Sunday, 19 June 2022

Reviews, poetry workshops and artworks

 In the past few weeks, I was very busy with my research on Margaret Atwood’s work and some academic articles I needed to complete for two conferences, the Accute annual conference in Canada and the conference at Marburg Centre for Canadian Studies in Germany. I participated online and presented my papers. For the Accute conference I wrote a paper on Margaret Atwood’s latest poetry collections, that is, Morning in the Burned House (1995), The Door (2007) and Dearly (2020). After the conference, I decided to submit my article to the British Journal of Canadian Studies; it was accepted and now I am making some minor changes after the peer review. The paper I wrote for the Marburg conference, ‘The Heroine’s Journey: Trespassing and Transgressing B/orders in Margaret Atwood’s Work’, was about the heroines’ journeys in some of Margaret Atwood’s novels such as Surfacing, The Handmaid’s Tale and The Testaments in connection with the concept of personal, societal and national b/orders. I will probably submit it to a Canadian journal as well in the future. In the meantime, my article on The Testaments, ‘The Testaments: an intertextual dialogue between witnessing and storytelling’, was accepted by Margaret Atwood Studies Journal and I have just revised it after their feedback and submitted it again. The whole process of research, writing and revising was so engaging that I was completely absorbed in it for a few months. It was fascinating to go back to my studies and read more about Margaret Atwood. 

Her work is so stimulating that it inspired my creative writing too. I wrote a few poems prompted by her poetry during workshops that I attended with Tears in the Fence and Second Light Spring festival. The new poems are about relationships, my Italian heritage and connections with the environment. I also had a tutoring session with Hannah Lowe after the launching of her new pamphlets Rock, Bird, Butterfly and Old Friends (Hercules Editions) which gave me new perspectives from which to look at my work. Talking with my friend and tutor Dawn Wood, I realised that what is important in my creative process is not only reading and writing, which can be called the intellectual side, but it is above all important to experience life, that is, meeting people, visiting places, working, practicing hobbies and sports, being part of groups, etc. These activities trigger new ideas and root my work in everyday life, a realism that relates my creative work to people. Some ideas about my poetry are in the interview that the wonderful Heather Moulson posted on her website, here is the link 😍:

Heather perfectly summarised my thoughts giving me voice and space. This connection with Heather also gave me the opportunity to read my poems at Poetry Performance last Friday. It was a tremendous experience though I felt a bit tense during the event. Clive Rowland asked me some questions about my creative process and my favourite poets before I started my reading, which was a great opportunity to speak about my creative writing practice and about what inspires me. I chose to read some poems from my publications, A Winding Road and Negotiating Caponata, as well as some new poems. Here are a few examples:


After Alice Maher, portrait

I erected a palisade around my face

to contain my thoughts, 

it is made of young twigs

with pointed sprouts at the tips,

they are tied by a string to form a fence

a stiff collar that keeps my head upright,

holds my mouth closed but lets me breathe.

I erected a palisade around my face,

the cut ends dig into my skin

keeping me safe.

My mother

Last night I dreamed of my mother,

her soft light touch on my face.

She said, I had some free time and came here.

I was melting in her tenderness

under the touch of her smooth old fingers,

her cheerful voice moved,

almost in tears.

Why did you come here?

What happened?

But she didn’t reply,

only her love surrounded me

as if it was the last time.

And I drank it

with dry lips.

Words are good

‘Words dry and riderless’

Sylvia Plath, Words

The echo of the inexpressible

appears among lines

carving what I don’t know yet

configuration of signs.

Are words good enough?

We feel to use them literally.

What’s my pleasure in using words?

I encounter them on a journey

of recovery, 

reimagining the past

in a memoir of self-discovery

turning at last 

to the bottom of the pool.

I also published some art and poetry reviews in the past months on the online magazines I usually contribute to, here are the links:

Jennifer Militello, The Pact 

Leela Soma, Chintz 

Charlotte Oliver, How to Be a Dressing Gown 

Finola Scott, Count the Ways 

Clare Morris, There 

Sheila Heti, Pure Colour

Barbara Hickson, A Kind of Silence 

Crazy: The Madness of Contemporary Art 

Surrealism Beyond the Borders 

Fashioning Masculinities 

The Works of Gwerful Mechain 

William Crozier: Nature into Abstraction 

Pratibha Castle, A Triptych of birds & a few loose feathers 

Rosie Jackson, Light Makes It Easy (South Poetry 65)

Alison Binney, Other Women’s Kitchens 

Some of my poems have been published by Dreich, Season 4 n. 5, Toasted Cheese: 

and more poems have been accepted for the summer issue of BeZine magazine. 

