An Italian in Surrey: My Italian legacy rooted in Britain
The Woking Writer's Collective is thrilled to be able to introduce you to Woking author and poet Carla Scarano D’Antonio, a lady with many talents. Here, Carla tells us about herself and her work...
"I am Italian and moved to England with my family in 2007. Food and family relationships are very important to me and interweave in my daily life. Preparing good food and cherishing family connections have shaped my personality and formed my identity. In Italy, I was an English teacher, and in England, I became an Italian teacher. The English and Italian languages, cultures and pieces of literature mingle in my everyday life and in my readings. I write in English though Italian inspires my work too.
I started to write poetry a few years before moving to England, attending American classes online. When I moved to England (Lancaster), I joined workshops at the adult education college and readings in pubs and at The Storey. On Friday nights, we used to meet for the Spotlight event organised by Sarah Fiske and Ron Baker. There was always a featured poet or prose writer, music and open mic sessions. I could read my work and felt very much welcomed. Writing became very important as it gave me the possibility to communicate what I felt and to connect with people I liked. In Lancaster, I met two important poets who supported me, Sarah Hymas and Elizabeth Burns. Unfortunately, Elizabeth died of cancer just before I moved to Surrey in 2015, but I am still in contact with Sarah. In Lancaster, I attended the MA in creative writing at Lancaster University and decided to self-publish my first pamphlet, A Winding Road, in 2011. In 2016 I won first prize in the John Dryden Translation Competition. The prize was awarded for the translation of some poems by Eugenio Montale that Keith Lander and I co-translated.
When I moved to Surrey, I attended the stanza group and joined the Woking Writers Circle and also went to readings at Write Out Loud in Woking, 1000 Monkeys in Guildford and Poetry Performance at the Adelaide in Twickenham. I met many poets and writers, made new connections and friends and enjoyed every moment of this new journey in poetry. I also started to write reviews of poetry collections and art exhibitions, which are regularly published in online magazines such as London Grip, Write Out Loud, South, The High Window, Tears in the Fence, Pulsar, Litro magazine and The Temz review. Links to my reviews and articles are on my website (http://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/?Publications) and are also available on the Academia.edu website: https://reading.academia.edu/CarlaScarano
Reading the collections of renowned and less-known poets has expanded my understanding tremendously and has inspired more poetry, and allowed me to form new contacts. My favourite poets are well-known names such as Coleridge, Emily Dickinson and William Carlos Williams and contemporary poets too, such as Hannah Lowe, Fiona Benson, Elizabeth Burns, Helen Mort, Pascale Petit, Kim Moore and Simon Armitage, among others. My favourite Italian poets are Giacomo Leopardi, Eugenio Montale and Alda Merini. Last year I completed a PhD on Margaret Atwood’s work at the University of Reading, so Margaret Atwood is my hero and, for me, the best writer ever. She has written poetry, fiction and non-fiction, reviews and essays; she has published about sixty texts in all, which is amazing! She is an inspiration to me.
As well as writing poetry, I also nurture my lifelong passion for painting. When I lived in the north of England, I took part in the Silverdale and Arnside Craft and Art Trail, and I ran workshops for children too. When I moved south, I was very busy working in an international school and researching for my PhD at first, but then I started exhibiting my artwork again with the Woking Art Society and Artists Open Studios, Woking Art Society and Artists Open Studios (https://surreyopenstudios.org.uk/artist/carla-scarano-dantonio/) and took part in The Lightbox Christmas Fair and Chobham Festival. I have used tempera, acrylics and oil painting in the past, but at the moment, I mainly work with oil pastels, ink and watercolours, mixing the media to obtain unexpected and interesting results. I also love crocheting and have created a crochet installation for a local postbox in Chobham near Tesco. More information about my artwork and fairs is on my website:
My first collection, Negotiating Caponata, is mainly about food connected with family relationships. It was published by Dempsey & Windle in July 2020. At the time, I also wrote a sequence on my father’s death (he died in April 2016 of pancreatic cancer in less than a month after the diagnosis). I tried to communicate his pain and my affection for him even though our relationship was not easy. I was so excited and happy about this publishing opportunity. The launch was online because of the Covid restrictions. About fifty people attended the launch from the UK, Italy, Canada and Australia. It was wonderful.
