Giuliana Enchants at Bagni di Lucca’s Festival Camera now ‘non più’ Oscura’

Bagni di Lucca’s Arts Festival at the poetry room at the camera oscura ended in great style last night when there was a presentation of poetry, both original and in translation, and also a beautiful children’s book (her second one) by Giuliana Giusti Chines.

I was to have met Giuliana at the Cesare Viviani literary circle at Lucca two months ago but unfortunately a family circumstance did not enable her to be present then. It was, therefore, with the greatest pleasure that we finally met together with Giuliana’s husband Paolo, one of her children and a grand-daughter at Bagni di Lucca.

The evening started with a brief interview with Giuliana. I realised that I was meeting someone who has a truly profound love and understanding of English literature from Chaucer onwards (whose Canterbury Tales she preferred to anything by Boccaccio) and, of course, our romantic poets.

Giuliana has also written two children’s books, one of which, Due piedi e quattro zampe, tells a story from a boy’s and a dog’s point of view and subtly involves the issue of bullying which, regrettably, is as diffused in Italy as it is in the UK. We talked about children’s books like Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland which project such differing lights on the experience of growing up in the countries in which they were written…

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Giuliana has spent forty years as professor of English at the scientific Liceo of her city,  lovely Lucca. Now retired, she has devoted herself to writing and I look very much forwards to her future books.

I have just started reading due piedi e quattro zampe which includes illustrations by her husband Paolo and some input from her three grandchildren.

The first part of the programme consisted in Giuliana reading her wonderful translations of my sonnets on various renaissance pictures.

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These were projected onto the wall by my expert technician wife, Alessandra. Giuliana then in several instances read a comment she’d written on the painting after which I read my original English version.

Here are two examples of the paintings with my English original and gorgeous Italian translations by Giuliana: 

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CEPHALUS AND PROCRIS (Piero di Cosimo)

 

Dark-curled, sharp-eared, goat-hoofed, he touches her;

red drape unloosed from her small-breasted shape

laid out on flowered turf without a stir,

abandoned auburn locks upon silk nape.

 

His curious eyes caress a deathly face,

the wound upon her throat where blood still streams,

those golden-sandalled feet, that skein of lace,

limp hands and unseen eyes and broken dreams.

 

And at their side a hound sits passively:

beyond, an estuary with diving gulls

and further dogs upon the shore, and lee-

wards ships set sail to port with laden hulls.

 

For something’s happened which I cannot know

except she’s gone and tears begin to flow.

 

 

CEFALO E PROCRI (Piero di Cosimo)

 

Coi  ricci scuri, le orecchie appuntite e gli  zoccoli caprini, la tocca,

il drappo rosso è scivolato via dal piccolo seno

lei giace immobile  sul prato fiorito,

i riccioli ramati sciolti sul  collo serico.

 

Gli occhi curiosi di lui accarezzano il volto esangue,

la ferita sulla gola da dove ancora sgorga il sangue,

i piccoli piedi racchiusi nei sandali dorati, gli ornamenti di pizzo,

le mani abbandonate, gli occhi nascosti e i sogni spezzati.

 

E al loro fianco un cane da caccia siede immoto:

al di là c’è un estuario dove si tuffano i gabbiani

e lungo la riva altri cani, e navi  con i  pesanti scafi

navigano sottovento verso il porto.

 

Quello che è successo io non lo posso sapere

so solo che se n’è andata e mi si stringe il cuore.

 

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THE BIRTH OF VENUS (Botticelli)

 

The zephyrs blow: she rises from her shell

while flowered maidens wait with cloaks unfurled.

Within her eyes a thousand heavens dwell,

between her thighs the heart of all the world.

 

It is a gentle sea and winds drop sprays

of leaves on little lapping wavelet crests

and buds and reeds bend to love-circling days

as slender fingers cover perfect breasts.

 

Her gold-spun locks enfold like breeze-tinged foam

until long hair entwines her pubic mount;

those lovely arms entice lost lovers home

to arcane planet’s mantle-hidden fount.

 

Meanwhile, the bay and olive grove awaits

to squeeze sweet juice that always satiates

 

 

LA NASCITA DI VENERE (Botticelli)

 

 Zeffiro soffia, e lei dalla  conchiglia emerge

la damigella nel suo abito fiorito le porge il manto.

Nei suoi occhi abitano mille paradisi,

fra le sue cosce batte il cuore di tutto il mondo.

 

Il mare è calmo e i venti mandano spruzzi

di foglie a lambire piccole creste di onde

i fiori  in boccio e le canne  si  piegano al richiamo dell’amore

mentre le snelle dita coprono il perfetto seno.

 

I suoi riccioli dorati si espandono come schiuma mossa dal vento

e i lunghi capelli si intrecciano sul  pube

le  braccia aggraziate richiamano gli amanti  perduti

verso l’arcana fonte della vita nascosta dal mantello.

 

Nel frattempo, la baia e i boschetti di ulivi attendono

che venga spremuto il dolce, nutriente succo.

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The second part of the evening was dedicated to Giuliana’s own work including a remarkable series of poems written in English, entitled sensible-nonsense poems and inspired by Edward Lear. I found these not only very well-crafted and humorous but also fully able to capture that quirky Englishness which permeates Lear’s poems. Giuliana is working on more of these and they will soon be published and, no doubt, find an equal market both among children and adults who wish to develop their English language skills with pleasure and fun.

The evening concluded with some of Giuliana’s Italian poems which were beautifully expressed and showed how a true poet can fully communicate before a public who remained totally  entranced by a splendid final evening at the camera oscura which I feel should now be entitled camera non più oscura!

Thank you so much Giuliana for accepting our invitation to participate in your own unique and inspiring way to our festival and for giving us so much joy and so much to think about. Come back soon!

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(Paolo, me, Giuliana and Alessandra who was also the photographer)

 

4 thoughts on “Giuliana Enchants at Bagni di Lucca’s Festival Camera now ‘non più’ Oscura’

  1. All’ s well that ends well it was the last evening in the Camera Oscura and it was a charming event as innovative poems were read out in English and in the Italian superb translation also with commentary about the paintings so art combined with poetry was the main theme of the evening maybe a book could be the result of this thoroughly enjoyable event . Well we endured yet another melting day so it was a relief to be at this venue as it is a real cool area without air conditioning but still very cool indeed. It was nice to finally meet up with Giuliana and her family. We did not manage to fit in the viewing of the MHU senior 415 dream we have after all seen this retro futuristic pastiche several times as it was also the subject of one of the poetry evenings!

  2. Comment from Giuliana:
    I saw this article only today. Thank you so much for your comment!!! I enjoyed every single moment of the event and I am absolutely grateful to you for your praise of my work. Listening to your reading of the English version of your own poems highlighted once again what got lost in the Italian translation: the rhythm, the sound, the rhyme… in other words, the musicality and the subtle fascination of the original language. Anyway, I’m very happy you liked my translations. Thank you also for praising my poems. Giuliana.

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