In Blood Autumn [Autunno di sangue], award-winning poet and author Daniela
Gioseffi has combined some of her favorite poems with new work to create a collection that takes the reader on a journey through
society, politics, love, family, and culture. All reflect on one or more aspects of Daniela’s varied experiences as
a social justice journalist, classical actor, teacher, writer, editor, and mother; and each is written with passion as the
daughter of an Italian immigrant father.
Daniela connects words to form
strong visuals, a sense of being, comfort, and uncertainty – sometimes all in one stanza. Her first verse in Beyond the East Gate, “I listen to the voice of the cricket, loud in the quiet night, warning me not to
mistake a hill for a mountain,” conveys the familiarity of hearing a cricket, provides images and feelings of being
outdoors, and brings thoughts of overcoming obstacles that have not been anticipated. It’s a thoughtful verse, so thought-provoking
that it’s engraved in marble, along with lines from Allen Ginsberg and Walt Whitman, on a wall in Penn Station.
A complex piece of little known
history of Italian immigrants in America is relayed in Don’t
Speak the Language of the Enemy, referring to the internment of Italian immigrants during World War II. Daniela captures
numerous scenes from that era, among them – “Children play hide-and-seek in dusty evening streets as red sauce
simmers, hour after hour, on coal stoves …” and “they murmur in their rooms in the secret dark frightened
of the camps where people like them are imprisoned in the new land of golden opportunity.” The poem ends with, “They
whisper of Mussolini’s stupidity – stifling the mother tongue, wounding the father’s pride, urging their
children to speak English by daylight, telling each other, ‘We are Americans. God bless America!’” In one sentence, Daniela has encapsulated how Italian immigrants
felt and why many second and third generation Italians were not taught to speak Italian.
This collection of 33 poems is
divided into three sections – “Beyond the East Gate,” “Some Slippery Afternoon,” and “Blood
Autumn” and “The Peach;” and on the adjoining page, each poem has an Italian translation. This is helpful
to those who wish to learn Italian, and a treat for those who read Italian.
The author of numerous books,
poems, articles, essays, and plays, Daniela has received grants and awards for many of her works. Some of her most notable
awards include the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Italian American Educators
(2003), the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry (2007), and the OSIA New York State Literary Award (2008).
In 1990, she won the American Book Award for Woman
The poems in Blood Autumn capture a part of life – some focus on one fragment, and some are encompassing, touching on
many areas of our complicated world. Within the collection, readers will find at least one poem that they most identify with.
I found mine in Orta Nova, Provincia di Puglia, a poem Daniela wrote for her father about
her visit to the region where he was born, “‘Land of bright sun and colors,’ you’re called in Italia.”
~ “When I tell them I’m
an author, first of my American family to return to my father’s home, I’m suddenly ‘royalty.’”
~ “You never returned to
your ancient land where now the natives, simpatici pisani, wine and dine me in
their best ristorante.”
~ “They nod knowingly,
when in talking of you, I must leave the table to weep.”
~ “For an instant, in this
foreign place, I have met you again, Father, and have understood better, your labors, your struggle, your pride, …”
I have not yet been to Sicily, the land of my father’s birth; but when I do, I imagine
my experiences will be very similar to what Daniela described.
Daniela Gioseffi Official Web Site
Poetry and Sociopolitical Concern (Interview with D. Nurske.)
Eggs in the Lake (Debut Collection)
PEN Member Profile
©2008 Janice Therese Mancuso