Novelist. Poet. Professor.

Novelist.  Poet.  Professor.
Novelist, poet, professor, and mother of dogs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Following the Music: Cattolica, Italy

Though I like to consider myself adventurous, my travels in Europe have generally been limited to the Rick Steves-approved tourist spots, the ones teeming with other American sightseers.  

Michelangelo's cupola, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

But last summer while I was teaching a study abroad course in Rome, I let myself be lured off the beaten track, to an Italian seaside town called Cattolica.  Just south of Rimini on the Adriatic sea, Cattolica has beach resorts, charming pedestrian walkways, and restaurants like this one:

What it doesn't have a lot of is English speaking visitors. At the hotel where I stayed, my warm and welcoming hosts were thrilled to be able to practice their English on me.

Claudia and Massimo at the Hotel Jupiter

To be honest, I'd never even heard of Cattolica before last summer.  I travelled there only because I wanted to see a concert by MIKA, a multilingual British pop star with a five-octave range and a captivating stage presence.  

I'd caught MIKA's act once before in Philadelphia, where he has a modest but devoted following.  His show here was low-key and acoustic, befitting the smaller venues he can fill in the U.S.  In Philly, MIKA mostly stayed behind the piano and focused on his quieter songs, the ones that don't call for full band backup.

But in Europe the guy's a bona-fide popstar--a judge on X Factor Italy and a former judge on The Voice France, with a giddy fandom of school-age girls and their families.  In Europe, he tours with a band and puts on a big electric show that showcases all of his hits.

I arrived to the venue in Cattolica a few hours early thinking my General Admission ticket would get me near the stage.  What I found was an ocean of MIKA fans ahead of me, some who had been camping out in the street since the day before.

MIKA opened with "We Are Golden"--one of my favorites, and a song he didn't play in Philadelphia--and things just got bigger and more thrilling from there.  

A special bonus: MIKA's mother was watching the show on the other side of the fence from me.  I said hello and thanked her for giving the world her son, and she was sweet and gracious in return.

A view from the far side of the stage

But back to Cattolica.  If I hadn't let MIKA lure me there, I would have missed so much: lovely people, amazing food, beautiful views, and a glimpse of where Italians go on their summer vacations.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Seneca Village and Sacred Sisters: A Visit From Poet Marilyn Nelson

Photograph by Jenny Spinner
I've long been a fan of poet Marilyn Nelson--of her adept use of traditional forms, her extended explorations of history and personal spirituality, her desire to reach a wide readership that includes middle- and high-schoolers and not just the usual, insular adult audience sought by most poets.  

Marilyn is also impressively prolific, with two new collections published in quick succession--American Ace:

Earlier this week, Marilyn paid a visit to Saint Joseph's University, to read in our Writing Series.  

Among the poems she shared were a couple of very striking newer ones from Sacred Sisters, a collaboration with visual artist Holly Trostle Brigham.  Marilyn's poems and Holly's paintings depict the lives of nuns who also were artists. 

This one was first published by the Academy of American Poets in their Poem-a-Day program

Hilaria Batista de Almeida, Provider

Sisterhood of the Good Death, Bahia, Brazil
August 14, ca. 1850

Tomorrow, after we’ve led the procession
following Our Lady of the Good Death
back to our chapel, two hundred Sisters,
in our white eyelet headwraps and dresses
and the company of the Ancestors,
will dance a Glory samba, with our neighbors
like us redeemed, and those we work to free.
We’ll dance as if we don’t know aches and pains,
to celebrate the best death of all time.

No death is easy, but some deaths are good.
The free die good deaths. The people we free
will be put down with honor and music.
The best death was the one Our Lady had,
passing directly from breath to glory.
Glory is ours, too, just one death from now.
What dies lives on no longer slave, but free:
The same essence, wearing another face,
like an orixa changed into a saint.

Tomorrow is Our Lady’s Assumption Day.
Today we sit in our rooms to prepare,
searching the dark silence to find glory.
My still hands, thick from cutting sugarcane…
and there it is, that flood of thanksgiving.
These nimble fingers that can tell from touch
the best tobacco leaf and when to stop
rolling a cigar smooth on the table,
this year helped free thirty Yoruba slaves!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Where I've Been Part 2

Where have I been lately and why haven't I been blogging?  Well, for one thing, I was writing (and rewriting) Far From Over, a digital-exclusive companion novella to  Love, Lucy.  It comes out on April 12, and I'm thrilled with the cover.

Here's what it's about:

Jesse Palladino is used to moving on. As a street musician backpacking through Europe, he's never in one place for long. Which is why it's so surprising he can't seem to move on from Lucy, the girl he fell for in Florence. They parted ways when Lucy returned home to start college, but every crowded piazza and winding cobblestone street reminds Jesse of the time they spent together. Now staying with a friend in Naples, he can't help wondering if it's time to pack up and move on again. But just when his mind is made up, something--or someone--might give him a reason to stay. 

I Heart Naples!

Far From Over is available for pre-order now.  And please, stay tuned, as I really do hope to get back to blogging in the not-too-distant future!

Free the Mice!

  Thanks to Bearings Online , for publishing my poem about trying--and sometimes failing--to be kind to the mammals who only want to sha...