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Contemporary Italian American Writing

Grace Cavalieri: 2005 Winnerof The Bordighera Poetry Prize for Water On the Sun

Morning Poem | Blue-Green Spirit
| Bread Soup | Nettie

Grace Cavalieri
Grace Cavalieri of Maryland is winner of theBordighera Poetry Prize, 2005, for her manuscript: Water On the Sun, chosen by Distinguished Poet-Judge 2005-2006, Daniela Gioseffi. Grace Cavalieri, is the author of fourteen books and chapbooks of poetry from small presses. Her most recent book, What I Would Do For Love, (Jacaranda Press, 2004) is in the voice of 18th century author Mary Wollstonecraft. Her play about Mary Wollstonecraft ("Hyena In Petticoats") is in development in New York. Her latest children's book is Little Line. She has had 20 plays on American stages. Her current drama, "Quilting the Sun," recently enjoyed a reading by its NYC cast at the Smithsonian Institution. She has written texts and lyrics for opera authoring two productions, "String of Pearls," and "Migrations." She has written three radio dramas, which received national broadcast. Cavalieri has produced and hosted "The Poet and the Poem" on public radio, celebrating its 29th year in 2006. She records the series from the Library of Congress, broadcasting via NPR satellite. She is the book review editor for the montser rat review.com, and reviews theater in her column, "America's Stage." Awards include the Pen-Fiction Story Award, the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award, The Witter Bynner Foundation for Poetry grant, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting Silver Medal. She received the inaugural Columbia Award from the Folger Shakespeare Library for "significant contribution to poetry." Grace is married to the sculptor Kenneth Flynn and they have four daughters and four grandchildren.

Daniela Gioseffi, “Distinguished Poet-Judge” for 2005, wrote of Grace Cavalieri’s poetry saying: "Cavalieri’s is an imaginative, wise, and contemplative voice, with a sense of surprise that awakens our thinking. One wants to dwell over her poems which cover a large range of themes from a surreal and dreamlike existence to family love and world crisis. This is original poetry with a quirky and richly fanciful element. Yet, it is always accessible to the heart and mind, even as it sometimes leaves us wondering at the turns taken. Grace Cavalieri is not only a good poet, but a woman who has given great devotion to American poetry through these many years. I’m so pleased to discover that she was the owner of the manuscript I chose anonymously from the nine finalists all of whom displayed a range and intensity of fine talent. I’m happy to give some added recognition to Cavalieri and the other finalists.”

Maria Enrico was chosen to translate Cavalieri's winning book. Enrico was born in the U.S., grew up in Europe, and returned to America for undergraduate studies at Barnard College at Columbia University (B.A.) and graduate school at Catholic University (M.A. and Ph.D.). She has worked as translation bureau chief for Berlitz, and executive director of The American University of Rome, as well as Director of the Modern Language Program at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. She is now Assistant Professor in the Modern Languages Department at Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY. She speaks English, Italian, French, and Spanish. Recent translations: The plays of Dario D’Ambrosi, “Garbage” from Pinocchio Nero by Marco Baliani, and“The Jar” by Luigi Pirandello.

Sample poems from Grace Cavalieri's Water on the Sun, 2006, follow, with covers/titles of past books:

CavalieriMorning Poem

Each of us has a pond. Mine is deep. I sleep beneath
the water in a silence so clear
the bloom of desire melts from me,
lightning turns fire to the water of pleasure.
Fish are jumping in my heart,
no, they are real fish dreaming of me,
no it is not a dream,
this is a real heart.

 

 

Blue-Green Spirit

Oh Dream Wanderer
with your message stick
with your rooster crowing,


where is the voice I spoke
after I was dead
before I was born?


How much has been left by the wayside?

If every dream were a tatoo
how would I look?


Would I start loving my skin
turning it in the light
holding up my arm to understand
what each flower means?


They say because the female bird
can’t sing
she flies only during Summer in Sweden,


Oh no, listen,
she is connected to the divine and
sings of her taste for life and death,

She sings until heard,
it is the voice we share where
nothing is lost.

 

Bread Soup Cavalieri

 

In the orphanage in Russia
the children are rocking, like failures,
the hours are rocking. The child lies torpid

from listening to nothing.
No bird or breeze is permitted,
no road through his cloud.

I ask: What will they do this day of their lives;
They stand hitting their chests against
the bars like voices aching.

Tomorrow, we dream of harmony and truth.
We pretend blossoms grow out jaws
from numbed faces.

Each morning, blue eyes, close-cropped hair,
bleached stares. Each morning, death waits.
It is the only caretaker we can find.

Nettie


Grace Cavalieri talking with Daniela Gioseffi


How to make it up to her?
She was no

stronger than the wheat
her father carried

to the altar in Sicily for his penance,
she was that frail, like the pale yellow Italian sun –
others becoming animals as


they grew but she – she
turning into the sky and


the ocean until
there was finally no place


else she could go.
I would make her broth


if the dead could drink, bring it in a tin cup.
I would take the stories out of the


vial of breath I've saved
in case my own breath should stop.


I'd give it to her, if it would help, but
this is of no use to her now.


I have so little to give up,
except -- maybe, fear-- which


exists only for itself.
Out of the crescent moon,


from these shapes
I hear my father's voice


calling me again, last night, low and
filled with a holding heart


I'd never heard before. Come
to yourself,
he said.


In all her needs and through
meanings of her crying

the only thing left
is my father's voice

stronger than memory.
That was always my trouble


in trying to save her, his voice.

Now I remember her grief,


how she stood by my father's

chair as he stared angrily


out the window. There she is,

so slim. She wears a long


silken dress, her hands are like first speech.
This is progress I think, her sitting still


for it without falling apart --
he, finally speaking to me.


The dead are just as
involved as anyone else if you listen closely.


They are here to work it out with the living.

Copyright © 2005 by Grace Cavalieri from her book

Water on the Sun, Bordighera Press, 2006

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