FEILE-FESTA HOME    |     PAST ISSUES    |     ORDERING INFO    |     SUBMISSIONS    |     LIBRARIES    |     LINKS    |     STAFF    |     ABOUT US    |     CONTACT US

Spring 2008


- A. Bodhràn
For Valentino Lo Bianco “In Memoriam” July 2007
- L. Calio
Elbow Grease
- M. Carroll
Sacred Sod
- G. Fagiani
The Name He Did Not Want
- V. Fazio
La Visita (The Visit)
- M. Frasca
Finn McCool Crosses the Line
- J. Hart
After the Glanconer
- J. Knight
- M. Lisella
Dun Arann
- J. Machan
Karaoke Swan Song
- P. Many
Sestina Terrona
- N. Matros
The Roofs of Siena
- J. McCann
- S. Moorhead
- P. Nichloas
Marriage Ellis Island Style
- F. Polizzi
The Years of Our Lord
- K. Scambray
The Girl with Botticelli Hair
- G. Tabasso
On a Dismal Night, in Dim Light Pondering a Tattered Map of Ireland
- H. Youtt

Rosemarie Crupi Holz

Review of Helen Barolini’s THEIR OTHER SIDE, SIX AMERICAN
WOMEN & THE LURE OF ITALY (Fordham University Press)

Helen Barolini’s journey to Italy in 1948 marked the turning point of her life. She worked in Rome as a journalist, indulged in Italy’s treasures and reconnected with her heritage, fulfilling a lifetime dream. She met and married an Italian writer and poet, established a home, started a family and became a successful writer. An acclaimed Italian-American author, Barolini was determined to search for other American women writers who had the courage to look beyond the boundaries of their ordinary lives. Their Other Side, Six American Women & the Lure of Italy was the result.

The American poet, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), whose poem #80 inspired the title of this collection, yearned from afar but did not actually travel to Italy except in the imagery of her poetry. She wrote with passion about Italy’s power to entice:

Our lives are Swiss--
So Still—so Cool
Till some odd afternoon
The Alps neglect their Curtains—
And we look farther on!
Italy stands the other side!
While like a guard between--
The Solemn Alps--
The siren Alps
Forever intervene!

The other five American writers did travel to Europe and crossed the still, cool, solemn Alps to Italy where they were able to shed the Swissness of their lives, its orderliness and ordinariness to embrace their other side and the riches Italy offered them. Some accomplished more than others.

In 1848, one hundred years before Barolini worked in Rome, Margaret Fuller (1810-1850) Transcendentalist, reformer and critic, became the country’s first female correspondent ever employed by a major newspaper, The Herald Tribune, to cover events abroad. Based in Rome, she sent back 37 dispatches from 1846 – 1850 chronicling intense accounts of the political upheaval that was sweeping the continent. Dedicated to the cause of Italian freedom, she struggled alongside her Italian lover during the siege of Rome in 1849 and participated in the political revolutions that gave birth to the Italian republic. Despite her bravery and ambitiousness, she was caricatured as an unattractive spinster who did not know her place by such prominent writers as Ralph Waldo Emerson, James Russell Lowell, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James who were threatened by her intellectual equality.

Constance Woolson (1840-1894), a novelist and short story writer of the American South and Italy, lived in Florence and Rome and died in Venice. For 14 years she was a friend and colleague to Henry James, whom she idolized. Unlike Margaret Fuller, she believed in the natural superiority of the male artist over the female and could not overcome her struggles to become a writer despite her great efforts to live on her own, to connect with life and to portray her experiences in her writings. She achieved prominence in her lifetime but her works are no longer read. Whatever talents she possessed were eclipsed by male contemporaries like James. She achieved much, according to Barolini, despite the many obstacles of the times and society she was born into.

Mabel Dodge Luhan (1870-1962) was a wealthy, flamboyant artist and writer with homes in Tuscany, New York, and New Mexico. She married four times and during the course of her long life (92 years) entertained the wealthy and famous, such as Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein, Margaret Sanger, Walter Lippman, Amy Lowell and, what she considered her greatest prize, D. H. Lawrence. She wrote profusely, including her four volume autobiography, which serves as a testimony to the times she lived and the notable people she knew. Her memoir reveals to us a new type of American woman: independent, self assured, the symbol of the new sexually emancipated. It also reveals an egotistical salon hostess driven by snobbery into gathering people into her sphere.

Writers Marguerite Caetani (1880-1963) and Iris Origo (1902-1988) have much in common. Both came from wealthy American families and married wealthy Italians, Marguerite a Roman prince and Iris a Tuscan nobleman. American by birth, Italian by marriage and with Italian children, both suffered divided loyalties during WWII and wrote about these troubling times. Princess Caetani, who lost her son in the war, was committed to raising Italy’s image from the dishonor of the fascist period and to showcase Italian writers silenced during that regime. Her accomplishment, the literary journal, Bottege Oscure (Street of Dark Shops) the site of Caetani’s palace in Rome, introduced young, unknown, talented Italian writers to the world. Issued twice a year from 1948-1960, it became international in scope and welcomed writers such as e. e. cummings, Theodore Roethke, Robert Lowell, W. H. Auden, and William Carlos Williams.

Iris Origo and her Italian nobleman husband built a Tuscan estate where she established herself as a biographer, novelist and historian. During the Second World War their home became a refuge for others from fascism. Her war diaries describe Italy’s civil war and foreign invasion and the day to day survival of her family and the villagers and farmers who resided on her estate.

Barolini states Italy was un incantesimo (an enchantment) that had long drawn travelers to its dream. Some of the writers Barolini writes about were able to harness that dream and lead creative, noble lives. Margaret Fuller, Marguerite Caetani and Iris Origo performed heroic deeds and we are left with their stories, memoirs, biographies and essays brimming with the details of the times they lived. Constance Woolson’s life abroad and revealing friendship to Henry James illustrate a female writer’s great efforts to soar like the men she so greatly admired. Mabel Dodge Luhan reigned as Mistress of the Grand Salon and Patroness of All, while Emily Dickinson simply wrote the poetry that inspired them all. Helen Barolini brings them together, linking them all to the lure of Italy.