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! 😋

Sunday 5 June 2022

Platinum Jubilee and SAOS open studio

 The weather was so changeable and unsettled in the past few weeks that we had two or three seasons in one day! Warm sunny spells then thunderstorms and sudden gusts of wind. I had to wear layers of clothes and I even had my winter coat on for the outdoor duty lunch break. No chance to wear my new light colourful summer dresses even with a jumper or a cardigan on. Apparently, the cold weather comes from Scandinavia but it might change soon. In southern Europe it is already hot, maybe too hot; hopefully the warm weather might come up north. My mum told me that in Rome it is so hot that she stays inside from midday until late afternoon. I prefer cooler weather, but a bit of warmth would be nice at this time of the year.

At the Park School we had some good times. The good smell of fresh coffee welcomes me in the morning and there are always some treats on the staff table for break-time. We had tuna wraps and cheese scones in Food Tech and my students completed their tree houses before half term. They created amazing original products which are not perfect but are very interesting. They will be on display at some point before the end of the year. In cultural studies my students are studying Poland and made Wycinanki, that is paper cutting patterns. In PE they are mainly playing rounding and other team games outside now that the weather is warm. They have such fun and I enjoy it too.

I had the chance to take part in the Vision Project ( ) that involved music, dance and painting. I joined the inspiring workshops led by Hannah Bruce ( ) at her studio. We made some paintings following the prompt of the mesmerising music from which the project started. Its revealing lyrics and soothing melody are a never-ending source of inspiration. We all created good original work, mostly free and loose abstract pieces. I was particularly intrigued by some lines of the lyrics:

I have a million of nightingales

On the branches of my heart

Singing freedom

The Earth is alive

Here is the link to the video clip: 

They are beautiful words that for me are related to our need for peace in an eco-friendly environment in harmony with nature; in this ideal space we can sing our song freely and therefore be healed. The dance we watched was inspiring too and it gave us more ideas for our drawings. I particularly admired Hannah Bruce’s picture that merged melody, dance and the rhythm of the piece of music in soft colours and strong marks. I produced an abstract piece and a figurative drawing with acrylic paints which look very different from one another; it was my attempt to explore the creative potential of this interesting project. The Vision Project does not finish with the workshops, there will also be two art exhibitions on the 18th of June at Harry Edwards Healing Sanctuary in Guildford and on the 8th of September at The Lightbox.

Before half term, some of my Canadian friends from Alberta came to England. Their tour included some days in Ireland and Wales and three days in London. They emailed me in advance so I could book a show (they chose ‘Middle’ at the National Theatre) and the restaurant. It was such a pleasure to see my friend Pam again; I hadn’t met her since I visited Canada before the lockdown. We had a long chat while we were sharing pizza with funghi, caprese and artichoke salad. Her friend Tara was very interested in my work on Margaret Atwood and asked me about my thesis and my thoughts about Atwood’s work. She read quite a few of her novels so we discussed our favourites. We also shared opinions about our writings and how our lives will be after retirement as well as my plans to visit Canada again, maybe next summer.

‘Middle’ at the National Theatre was superb. The actors, Claire Rushbrook (Maggie) and Daniel Ryan (Gary) were awesome in their roles. The setting was an average English house (kitchen and living room) with ordinary furniture and family pictures on the walls. The story is about the mid-life crisis of a middle-aged couple who are settled in an apparently comfortable life and ask themselves if they are really happy. Maggie triggers the crisis feeling trapped in a boring predictable routine. She can’t sleep and says to her husband Gary that she is not sure she loves him anymore. On the other hand, he seems pretty happy about their relationship; he can do his things, practice golf, attend sport events and enjoys family life on the whole. Instead Maggie feels lonely and misunderstood. Besides, she has met another man, John the policeman, with whom she talks a lot sharing thoughts and feelings that she thinks Gary cannot understand or is not willing to listen to. She kissed John passionately but they have never had sex so far. Gary tries every trick to keep her with him promising to do whatever she wants. The play is a clever interweaving of funny cliches, dramatic moments and ironic understatements. I enjoyed it very much, especially the parts where human fragility comes to the fore.

