Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Collective Sound Reading Performance - Sant' Agata dei Goti

Here are the Irish writers, and many Italian writers, taking part in an experimental sound performance in Sant' Agata dei Goti, Italy in June 2014, at Palazzo Rainore Mustilli. We all read what we wanted until we were brought to a spectacular close by the wonderful Seán Hardie. Good times :)

Wednesday, 11 June 2014


The Italo-Irish Literature Exchange made national Italian TV last night... including our spontaneous improvised group jam. We're about 18 mins in. Link here.


Aula magna del complesso di Santa Caterina in the University, Bologna
Our day 7 blogger is Noel Monahan

Monday 9th June - evening event & Tuesday 7th June, morning and home

Mia, Afric, Valerie and Noel at Via de Poeti, Bologna
Sounds of Words/I Suoni della Parola is the final event of the Italo- Irish Literature Exchange 2014. It is hot and the evening sun is relentless. Instinctively, we head for the water-hole outside the Aula Magna, Rita pours cool glasses of water for us and we are informed Bologna University is the oldest in the world. The hall inside reeks of final examinations going all the way back to the twelfth century.

Refreshments before the reading, Afric tucks in
The programme for this evening is presented differently. On every chair you find a paper-wallet full of information relating to the Irish and Italian writers and poets. I am taken by its presentation, the detail right down to green ribbon. By now we are familiar with the proceedings, the translations are ready to go, the running order is set, Tanya, the interpreter leans over and the sounds of words ring out in Italian, English, Irish and Roman dialect.

Writers Silvia Secco, Afric McGlinchey, Gino Scatasta, Alessandro Dall'Olio and William Wall
Questions and answers at the end of the readings lead to a lively exchange of ideas on education and the role of the poet. Back at 77, the Italian Writers’ watering-hole, we drink beer, wine, nibble on cheese, bread, prosciutto … They are a lively bunch and there is real integration. We should stay in contact with 77.
Liz Kirwan and Valerie Bistany
Not only do we talk about DISPLACEMENT, we live it. We get lost on the way back to the Ospitalita. Tuesday we return home. Last minute shopping and we head to the airport. Back in Dublin, I run off with someone’s ham, wine .. and think it’s the after-shave I bought for the boys. What was that theme again? DISPLACEMENT.

Our interpreter Tanya, with all of us and Grupo 77, the Italian wrtiers we read with, outside 77 Wine Bar
Since this is the final report on the trip I feel I should comment on the generosity of spirit of all. We hardly knew each other at the beginning. I certainly feel I was enriched by the experience. Our thanks to Valerie and The Irish Writers’ Centre for making it all happen. When will we meet up?

Monday, 9 June 2014


Our Day 6 blogger is Nuala Ní Chonchúir

Monday 9th June

The day started with us leaving lovely Lugo and three of our party taking the wrong train and ending up in a town called Wethorse - in Italian, 'Bagnocavallo'. Luckily, the side-tour to Bagnacavallo took all of 10 minutes and the trio (yes, I confess, I was one of them) were safely on the Bologna train before long.

Nuala and Valerie, trying to make pasta sensuously
We just had time to drop our bags at our final accommodation for the trip, the Collegio San Tommaso, before we were collected by Rita Mattioli, who walked us through beautiful Bologna (with a stop-off at a market for cheese, cherries and peaches) to her home.

The adorable Rita
There she made her family bolognese (minced pork and beef, sausage, wine, onions, celery, carrot, garlic, rock salt, pepper) and fed us organic red wine. Rita left the bolognese cooking in its clay pot, quoting Neapolitan poet Eduardo de Filippo: 'Now we have to leave the ragu alone, he has to think.' She then taught us how to make tortelloni and tagliatelle, and had us dancing to sultry music while we made our own pasta dough. Rita urged Afric to make her 'soul take fire' as she kneaded the dough. We laughed and danced and made passable pasta.

Rita makes magic with tagliatelle
Our tortelloni, which we stuffed with ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and parsley, looked a little sad but they tasted fine when we sat in Rita's beautiful dining room afterwards to eat lunch, sip organic prosecco and gorge on cherry cobbler and homemade ice-cream. Life is hard in bella Bologna :)

Our funny looking tortelloni
Hungry writers waiting for lunch
The day was book-ended with stray writers: we got lost in Bologna that night after our event, but I will leave it to Noel Monahan to recount that particular adventure.

