Table of Contents

The Bordighera Poetry Prize

Related Links
(Wise Women's Web)

Contemporary Italian American Writing

Winner of the 2007 Bordighera Poetry Prize:
Sponsored by the Sonia Raiziss-Giop Foundation

Tony Magistrale for What She Says About Love

1st Runner-up: Gary Ciocco

Awards Ceremony, Nov. 8th, 2007. All Welcome!

John D. Calandra Institute CUNY, Mid-Manhattan

Venetian Poems | Train South to Bari| The Plan

Tony Magistrale, the 2007 winner of the Bordighera Poetry Prize, was born in Buffalo, New York, the grandson of Italian immigrants from Bari, Italy. After obtaining a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh, Magistrale spent a year at the University of Milan as a Fulbright lecturer. Since then, he has returned to Italy on multiple occasions, and these trips inspired the poems in this collection. Magistrale is Professor of English and Associate Chair of the Department of English at the University of Vermont. He has also taught at the Breadloaf Young Writers Conference and as a visiting professor at the University of Augsburg, Germany. Tony Magistrale is honored with a reception/reading for his cash award of $1,000 and bilingual, book publication prize at The Calandra Insitutute at The Graduate Center of the City University of NY, 25 West 43rd St., Mid-Manhattan, on Nov. 8th, Thurs, at 6:30 PM. All are welcome to attend the free admission, wine and food reception, and reading.

Distinguished Poet Judge for 2007-2008, Michael Palma has written of Magistrale's poems: “The Plan,” which describes a Texas-style barbecue in a Venetian twilight, concludes: “In this most secreted city, I divulge no secrets / Content to wear my hat at rakish angle / Tend the grill, savor its sizzle,” a characterization that neatly fits the many fine poems of Anthony Magistrale whose sizzle is sure to whet the appetites of readers. The tones may vary, from the moodiness of “Venetian Poems” to the playfulness of “Beware, the Bible Warns, of Fallen Women,” but constant throughout are the intellectual alertness, the satisfying structures, and the vivid descriptions: the adjectives are often surprising, as in “dense, pasty Milanese rain,” but almost always just right. “I Nemici” begins: “The act of casting shape from chaos / breeds enemies.” Magistrale’s point is well taken here, but in this case it’s much more likely to breed friends and admirers.”

The Bordighera Poetry Prize was founded by Daniela Gioseffi and Alfredo de Palchi, a trustee of The Sonia Raiziss-Giop Foundation, in 1997. Former winners and translators have been: Lewis Turco for A Book of Fears, translated by Joseph Alessio; Joe Salerno for The Tulip Tree, translated by Emanuel diPasquale; Luisa Rossini Villani for Running Away from Russia translated by Luigi Fontanella; Stephen Massimilla for Forty Floors from Yesterday translated by Luigi Bonaffini; Jane Tassi for And Song Song Songlessness, translated by Ned Condini, West Pullman by Carolyn Guinzio, translated by Franco Nasi, Water on the Sun by Grace Cavalieri, translated by Maria Enrico, and Emily Ferrara for The Alchemy of Grief, translated by Sabine Pascarelli of Florence. Former distinguished poet judges have been: Felix Stefanile, W.S. Di Piero, Dorothy Barresi, Donna Massini, and Daniela Gioseffi. Each judge serves for a two-year term. Guidelines for entry winners' and judges' work at: Bordighera Prize Guidelines

Sample poems by Tony Magistrale follow:

from What She Says About Love:


 In the end
the prime fact of Venetian life
was one long gaudy night.
–Translated from anonymous Venetian song

Poised between Rome and Istanbul,
Jesus and Mohammed,
moving through knots of history inside
a thin miasma of dishonesty,
the Orient commences where Europe ends
on shores of seaweed and limed marbles
each year receding further into the sea.
Thin masked blondes in hooded satins
stalking amoral streets of sophistry—
reduced now to plaster and glass casts,
carnival clowns gripping the Ace of Spades,
souvenirs awaiting purchase
to hang inside parlor cabinet menageries.

