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Canada 150


      Un Momento with Gianna Patriarca

      Oct. 15, 2012

      Gianna Patriarca, award winning poet and one of the most influential and prolific writers in Toronto, has a new book of poetry coming out on Quattro Books. She is well known for her best-selling book, Italian Women and Other Tragedies, which was recently translated into Italian and well received in Italy. She has written seven books of poetry and is included in numerous anthologies. Her collection, Ciao Baby, was adapted for a Canada Stage production that had a successful three-week run. Her poetry has been read on CBC Radio and featured in several documentaries. Gianna has also written a wonderful illustrated children’s book. She has an amazing gift for revealing deep emotions through direct and well-crafted poems. Her many fans are waiting in anticipation for her newest book which promises to leave them breathless. Discover the secrets of Gianna’s work and inspiration in this, the first in the Un Momento Series of interviews with Italian-Canadian writers.

      Tell us about your new book. What is the main focus and what inspired you to write it?

      My new book, Too Much Love, is a personal, poetic and political look at life and love inspired by those who have come in and out of my life and continue to give it meaning.

      One of your most popular books, Italian Women and Other Tragedies, was translated into Italian and you were in Italy promoting the book. How did the whole journey from translation to Italy tour feel for you?

      Translating is one of the most difficult and time consuming exercises, I did not find it easy at all but the challenge was interesting. I had help from some people whose knowledge of Italian was much more eloquent than mine and it took me about two years to do. It was frightening to launch it in Italy because I was truly skeptical that the Italians would receive it with any real appreciation, but I was wrong, the university students and staff were really embracing, welcoming and very curious. It was a very positive response and experience.

      Over the years there have been many conferences and discussions about the value of Italian Canadian literature. Do you feel literature with Italian Canadian themes deserves a place in the Canadian literary canon?

      I have often stated that we (Italian/Canadian writers) are easily dismissed here in Canada. (I have had personal experiences where this was clearly apparent). We have been grouped in a category of writers as “unoriginal” and this really angers me. It seems because we have, as an immigrant group, been successful and have established ourselves in prominent businesses, etc., our stories don’t seem relative or tragic enough to stand up as literature, as if our struggle has been erased as if it was irrelevant. Someone once said to me “Italian Canadian writers are just whiners, what have you got to complain about?” That sort of ignorance pretty much outlines it all.

      You are an incredible reader. What is your secret? Can you tell us how you approach a poetry reading and what is important for you when you share your writing with an audience?

      I love the audience. The audience is your energy. I love theater, people and communication. When I get on the stage to share my work it is the audience that is important. I can write and read to myself anywhere, in any mood, but when you step in front of an audience you owe them the respect to connect, communicate, laugh, inspire all the things that a good conversation, discussion would bring. If you are not aware of your audience and your performance then it is better not to get on that stage and continue your solitary relationship with your work. An audience must be acknowledged and respected, often I find readers don’t care to connect with others but enjoy the act of “self gratification” on stage which is completely boring, and boring the audience is the worst thing I can think of as a performer.

      You have published other work besides poetry. You have written articles, fiction and a children’s work, but you seem to always return to poetry. Why?

      I have always found the title “poet” a difficult label because it automatically puts you in a specific category and often one that you have a difficulty living up to. I consider myself a writer. Poetry is what comes more frequently in my head and heart and I guess it is like that favourite blanket or pair of shoes that you return to when you need the comfort. I did not choose poetry, it chose me, but I do enjoy exploring all types of writing. Right now I am in the process of finishing a book of short stories about women. I love children’s literature because for thirty-three years as a teacher I read it every day and there are some amazing writers for children out there. Two of my favourites are Shirley Hughes and Patricia Polacco.

      Do you have any advice for young writers?

      My advice to young writers is WRITE. Good, bad, short, long, poetry, stories, it doesn’t matter, it is all about sharpening and shaping the tools and life will give you material, if not life then unleash that imagination.

      You are a great fan of film, who is your favourite director and do you think film has influenced your writing in any way?   

      I am a very visual person; I love film, theater and performance. It is the way I would have chosen to communicate on the stage first, but life sometimes has other plans. I am also a child of the sixties and Television was our bible. I love all types of films but the European directors were my first exposure to storytelling on celluloid so they tend to remain in my heart as my favourite. Fellini, De Sica, Wertmueller, Herzog, Fassbinder and the Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, and England’s Loach and Richardson are a few of my loves. Of course the seventies in North America produced some amazing filmmakers also and today in Italy I love Emanuele Crialese. I think that my characters and my poetry is very visual also, I try to write real people and real situations that play in my head like a short film, so yes, I guess we are always influenced by what we love or hate.

      What are you working on now?

      I am completing a book of short stories about women (working title is All My Fallen Angelas), and trying to stay out of trouble.

      Too Much Love will be officially launched on Tuesday, November 20, 8:00PM, at Q Space, 382 College Street in Toronto.

      One Response to “Un Momento with Gianna Patriarca”

      1. As solid and honest an interview, as the readings are great!