who, bloody hell, can't seem to get the pretty images from the YouTube into her post.
Meanwhile, I have me' annual Spring Cold that has fallen upon the very Saint's Day of my Persuasion, so Damiano and I are not out celebrating with the many Irish who live in this town, nor with the Italians who are Irish on this One Day in the Pubs, so instead we've been a-singin' and a-dancin' at home to these:
Pretty good stuff, at La Barrique on via del Boschetto
When I write that inevitable, _I Moved to Italy and Now I Have to Write a Book About It_ book, an entire chapter is going to be devoted to Raffaele and Sandro, our butchers. Their shop is on the storefront street level of our block, and it is a "veritable cornucopia" not only of really exceptional meats (vegetarians, don't fear, I won't talk about that right now), but it also has an entire wall of great wines, many of which are absolutely affordable, and even the top ones are always in the "best value" category; and they carry cheeses from Sardegna and Puglia; and Carnaroli, the best rice in the world for making risotto; and amazing sausages from Calabria and Tuscany (the latter made from Chianina beef); and I could go on and on here, but instead I will do that in the inevitable book.
Now, however, I write about Raffaele and Sandro because the other night, they hosted a "degustazione" in a gallery/performance space right downstairs, and it was one of the best social gatherings that I've attended since I've lived here. When I was in the States last month, I noticed that Americans (in spite of everything going on right now!) smile frequently. You look at them, they smile. Romans, not so much. You look at them and they ignore you, or they scowl, or they check you out to see that you don't match up to their Prada expectations. But at this festive "degustazione," everyone was smiling. And, according to our host Raffaele, the evening wasn't over until we had some poetry!
["I summon to the winding ancient stair"? no, we went round the long way. Perugia at night]
These days, for me, jet lag in this direction is much worse than jet lag going to the States. Going that way, my clock is just a little off, so I get to pretend that I'm a morning person (ha!) But coming back this way, I zap right up at 3 in the morning and I'm wide awake until 5 or 6. I'm only happy about this now because it gives me more time to read Words in Air, the letters between Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, as I'm sure you know, and if you haven't gone out and plonked down the 45 dollars (or however many Euro it was; I think we got it through Amazon.France--quelle bonne idee pour nous expatries! and I'm not putting in the diacritics because they mess up everything!), please do.
It's a wonderful book, full of humor and love, intelligence, pathos and literary gossip. Last night, for example, I went from EB saying "I feel awful about Hemingway's suicide" to talking about organizing the gift of a Brazilian dress for little Harriet Lowell: "Or how about a monkey instead of a new dress? He would adore your various typewriters and might learn to pick out Beat poetry." Yes that was EB, not me!
[another photo of Mark Strand & Damiano Abeni by Mario Ventura]
Just for fun, and/or if you happen to be studying Italian, you now have the opportunity to listen to two interviews with Mark and Damiano on RAI, the Italian national radio and TV network. Links below.
Damiano Abeni and Mark Strand (photo by Mario Ventura)
Well, that was fun! The Cultural Center Foundation of the St. Stephen's School was the setting for a very nice reading by Mark Strand. Reprising my role as reading-hostess-lady, I had the pleasure of introducing; then Mark and Damiano read, in English first, followed by Damiano's Italian translations.
During the reading, I was standing over by the book table, looking out at the audience. It was wonderful to see, in addition to students, teachers, doctors, lawyers, and butchers, something like a Who's Who of contemporary Italian poets, writers, critics, and publishers. I had an irrational doom& gloom flash (I don't know, is it being Irish that puts these weird thoughts into my head?), similar to the one I had many years ago at the 92nd Street Y, when almost all of the poets who had each translated a Canto of the Inferno were in the same place at the same time: Please God don't let the ceiling fall in, what would we do for poetry?
And whew, what a spectacular full moon it was: moon at perigee and in Cancer (whose sign she rules, no less; and my sign, yes, I confess).
Busy days here in Rome: many many polyglot parties. I think I've figured out a path toward instant improvement in my conversational fluency in Italian: try to speak French! It seems to work: try to speak a language that's been billiarding about in your head for what, 35 years now, and Hey presto, the one you sputter around in, day in and day out, often frustratedly, turns out to be the default. Really, in my next life, I'm going to be a neurophysiologist and draw up a map of where all this stuff happens in the brain: This is your brain on French. This is your brain on Italian. This is your brain on poetry. This is your brain on Kant.
Right now, this is my brain on tired and busy, if happily so. We Baltiromans are exceedingly happy that the only pro football team that's named after a poem is moving right along in the play-offs. (And I've been teaching Damiano how to say GO RAVENS in a Baltimore accent. He almost has it.)
And really, as promised, Massimo Gezzi's interview with John Ashbery from POESIA. Soon. Meanwhile, buon anno!