During the half term week, we celebrated the Platinum Jubilee with family parties. I made a new crochet post box installation in Park Road, Woking, with a big crown in the middle and the British colours around, and a wreath for my house door. I was so glad that people stopped and helped me while I was installing the crown in Park Road; this means that my crochet is useful in some way. We travelled north to see the rest of the family, my sons and their partners and my granddaughter Violetta. We had a big meal with tortellini, Italian affettati, mozzarella and burrata, lemon and orange jelly and a drizzle sponge with raspberries and blueberries. We wore crowns and Violetta put on the crown she had made at the nursery and held her flag up. We had such a good time together, catching up on family news, sharing our concerns, joys and feelings, and especially spending time with Violetta. She is becoming more and more active, exploring around, always busy with toys, books and things she finds and uses in different ways. We brought her new toys and new clothes, but she especially liked to play with my rings, wearing them or holding them in her tiny hands. She also fed us with a little spoon taking imaginary food from small cups. Now she understands some Italian and English words and follows instructions both in English and in Italian. One of her favourite activities is looking at children’s books. She loves us reading them to her in both languages. The stories are about Peppa Pig, the giraffe Sophie, Spot, la Pimpa, Peekaboo books and books on numbers and colours.

For the Jubilee we watched the Trooping of the colours, the Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s cathedral and the Saturday evening concert. I loved the queen’s powder blue outfit and her presence on the balcony was so welcomed by the crowd that later she commented that she was inspired by the goodwill people showed to her. And she deserves it all because of her continuous devotion in these seventy years. As Michelle Obama said, queen Elizabeth is a remarkable person; she took her duty seriously and humbly every day of her life since she became queen. Her presence has promoted a strong sense of stability and belonging, and the celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee just confirm this. There was a cheerful holiday mood as well, together with reverence and sincere affection, which were heart-warming and powerful. I also like the fact that there was something for everyone during the celebrations, from traditional parades to classical music and pop entertainment. I found this varied approach positive and hopeful, not only because it was open to different styles and preferences but also because it suggested diverse visions that might coexist though distinct and unique. I loved Andrea Boccelli’s interpretation of ‘Nessun Dorma’ and also enjoyed Rod Stewart, Diana Ross, Sam Ryder and the musicals. 

Here are some links to the videos:

Andrea Boccelli

Rod Stewart

Brian May


Sam Ryder 

The best bits

Diana Ross

The Queen meeting Paddington Bear was an enjoyable surprise too:

On Saturday afternoon, we celebrated with my autistic daughter Valentina at her home in Redhill. We prepared cupcakes with her and decorated her room with crowns and flags. She had great fun and especially enjoyed eating the cupcakes.

On Sunday, we had a street tea party in our area with Jubilee inspired cakes, drinks and a lot of toasting and chatting. I made a cake with the Union Jack colours inspired by one of the Jubilee pudding recipes I found online. Here are the links to some Jubilee recipes I used in different occasions:

I am also taking part in the SAOS (Surrey Artist Open Studios) on the 11th-12th and 18th-19th of June. I am at Chobham Community centre (Macmahon Cl, Chobham, Woking GU24 8NG ) from 11 am to 5 pm with my paintings, crochet, handmade bags, cards and more. Here is the link:

During the open studio, I am running drop-in workshops for children. I provide the materials to make cards, puppets, concertina books and paper masks. I am also planning to make demonstrations of wet-on-wet watercolour paintings of flowers and of crochet work. Everything will be available on the site and I will be happy to share my time and experience with whoever comes to visit my open studio. I will also provide some refreshments, tea, coffee and shortbread biscuits. It will be a busy but enjoyable time.