Aromatic waves of spices and sliced oranges
piled multitudes of gray sea-sludge—
dead, doomed, panting—
the sound of a store awning flapping.
At any point in time or place
Venice fades into Persia,
Italian into Arabic,
outdoor market into Middle-Eastern bazaar.
The sleek Arabian schooner arrived at dusk
deposited its complacent owner
and his bejeweled dark companion,
a thin golden chain dripped down
from her white gloved fingers
attached to neck of long white swan.

Against worn cobblestones made slick with agents
tourists and sea, I walk with deliberate
intention. Deeper into bowels of secreted city
(where does Venice begin, where does it end?)
down identical canals and across bridges
that narrow into slivers of gray.
Pressed against the encroaching dusk
the shapes of ancient buildings loom up
out of green phosphorescence. Venice may be
sinking by day, but at night
it rises up out of the sea:
a place where a man might lose himself
inside twisting paths of stone,
a place that resembles nothing so much
as the mind itself:
contracting, looping, somber,
turning back at once
in upon itself. The silence of ancient
corridors interrupted only
in the occasional bark of heels
Where does this sound
come from: back or front? Just as quickly
it vanishes, evaporates into purple black.

I abandon myself to these alleyways
tonight content to become someone else
masked and gloved
journeying to some secret assignation.
A woman from another century
waits patiently for me
at the turn of a canal,
atop a bridge, in the darkest corner
of the darkest piazza. I see her there:
I think she is blond, but I cannot be certain
as she is hooded and tightly masked
revealing only the pallid silver of a carnival face—
in the dim moonlight, her mouth
a frozen purple kiss.

I could lose myself in this place tonight,
join the black shapes of its history
and the relief of becoming
someone without future, only a past.
But I know your powers well enough,
enough to know you could find me
here, playing among the epochs,
these Venetian dreams of the dead.
You could track me down
in the silver light of this mezzaluna,
a moon I cannot find in the sky
but would guide you to me still,
like a gondolier so intimate
with the sea, his craft, and this city
that he floats his black crescent
through silky alleyways of water
as if suspended on invisible wings.


The train sifted through four hours
of dense, pasty Milanese rain. South of Florence,
broke into rolling Tuscan hills,
yellowtop fields of mustard,
spliced red poppies, almond blossoms
like fresh wet snow. This is the land
my grandfather left for artic winds of Buffalo.
I have returned to the gnarled and knotty olive
and fig groves of Apulia long abandoned
in pursuit of second chance dreams.
Close to the earth, wrinkled and squat,
like grape vines after autumn pruning,
the trees grow in symmetrical rows
along iron tracks tended by old men
wearing white tee-shirts. I wonder
are some of these hunkered farmers,
scratching hoes in short, methodical strokes
against long patches of red and brown,
distant relatives? Each one
bears me back, stirring disquieting
rhythms, to this man I barely remember,
dead forty years, buried
in a grave in a Buffalo suburb,
his calloused fingers deep
in cool, fragrant soil.


Some plan to tour
Italian grottos and cathedral vestibules
Tracing history’s grand sweep in oil paint
And marbles. For me,
The plan is twilight on the Adriatic
White clouds billow up
Behind small, well-lighted trattoria.
I am standing behind a large barbeque,
cornucopia of succulent flesh:
Steaks and sausage, racks of veal and lamb.
Venetian piazza transformed
Into east Texas. Tourists, weary of seafood,
Bored with tortellini, rush from archipelago corners,
Cross twenty small bridges
Emerge from cobble-stone alleys,
Pursuing aromas that displace salt-sea air.
Each speaks the universal language
Of the masterworks: Superb talent, subtle
Yet variegated richness. May we inquire:
Who were your influences?
In this most secreted city, I divulge no secrets
Content to wear my hat at rakish angle
Tend the grill, savor its sizzle.

Copyright 2007 by Tony Magistrale from What She Says About Love, forthcoming from Bordighera Press @ Calandra Institute, NY, 2008.

[Back to Top]

Italian American - Home Page

Table of Contents | The Bordighera Poetry Prize | Related Links

* * *