Monday, November 25, 2019

The Italian Diaspora Studies Program in Italy: A personal Account

This year, Maria Mazziotti Gillan taught in the Italian Diaspora Studies program in Calabria, Italy. It was such a success that it will be offered in an expanded version next year May 18-31, 2020. In a perfect travel season to visit southern Italy when spring is in full bloom, these sessions will be dedicated to writing, photography and watercolor painting, along with an Italian conversation class. information at

In La Voce di New York, Maria Lisella writes "Roots, Romance and Wisdom," a personal account of the 2019 program.

Text excerpts and photo by Maria Lisella

The Group - photo by Maria Lisella

...I told myself, how inviting would it be to take up residence for a week or two in one of the most beautifully preserved borghi in Italy, namely Morano Calabro and the enchanting agriturismo Torre de Albidona that overlooks the Ionian Sea?
From these locales, I might channel my memory, ancestral myths, tales of my grandmother, grandfather, or my parents who may have emigrated– if not from the region of Calabria, then another region of Italy or from another country. The distance from home might give me the space to wander with grief tucked away for a while.
Designed, organized and initiated by Professor Margherita Ganeri, a professor of Contemporary Italian Literature at the University of Calabria in Rende, Cosenza, the program was described as “dedicated to Writing in Cultural Heritage and Memory.”Mornings were dedicated to writing or to presentations, followed by a wide array of local foods for lunch, and an excursion every afternoon...
The Italian Diaspora is little spoken of. In fact, hardly anyone thinks of Italians and the diaspora, but more commonly, of the Jewish or African-American Diasporas. Yet this group of 25 participants, Italians and/or hyphenated Italians and non-Italians came together to discover, learn, explore, divine their radici, roots, and transform those discoveries into novels, poems, memoirs, drawings, watercolors and stories. Surrounded by breathtaking Calabrese scenery, and hearing, even if not speaking in local dialects or modern Italian, are just some of the elements that made this experience so gratifying and enlightening—as some of the participants attested...
The seminal experience begins with the writing sessions during the first week. It was led by American Book award-winning poet, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, who has written 23 books of poetry and is the author of Writing Poetry to Save Your Life. Gillan is an extraordinary force in the Italian-American literary community and is known as a legendary teacher with an uncanny ability to trigger people’s instincts to tell their own stories. Participants shared their stories: what they knew, what they surmised. They arrived to demystify the myths, to get a feel for the place, to understand themselves. One tale after another revealed the complexity of the Italian Diaspora.
Gillan would preface the sessions with examples and short lectures followed by a series of prompts designed to tap intuition rather than intellect and poetry skills. Fueled by participants’ deep memory sources and storytelling, no participant left without at least a poem, short story or lead for a future project...

read the full article at La Voce di New York

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter. Her collection of poems paired with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets. Her new artist website is at Maria's poetry website is

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