Wednesday 22 February 2023

Thinking about Carnival

Carnival is just over, Lent is looming. Forty days of diet, maybe fasting for someone or giving up something you like. For me it would be dark chocolate and marshmallows. But I don’t know if I will be able to achieve it. Maybe it could be a good opportunity to lose weight. Carnival is the only Italian thing I really miss: the gorgeous costumes, the parades of children throwing coriandoli (confetti) to passers-by, dressing my children up every year with a different costume, and parties with traditional Carnival treats, frappe and castagnole. I can make good castagnole but only my mother-in-law makes the perfect frappe. The fabulous pictures of the costumes in Venice on social media made me nostalgic. Carnival is also a messenger of spring with its bright colours, jokes and fun. The weather gets warmer and you can feel spring approaching in Italy. Halloween is similar to Carnival, that’s why I like it so much, but not exactly the same.
A picture, ‘Il Re Gallo’ (The King Rooster) by Stefani Pinci that I saw in Rome last Christmas in a private gallery (Galleria Arte Sempione) where her work and other artists’ artwork are on display, reminded me of Mediterranean colours, warmth and Carnival time. The style and
technique she uses is called ‘tassello di mosaico pittorico’, that is, pictorial mosaic pieces which are made in oil painting. It is an award-winning picture that she exhibited at the Expo in Dubai in 2020. Eventually I bought it and now it has a place of honour in my living room. I couldn’t help writing a poem about this great painting referring to some lines by Emily Dickinson and to some of the titles of Stefania Pinci’s pictures that I found poetic. So I wrote a first draft in Italian and English and then split the poem in two, one in English and the other in Italian, one is more or less the translation of the other. Here are the poems and the picture:

 The King Rooster

Inspired by the artwork of Stefania Pinci and some poems by Emily Dickinson

There is another awakening 

in a world of wonders,

on Sunday celebrations,

when waves of emotion

and the singing of colour

in another sunshine – 

where frost and darkness have been – 


The memories of the mind, 

the surprise of the summer fragrance,

the golden sunset, 

where colours are friends

and nature is alive.

The cicadas go crazy, 

the King Rooster wins through

with colours of light

his head in flames

on a broken-up background

with fragments of sky

in the pearl moonlight and stagnant waters.

The monochrome of the uncertain landscape

when the figure misses the appointment

in a patchwork of still life against a black frame.

Il Re Gallo

Versi ispirati dall’opera di Stefania Pinci e da alcune poesie di Emily Dickinson

C’√® un altro risveglio

in un mondo di meraviglie

la domenica della festa

quando onde di emozioni

e la sinfonia dei colori

in un’altra scena di sole – 

dove un tempo erano il gelo e l’oscurit√† – 


I ricordi della mente

lo stupore del profumo dell’estate 

l’oro del tramonto

dove i colori sono amici

e la natura è viva.

Le cicale sulle colline impazziscono,

il Re Gallo trionfa con colori di luce

la testa in fiamme

su uno sfondo spezzato

di frammenti di cielo

in un chiaro di luna di perla

tra acque stagnanti.

Nell’incertezza del paesaggio monocromo

l’immagine manca l’appuntamento

in un patchwork di natura morta contro uno sfondo nero.

Stefania Pinci’s website is in Italian ( ), but you can just browse her beautiful paintings even if you do not understand the captions. She exhibits regularly at Galleria Arte Sempione as well as around the world, such as in Boston, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Her subjects are animals, landscapes, still lives, views of Rome and female figures. Her paintings have a poetical, dreamlike quality and convey a sense of peace and warmth, an aspect I particularly like.

During half term we met our sons, daughter in law and granddaughter Violetta in Nottingham. It was cold and grey but we had a good time in a cosy Airbnb. Violetta had great fun in a playground with four slides, she had a go on all of them. She chased a black cat too that she called ‘catto’ combining Italian ‘gatto’ and cat. She can also count until seven mixing Italian and English numbers. We had fun reading Peppa Pig stories from booklets I found at a charity shop. We visited Wollaton Hall which has displays of stuffed animals and an original skeleton of a T-Rex, precious minerals and there were also deer in the park. Violetta enjoyed everything, especially the animals, both stuffed and real. At the bookshop I managed to find something to buy, two booklets for a few pounds, one about old rhymes such as Butcher, Baker and Candlestick Maker, the other one is titled ‘Cowslip, or Cautionary Stories in Verse’ (1811). They are distressing stories about unruly children and how they are ‘rightly’ punished and beaten. A different attitude from today.

I spent the rest of half term week catching up with house cleaning, ironing, visiting friends, writing reviews, completing some paintings and I also washed my car on a sunny day. I worked on paintings about textiles, mainly for some submissions and a commission and made some cards. I am connecting textile patterns from all over the world exploring colours, shapes and techniques. I am extremely honoured to be the Resident Artist for The High Window in 2023. This gives me the opportunity to show my artwork and publish my poems.  I will focus on clothes, textiles and fashion. Here is the link to the first entry in the spring issue: 

I also completed my new postbox crochet installation for Valentine’s Day. It has the shape of a tree with a heart inside. The title is ‘Nature must be at the heart’. I was chuffed that my picture with the installation was published in the local newspaper, Chobham News & Mail on the 9th of February. I strongly believe in the potentials of crochet art.
For Valentine’s Day I prepared little presents for family and friends, homemade soap hearts made by my friend Vittoria (Vittoria Artisan Soap: and cards made by the students at my school. I will bring some of them to Italy too for my mum and her friends, as for me Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers but also for all the people you love. 