I write poetry regularly, prompted by workshops I attend online with Second Light and Tears in the Fence and by my everyday experiences: what I do, feel and make.
I read poetry not only for the purpose of writing reviews but also read it in magazines that I am subscribed to. Poetry has become central to my practice and study. I am also a member of Ver poets and attend their online workshops. For two years running, in 2021 and 2022, I took part in the Tears in the Fence festival in September in Stourpaine, Dorset, which was engrossing and inspiring. Here is the link to this unique experience:
Currently, I am carrying on with my research and studies on Margaret Atwood’s work too. I attend conferences and write and publish articles on her work in academic journals.
At the end of September, I went on a fantastic Maddogyoga retreat at a youth hostel in Totland on the Isle of Wight with my yoga group. I wrote a piece about it that described all the exercises and activities we did and the good food we had on the 4-day trip. It was an exciting and rejuvenating experience that made me feel fit and happy. I felt accepted and valued in this community and made valuable connections during the retreat. We had walks together, helped each other to prepare dinners and clear up afterwards and had long, relaxing chats about our worries and joys. In addition to the delicious dinners and exceptional cakes, we had good fun too and even had a games night and a fancy-dress party. Shena Grigor, our yoga instructor, was entertaining and professional as ever. I read poems at the beginning and end of each yoga session which I had collected from online magazines and printed them in a booklet. It was an enthralling experience I hope to repeat. Here is the link to my review:
Last but not least, my new collection, Workwear, has just been published by The High Window (https://thehighwindowpress.com/the-high-window-press/#Workwear). In this collection, there are poems about my mother and my grandmothers and some about food and family ties, as in my previous book, Negotiating Caponata. However, Workwear has a wider perspective and includes more poems. Besides a section on the pandemic, some of the poems respond to other poets’ work, such as Sylvia Plath’s, and to social and political issues, such as Trump’s wall, immigration, otherness, abuse and ageing. There is a sequence on my autistic daughter Valentina that retraces her story and the story of our family from her adoption to the diagnosis of autism in 2008 and her move to a residential school in 2016. Every time I read the sequence, it seems as if it is happening again, and when I visit her at weekends and see how lively and how happy she is, I feel we did the right thing. The collection is dedicated to my granddaughter, Violetta, who is a joy and a blessing. My daughter Irene created the painting for the front cover; I think it is brilliant and reflects perfectly the spirit of the poems in the collection.
Here is the link to a new web page on my website where you can learn more about my work and purchase a copy of the book: https://www.carlascaranod.co.uk/?Publications&normal
The launch will be next year both on Zoom and at The Lightbox. The book is also for sale at The Lionsheart bookshop in the centre of Woking, at 67 Commercial Way, GU21 6HN (https://www.lionsheartbookshop.co.uk/).
I also write a blog, carlascarano.blogspot.co.uk/, where I publish recipes, my artwork, travel journals and opinions. I especially like the atmosphere of poetry gigs, where so many different kinds of poetry are read, all good and entertaining. I love this feeling of diversity and inclusion. I am co-compere at the Write Out Loud open mic at the Lightbox with Rodney Wood and am the representative for Woking Stanza, a Poetry Society group that meets online. I am very active on social media, too and use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. I post about what I do daily, my impressions, opinions and readings, and I also post pictures I take that move me. I enjoy being in constant communication with people I know or don’t know in person – and concerning the latter, I value this link with them all the same. We share what we love, and above all, we stay creative, which keeps us alive and lively. I enjoy the process, that is, the relationships and connections we establish, more than the product, that is, the poems I eventually complete, though the two things go hand in hand. So, poetry is important, but people are more so, and poetry helps me connect with them. It’s a fantastic opportunity!"