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Blood Autumn [Autunno di sangue]:

Poems New and Selected

Daniela Gioseffi

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 on War.

 

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.”

 

Some excerpts:

~ “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

 
 
Copyright 2007-2013 Janice Therese Mancuso
 
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2013 Janice Therese Mancuso.