10 Books I Have Been Reading This Summer.

Summer comes as a blessing, It is definitely the season in which I manage to come to terms with my creative side. I write, I read, I watch movies and I try to soak in as much art as possible. Since last June I have read more books than I'd thought I might be able to. Here is a list of ten I have been reading or am currently reading. They are all novels or short stories collections. Indeed I love my poetry, but I tend to read more poetry during the rest of the year!

1) John Claude Smith, Riding the Centipede (Omnium Gatherum, 2015)

Riding the Centipede is John's debut novel. I was curious to read it, as I have always enjoyed his writing. John loves his winding tours into the weird and this is indeed a ride, but I strongly encourage you to give it a spin. Here are some of the ingredients: a private investigator, a Hollywood socialite, a ghost choosing to Ride the Centipede to the ultimate experience, William S. Burroughs, Marylin Monroe, Frida Kahlo's lost painting and a nuclear menace named Rudolf Chernobyl. Get your print copy or Kindle e-book here! <3

2) Elizabeth Kostova, The Swan Thieves

As many of you know, I do love my Art! I bought this novel for a couple of Euros in a used bookstore and fell in love with the story. An artist gone insane painting over and over the same woman and making life hard for his wife and lover. The same artist almost stabbing a painting in an art gallery and stops speaking from then on. A series of old letters the artist owns. And, how a patient psychiatrist manages to understand the "why" in a journey through time and art linking the 19th century to the present times. 

3) Magda Szabo, Iza's Ballad*

This novel has been translated into English from Hungarian by poet George Szirtes and it is set in Hungary in the 60s. Iza, a brilliant doctor, finds herself battling with her old mother once her father dies. The path is not as smooth as she had imagined, particularly when she decides to have her mother relocate with her in Budapest. Family relationships can be so hard at times. Do we always know what is best for the people we love? This novel is harrowing. It will stay with me for a long, long time.

4, 5 & 6) Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Innocent Eréndira and Other Stories*

These tales are wonderful. I loved the surreal elements and the beautiful, charged descriptions: a treasure trove full of magic realism and amazing writing. I have also read Marquez's Of Love and Other Demons again this summer. And, his Memories of My Melancholy Whores for the first time. Can one ever have enough of Marquez? I guess not!


7) Ken Follett, World Without End

After having read the over 1,000 pages of The Pillars of the Earth in 3 weeks time, last Christmas, I have avidly devoured its sequel. Follett knows his history well and his extensive research and lively writing make his books so full of life. A superb page-turner!

8) Georgia O'Keeffe, Memorie

A lean book that has left a mark. I have always been a fan of Georgia O'Keeffe's work, but I definitely feel I know her much better now. Reading O'Keeffe's memories, particularly about her love for Alfred Stieglitz and the way she strived to paint in her own amazing, unique way was fascinating.

9) Toni Morrison, A Mercy

It seems ages since I wrote my dissertation on Toni Morrison's first six novels. I can't help reading her novels over and over again. I reread at least one per year. Beloved and The Bluest Eye are perhaps my favorite, but they are so devastating that I find it hard to read them too often. I do skim through their pages often. This year I chose to reread A Mercy, a brief, intense, vision of America's genesis.

10) Angela Carter, Nights at the Circus

I have just started reading this book. It is a joy. The story of Sophie Fevvers, a 19th century virago-like aerialiste born from an an egg and abandoned as a baby in a basket to be raised by the prostitutes of a brothel, painted by Toulouse-Lautrec and admired by many men, is leaving a great impression. Not to mention Angela Carter's dazzling writing. When I grow up, I want to be like her. I mean Angela, not the aerialiste! ;)

* I am unable to add the right accents to these authors' surnames. Consider them there, even if they are not!


Writing, again

It seems I am writing poems again after being on a hiatus. I am not one of those writers/poets who sits at the desk and starts writing. I cannot force myself to write, if I do, I will end up writing a poem without "voice." I always "struggle" with my Muse. I realize many consider the Muse unnecessary to write. Many believe that writing comes from hard work only. True, but then I guess I must belong to a different breed of writers. I love the act of creation when it happens, but I also know that I can't open my notebook, stare at the blank page and fill it for the sake of filling it. Writing comes to me. It is a gift. Something triggers my imagination and words pour on the page.  And, I hardly ever edit my poems. When they come to me, they are "perfect." Or, so they seem to me.

Humbert and Lolita made their appearance in the first poem I wrote a few days ago. I was thinking at how, as much as I love Nabokov, I detest his novel Lolita. I must confess of having found it tedious. I also believe that, having just watched the movie An Education again, helped me give the poem a completely new and unexpected twist.

Welcome back, Poetry!


Just Like When Hadrian Wrote Poems

Just Like When Hadrian Wrote Poems

hidden in the Maritime
Theater - his room of
his own - quill in hand
on the artificial island
surrounded by waters

rich in carps, reflecting
the marble colonnade,
fighting his sporadic
moods and talking in
Greek and Latin to his

two Muses, skipping the
occasional stone on the
pond of his writing,
reflecting on life’s end
with the lucidity of his ink.

Animula, vagula blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula rigida nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos…

It’s that flow of his
writing I feel today
waking in me amidst
the yelling cicadas
and the twisted olive

trees in his Villa in former
Tibur, walking along
the statues mirroring themselves
in the Canopus. There is Mars
on the warpath, shield in

hand and there winged Mercury 
almost ready to soar with
the local iridescent dragonfly.
Headless Venus winks her eye 
to Antinous’ head drifting along

the currents of the Emperor’s
thoughts. Hadrian writes
his best known poem
again today over the island
for me to hear.

Little soul, you charming little wanderer,
my body's guest and partner, 
where are you off to now? Somewhere
You'll crack no more of your jokes once you're there.

without color, savage and bare; 
You'll crack no more of your jokes once you're there.

I wrote this poem after visiting Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli 3 or maybe 4 years ago. It was published in The Rusty Nail. I am very fond of Hadrian, who was a wise Emperor and an amazing intellectual. He was a poet, too. If you have not read Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian, you should. And, I hope you'll love it as much as I do!

Emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE)

Hadrian's Villa, The Canopus