Lisa Corva

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Letters and handbags.

Friday, 27 January 2012 @07:14

"My mother’s old leather handbag,
crowded with letters she carried
all through the war. The smell
of my mother’s handbag: mints
and lipstick and Coty powder.
The look of those letters, softened
and worn at the edges, opened,
read, and refolded so often.
Letters from my father. Odour
of leather and powder, which ever
since has meant womanliness,
and love, and anguish, and war."
(Ruth Fainlight)
And I wonder what my handbag tells of me.

Today’s poetry is by Ruth Fainlight, born in 1931 in New York; from the anthology "Staying alive", Bloodaxe Books.

But you knew there would always be the spring.

Friday, 20 January 2012 @11:01

"But you knew there would always be the spring".
The promise of spring. A promise I believe in.

(In the depth of winter, I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer. Hmmm…. No, ok, that’s Camus. To be more precise, it goes: "'Au milieu de l'hiver, j'ai découvert en moi un invincible été". And to be even more precise, I’ve never read Hemingway’s books. But I loved the way this sentence came to me: a reader of my blog, Ursenna, wrote that years ago, in Ravenna, she found an old copy of Moveable Feast in her hotel room, and there was only this sentence underlined: "But you knew there would always be the spring". Like a message of hope, a wishful thinking; a smile from a stranger that changes our day. What we all need. A promise of happiness and spring).

Der geteilte Himmel.

Friday, 13 January 2012 @09:52

"Früher suchten sich die Liebespaare vor der Trennung einen Stern, an dem sich abends ihre Blicke treffen konnten. Was sollen wir suchen? Den Himmel wenigstens können sie nicht zerteilen… Doch, sagte sie leise. Der Himmel teilt sich zuallererst".
(Christa Wolf)
Can you divide the sky? Isn’t love stronger enough, big as the sky?

"At least they can’t divide the sky… Oh, she said quietly. The heavens are what split first".
Der geteilte Himmel, the divided sky, or heavens, as the English translation went, is not only the title of the 1963 book by Christa Wolf, the tale of two lovers divided by the Wall (and the movie which was turned just the year after). But the title of Germany itself after the war, a divided Germany, families split, loves broken. And the title of a big exhibition now, in Berlin at the Neue Nationalgalerie, of paintings and sculptures from 1945 to ’68: and a movie in black and white, with three scenes in a loop, these words, this dialogue between lovers, which I kept relistening to. And a doubt: can you really divide the sky?


Happiness is sitting forever at an outdoor café in the Piazza del Campo in Siena: interview with Billy Collins, poet.

Friday, 6 January 2012 @17:28

The poet of the first snow (or better "the revolution of snow"), of coffee in the morning (and of "buzzing around the house on espresso"), of lazy afternoons: Billy Collins teaches us to look at things slowly. That’s why I like I like to have his books by the bedside. But what is, exactly, on his bedside?

"Ah, I see, we’re headed straight for the bedroom! Ok, there
on the bedside you will find a stack of books, chosen because they
are easy to dip into at bedtime: collections of short stories, Helen
Vendler’s comments on many Emily Dickinson poems, The Oxford Book of
Humorous Prose, P.G. Wodehouse’s Golf Omnibus and a back-up stack of
magazines. There’s a little white radio with three small rubber
duckies sitting on it. I wonder if it ever gets too hot for them?
No one’s said a word. If you were looking for handcuffs and silk
scarves, I’m sorry to disappoint".

Do you know any poems by heart?
"I know some poems by heart, but only a fraction of the all the
poetry my mother, who died at 97, could recite at the slightest
provocation. She memorized all these poems as a schoolgirl and never
forgot them, which speaks for the adhesive power of poetry and its
portability. And it reminds us of the good guess that poetry
probably began as a series of mnemonic devices in pre-literate
cultures. I know some Robert Frost, some poems of John Donne, a few
Shakespeare sonnets. But I find that when I work to memorize a new
poem, I am forgetting another one in the process. Apparently, my
brain has a tiny memory room for poems".

I love your poem "Ossobuco": a beautiful celebration of married love, those evenings where "the lion of contentment has placed a warm heavy paw on my chest". I imagine you also love the dish itself?
"Of course, I love ossobuco. My wife went to cooking school
in Italy and that was one dish she brought home with her to our
kitchen for many replications. I love Italy so much, I find a
potential memory every time I turn around. One recent thrill was
giving a poetry reading with my faithful translator in
Ravenna, in a space that used to be a church where Dante is said to
have worshipped. That’s about as physically close as I am ever going
to get to Dante. We also visited his tomb. But I shouldn’t pretend
to love only the culture. I also love swimming in a pool lined with
heather in a restored fattoria, followed by chilled wine and tomatoes
with fresh basil. Parts of Italy manage to produce a constant level
of modest hedonism. I could go on".

I don’t have children, so I was particularly moved by your poem "Detail": " a woman without children, a gate through which one had entered the world"...
"Like you, I don’t have children, which I gather is more common in
America than in Italy, or at least not regarded as a tragic
condition. I’ve always thought of having offspring as an option.
The poem you mention makes the point that childlessness is sufficient
for many people, and should not be viewed solely as a deprivation".

Where is your favourite place in the world?
"It sounds trite, but usually my favorite place in the world is
wherever I am. There’s a haiku in which the poet says that he misses
the mountains even when he is in the mountains, which reveals the
pointlessness (and the relentlessness for some) of longing for a
better spot. But if I had only one place to be forever, I would like
to be sitting at an outdoor café in the Campo in Siena. The waiter
would know me so well, I would only have to lift a finger to bring
another grappa to the table".


Lisa Corva

Yes, I write. Yes, I believe in the magic of words. That’s why you’ll find me here, every Friday: Lisa “globish”!

I believe in the magic of words, and I believe Piazza Unità in Trieste, where I was born, is the most romantic square in the world. (And yes, it’s in Italy, proudly facing the sea). I love roses in every form. And, of course, I do love my blog, expecially now that I can carry it around on my iPhone.