On the motorway to Nottingham, we stopped for the usual toilet break and cappuccino. I was shocked by the prices, £ 3.65 for a cappuccino and a few days before I had paid £ 3 for a tea in a pub in Twickenham. Unbelievable! In Italy the average price for a cappuccino (which is much much better than any Costa or Caffe Nero hot drink) is € 1.50 and an espresso is € 1.00. another shocking discovery is how much care homes charge in the UK. A friend of mine has just found a good care home for her elderly mother in Rome. She pays € 1,800 per month. In the UK it is £ 1,800 per week. I wonder what they do with so much money. Do they pay high wages to carer workers or have high renting fees? I doubt it. 

I was a bit disappointed that as a TA I was not allowed to strike. Apparently, most of the TAs that the NEU contacted about the teachers’ strike didn’t reply so they did not reach the threshold (50%) that allowed them to join the strike action. As I needed some clarifications about my rights and role, I decided to join NEU. Nobody was on strike at my school anyway.

I had a few successes in my writing too. besides publishing reviews, one of my academic articles, 'An Intertextual Dialogue between Witnessing and Storytelling' on The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, was published in Margaret Atwood Studies, the journal of Margaret Atwood Society (MAS), volume 16 January 2023. Here is the link:  

Unfortunately, you cannot access it if you are not a member of MAS. However, you can download the article from my website here:

Some of my poems have been published or will be published soon:

‘Collage Machine’, (Spilling Cocoa).

‘Holiday in the Alps, 1970’, in D&W newsletter (06/02/2023).

‘After the dream’, ‘Broken thread’ and ‘Snow haiku’ have been accepted for the next issue of Bezine, Beatitudes section.

‘Tomorrow’, ‘Flowering Menopause’ and some haiku on insects and flowers have been accepted for the next issue of Orbis (203).

‘The light changing’ and ‘Speaking food’ will be out with the summer issue of The High Window.

My sequence ‘Valentina’ from Workwear will be included in Cry Freedom, a Poetry Performance anthology.

My proposal for a paper on Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, ‘Elaine Risley’s visual art: a reversed ekphrasis that challenges patriarchal narratives’, has been accepted for the Accute conference at York University in Toronto. I am so thrilled that I will finally have the opportunity to go back to Canada in May! I will attend the conference, present my work, maybe have time to visit Toronto and I will also spend two nights in Calgary to meet my Canadian friends, Josephine, Crystal and Pam. I am sure I will have a wonderful time and I will enjoy every bit of it.

The launch of my latest collection Workwear was super. I really enjoyed the evening and appreciated the support of my friends and fellow poets. The comperes, Greg Freeman and Rodney Wood, were matchless and the readings were excellent. I will read the poems from my collection again at The Lightbox on Thursday 23rd of February in the evening during WOL open mic, where I am also co-compere; it starts at 8. Furthermore, the Woking Writers Circle is organising a poetry evening at the Lionsheart bookshop in the centre of Woking ( ) to promote our writings and attract new members on Wednesday the 15th of March from 6.30 to 9 pm. We will read our poems and share our writing experience and creative process.

At Nottingham we also watched Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio on Netflix. The characters depicted as marionettes were enchanting and the story, though different from the original by Collodi, was captivating. It was centred on the relationship between the rebelling Pinocchio and his father Geppetto. They look for each other in a quest that is a personal search for identity and for love. The ending is moving with a striking conclusion: ‘What happen, happens. And then we are gone’. 

In February we also celebrated my husband’s and my daughter Valentina’s birthday one day after the other. I made lasagne and two cakes my daughter Irene decorated. Valentina loved the presents, a purple outfit (leggings, vest and jumper), the colour of Leela’s hair, her favourite cartoon character. She also helped us decorate her room with hearts and balloons. The staff that cares for her was very supportive, they prepared the table and organised a party for her in the evening. 

February is also the month when Sanremo Music Festival happens. The Italian President Sergio Mattarella was present too on the first night. I didn’t have a favourite song this time, but my favourite part was the outfits. I especially liked Chiara Ferragni’s dresses. She was co-host with Amadeus and gave a remarkable speech about how women should believe in themselves and never feel diminished. Her dresses by Dior, Armani and Schiaparelli reflected this thought with written messages such as ‘sentiti libera’ (feel free) and a necklace with the shape of a uterus. Other important speeches were delivered during the festival by Paola Egonu, an Italian volleyball champion, Pegah Moshir Pour, an Iranian activist, together with Drusilla Foer. Marco Mengoni won the song contest with ‘Due Vite’, here is the link to the video clip:

and here is the English translation:

The show was surprisingly politically oriented with episodes such as Fedez ripping the photo of Galeazzo Bignami, the undersecretary at the infrastructure ministry, who was wearing a Nazi armband. The festival had sexual undertones too. The rapper Rosa Chemical kissed Fedez on the mouth and simulated a sexual act. The PM Giorgia Meloni was infuriated.

In regards to women in politics, we had a number of resignations. Angela Merkel in 2021 and more recently Jacinta Arden, the New Zealand PM, Liz Truss and finally Nicola Sturgeon. Apart from Merkel, who served as Chancellor of Germany for a long period and was over 60 when she stepped down, all the other are younger than 50 or just over 50. I wonder why men like Joe Biden for example last longer as politicians than women.

I was flabbergasted by the work of Cy Twombly. His magnificent heart and apparently messy artwork are mesmerising and thought-provoking. I think I will copy him. Here is a link to an interesting article:

I made pancakes of course. Fluffy pancakes with self-raising flour, eggs, mashed potatoes and mozzarella, and traditional pancakes with flour, salt, eggs and milk, lemon and sugar on top, with the option of Nutella or honey.

Daffodils are blooming everywhere. I love their resilience in whatever weather and their colours that range from pale yellow to orange. Better days are coming, despite wars, killings and calamities there is still hope.