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…
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.
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:
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.
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.
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!
(Paolo, me, Giuliana and Alessandra who was also the photographer)