETTO or SONNET, the language of love.


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee
Yes, this is Sonnet 18 by Shakespeare.

Perhaps you are thinking that the sonnet form arose in England and that Shakespeare was the creator of the form.  Wrong! The original sonnets looked more like this:


Io m'aggio posto in core a Dio servire,
com'io potesse gire in paradiso,
al santo loco ch'aggio audito dire,
u' si mantien sollazzo, gioco e riso.
Sanza mia donna non vi voria gire,
quella c'ha blonda testa e claro viso,
chè sanza lei non poteria gaudere,
estando da la mia donna diviso.
Ma no lo dico a tale intendimento,
perch'io peccato ci volesse fare;
se non veder lo suo bel portamento
e lo bel viso e 'l morbido sguardare:
chè lo mi teria in gran consolamento,
veggendo la mia donna in ghiera stare.
Iacopo da Lentini, written in the vernacular Sicilian of the 13th century


The Sonnet was born in Palermo, Sicily, during the reign of Frederick II (1194-1250),also known as the Stupor Mundi(“The Wonder of the World”).
Frederick was a learned, progressive, ruler and poet.  He surrounded himself with the best minds of Sicily, mainland Italy, and France.It was at his Magna Curia, the Royal Court,that the Scuola Siciliana was established.  The Sicilian School was not an institution but a philosophic and literary movement.

The poets of this school were all high court officials, administrators, organizers, who were inspired to express themselves poetically.  The School was made up of a small group of poets who between 1230 and 1250 wrote over 300 lyric poems.   A few of the notable poets were Iacopo da Lentini (Lentini is a town between Catania and Siracusa), Pier della Vigna, Filippo da Messina,and Cielo d’Alcamo.  The principal exponent of the Sicilian School was Iacopo da Lentini, in fact he is considered the creator of the form called Sonetto or Sonnet in English.

Troubadours from provenzal France who had been exiled from Provence, took refuge in Palermo, at the court of Frederick II where artistic development was cultivated. Their love poetry which was written in Langue d’oc , inspired the Sicilian poets and became the basis of the new form.  However the language used by the Sicilian poets was not that of the troubadours but the Sicilian dialect which existed side by side with Latin.  Hence the School established the vernacular, the Sicilian dialect, as the standard language for Italian love poetry.
 The themes of courtly love as expressed in the troubadours’ poems are, homage to the woman,her virtue,her physical and moral beauty,hope that the love would be reciprocated by the lady,her modesty in not revealing her own passion.  In the Sicilian poems the courtly themes remain but they are stylized, and are no longer concrete but abstract.  There is no mention of specific time nor place.

Another fundamental difference is that while the poetry of the troubadours dealt with moral, civil, and political themes, the Sicilian poetry eliminated these aspects and concentrated on courtly love.

The music that accompanied the troubadours’ poems was also eliminated, and new metric forms were introduced, among which were the ‘canzone’ and the ‘sonetto'. Sonetto means ‘little sound’ or ‘little song’.

   The Sonnet of the Sicilian Court of Frederick II (early 13th century) has these features:

 Sicilian Octave.. a. b. a. b. . a. b. a. b
Sicilian Sestet.. c. d. c.  d. c. d.
Pre-Iambic Pentameter

The epitaph of Giulia Topazia is an example of the Sicilian octave:

Qui, d'Atropos il colpo ricevuto,
giace di Roma Giulia Topazia,
dell'alto sangue di Cesare arguto
discesa, bella e piena d'ogni grazia,
che, in parto, abbandonati in non dovuto
modo ci ha: onde non fia giá mai sazia
l'anima nostra il suo non conosciuto
Dio biasimar che fè sí gran fallazia.

English (non-rhyming translation):

Here, having received Atropos's blow,
lies Giulia Topazia of Rome
descended from the high bloodline of witty Caesar,
beautiful, and full of every grace,
who, in childbirth, abandoned us in a manner that ought not be:
thus, our minds will never have enough
of cursing her God, unknowable,
who might make such a great error.

(In my opinion, the English translation does not do justice to the beauty of the actual epitaph)

As I mentioned above, Iacopo da Lentini (1188-1240), the chief Court notary, is considered the creator of the sonnet and its new metric innovation. Of the original poems 125 have survived, 85 canzones and 30 sonnets.Forty of these lyrics,including sonnets and canzones,are by Iacopo da Lentini.  Iacopo adapted the themes, style, and language of Provencal poetry to Sicilian, and infused it with his own aristocratic tastes.  None of his poetry survives in the original Sicilian as it was somewhat modified to conform to a Tuscan dialect (more about this in part two of the blog).


Iacopo da Lentini not only invented the sonnet, he is also credited with the first definition of ‘love’ in literature:

“Amor é un desio che ven da core
per abundanza de gran plazimenti,”

Love is a desire that comes from the heart
Due to an overabundance of pleasures

It was Dante Alighieri who first acknowledged the Sicilian School and the court of Federico II. In his ‘De Vulgari Eloquentia’ Dante discusses the Sicilian School, gives it credit for introducing the sonnet, a new and revolutionary metric system.  Dante also immortalized Iacopo da Lentini as well as Pier de la Vigna in his famous “Divine Comedy”.  Iacopo is found in Canto XXIV of “Purgatory” where he is referred to as the Notaro (notary), and Pier de la Vigna is found in Canto XIII of “Inferno”.  Pier is placed in “Inferno” because when he lost Federick’s trust, Pier committed suicide.
I conclude this first part on the evolution of the sonnet with the following quote:

“The importance of the poetic forms bequeathed by the Sicilian school can scarcely be overstressed. The canzone became a standard form for Italian poets for centuries. The Sicilian-school sonnet became, with variations, the dominant poetic form not only in Renaissance Italy—where it was brought to perfection by Guido Cavalcanti, Dante, and Petrarch—but also elsewhere in Europe, particularly in Elizabethan England, where, after its introduction in the 16th century, it was modified to form the distinctive English, or Shakespearean, sonnet.”

Quote from:  hool

Leighton, 'God Speed'