In the past two weekends (11-2 and 18-19 June), I have been very busy with the SAOS (Surrey Artists Open Studios) at the Chobham Community Centre where I rented a room for my exhibition ( The place was on the first floor, spacious and bright. I could display most of my pictures, drawings, folios, cards as well as my crochet work and textiles. There was also space for the workshop for children in which they could create cards, puppets, masks and concertina booklets. Not many people turned up but some friends of mine came and supported me. Here is the link to the article that Greg Freeman generously wrote about my artwork and published on the Woking Writers Circle website 😃:

He came to visit my studio with his wife Gillian who is a painter too. I like her artwork that she posts on Facebook; she paints beautiful flowers and interesting landscapes. I especially like her collage work. She has talent and an original approach. 

Some friends from my yoga group visited my open studio as well and the children who attended the workshop were enthusiast about it, some of them even came twice. It was a wonderful experience that boosted my confidence in my artistic side that sometimes I neglect as I feel that there is no real reward. Having the possibility to exhibit my work and being appreciated by friends and other people who came to visit my open studio, stimulated me to produce new work such as crochet mandala, wreaths and charms, a series of cards with a poem and a painting and probably more wet-on-wet watercolour pictures that seem to be so popular.

In the art world, Paula Rego’s obituary reminded me of her amazing art I saw at the Tate exhibition about a year ago. It was a comprehensive retrospective of her artwork with more than a hundred pieces. Here is the link to the review I wrote for London Grip:

And here are the links to two obituaries:

To end my piece in the tastiest way, here are some recipes I have just experimented.

Flapjacks with white chocolate and berries

You need: 200 of butter, 200 g of golden caster sugar, 4 tbsp of golden syrup, grated zest of two lemons, 400 g of porridge oats, 200 g of white chocolate, 200 g of berries, parchment paper.

In a saucepan warm the butter, sugar, syrup and lemon zest. Stir in the oats and spread the mixture on a rectangular oven tin lined with parchment paper. Level the surface and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes. Let it cool, in the meantime melt the chocolate in the microwave. Spread the chocolate on the flapjacks and scatter berries on top. Let the chocolate settle before cutting it into squares and serving.


You need: 100 g of butter, 150 g of sugar, 2 eggs, some drops of vanilla essence, 200 g of self-raising flour, one tsp of baking powder, 150 ml of milk.

For the icing you need: 300 g of icing sugar, 50 g of cocoa powder, 100 g of boiling water, 25 g of butter, one tbsp of golden syrup and 200 g of desiccated coconut.

Beat the butter and sugar, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until everything is well combined. Spread the mixture in a rectangular greased tin and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes or until golden. Let it cool and cut in square cubes. Prepare the icing melting the butter in the boiling water and adding the cocoa powder, the icing sugar and the golden syrup. Dip the lamington squares in the icing to coat and roll it in the coconut, then let it dry and rest before serving.

Pecan Buns

This recipe is by Nadiya Hussain, I just changed it a bit.

You need: 400 g of strong flour, two tbsp of olive oil, 7 g of dry yeast, 100 g of sugar, ½ tsp of salt, the grated zest of a lemon, one egg, 150 g of warm milk mixed with warm water.

For the filling you need: 50 g of butter, some vanilla extracts, 50 g of sugar, one tbsp of golden syrup, 100 g of pecans roughly chopped.

For the glaze you need: icing sugar, 50 g of pecans finely chopped, some warm water.

Mix all the ingredients for the buns in a large bowl and knead the dough. Cover the bowl with a wet towel and place it in a warm place for at least two hours. Prepare the filling warming the butter and adding the sugar, vanilla extracts and pecans. Roll out the dough in a rectangular shape and spread the filling on it. Roll the dough and cut it into swirls of about one inch thick. Grease an oven tray and place the buns on it. Cover them with a cling film and let them rest in a warm place for about an hour. Finally remove the cling film and bake at 180 C for 30 minutes. Prepare the glaze mixing three tbsp of icing sugar with some warm water and the pecans. Brush the glaze on top of the buns when still warm and let them cool before eating.

Enjoy! 😋

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