Sunday, 8 June 2014


Day  5 is recounted by William (Bill) Wall

Sunday June 8th - Lugo di Romagna
Travelling between Bologna and Lugo in 35C, in an un-air-conditioned local train, we began to think longingly for the first time of the cool of an Irish day, and this song came to mind. It's very famous in Italy and indicates the love affair between the Italian people and the Irish landscape, which they see as a kind of antithesis of theirs:

Daniele Serafini
We were met at the Lugo railway station by the poet and translator Daniele Serafini, who had organised our reading there. Lugo, is a small town by Italian standards, but still manages to have a medieval citadel and renaissance-period porticoes, an ancient open-air market, and a hotel with exhibitions of political cartoons and a literary programme that many an Irish arts centre would envy. We had dinner that evening, at the invitation of the City Council, under the porticoes in glorious shade, eating typical local food and drinking Sangiovese, and afterwards read at Caffe Letterario.
William Wall reading in Lugo at the Caffe Letterario
It was the evening of a closely-contested local election, taken much more seriously in Italy than Ireland perhaps because local councils have real power, and they were worried that there would be a small turnout, but they needn't have been. Afterwards, in a bar in the mediaeval castle, the Italians anxiously awaited the results of the final count. Just before midnight word came that the candidate of choice of the literary and artistic side of the city had won and after that we simply had to go celebrating the victory.
A local woman in traditional dress
The piazza was busy and noisy, crowds milled around the PD/SEL headquarters, sparkling wine in every glass, cheering and clapping. At one point the owner of the caffe next door handed out glasses saying, 'I've found the glasses but I can't find the wine'. The new mayor, a young man of 29, was introduced to the 'Irish delegation'. He looked dazed. I doubt he'll remember a few random Irish writers, but it was good to be there to see it. The atmosphere was electric in the piazza. I don't know where the losing candidate's supporters were, but it seemed like a sea of happy faces.

It was our second-last reading. Onwards tomorrow to Bologna and the oldest university in the world, the Alma Mater of all Alma Maters.

Saturday, 7 June 2014


Day 4 in Napoli is recounted by Mia Gallagher

Saturday 7th June - Naples

Caffe Gambrinus coffee break in Napoli - Sean Hardie on the far right
Today is our last day in the Mezzogiorno. So what better way to spend it than in the glorious sprawl of Napoli, a place I love. Plenty awaited us in the New City (from Neapolis, the original Greek name). Afric got photos of a demonstration that might have been about workers’ rights – though it was hard to tell. Nuala spotted shedloads of police, drummers and bluegrass musicians in the shopping district. I came across some teenage kickboxers and a strange soprano singing on the seafront.

Buskers on Via Chiaia
En route it was great to find out about the layered history of Naples, its development and reconstruction under a who’s who list of famous European rulers. We split up and I got lost somewhere on one of the hills, appropriately enough for a literary exchange exploring the theme of displacement. I felt like a character from a Richard Scarry illustrated book.

Mia's gattolina
Up one winding street, down another. I followed a zigzag of terraces up to the ramparts where I made friends with a gattolina (Italian cat) who followed me onto a desolate hilltop, bounded by wire fences, crumbling buildings, Keep Out signs and graffiti promising murder by gunshot if you parked there. I looked back: the gattolina had disappeared. Not a soul around, not even a mugger – though it would have been the perfect place to play Rob the Silly Tourist. And in that spark of dangerous solitude I had one of those odd, everlasting moments of feeling utterly at home. Grazie, Napoli.

Now it’s 5.20pm. Open Mic in half an hour. I’m going to try out my Italian & read a translation – bit nervous but why not?
The Bay of Naples

Paola Mustilli, our host, enjoying the open mic

Friday, 6 June 2014


Day 3 is recorded by Afric McGlinchey

Friday June 6th - Sant' Agata dei Goti and Telese, Benevento

In beautiful, medieval Sant' Agata – palazzos, jasmine, bougainvillea, marble floors, the perfect setting for a film set – and there is a film being made here right now! – eating al fresco on a terrazzo overlooking a dramatic escarpment, wine. Day 3 starts with another blue sky, sunshine, and  breakfast at the Palazzo Rainone-Mustilli.

The talented writing students of Telese

Then a mini-bus to the Telesi Institute di Istruziane Superiore, where some students perform their work. Mia responds with an extract from one of her stories. Some students who run a journal ask us questions: whether Liz’s political career influences her work, and if she feels compelled to write with socio-political awareness. Liz replies that as we are all political citizens, she feels as free as anyone else to write what she wants. Translation is discussed, and Nuala says in her opinion, translation from Irish to English is  always going to leave some nuance out, and the best you can hope for is a version of the original, rather than a translation.

Noel and Afric listen to one of Sean's wonderful stories on the terrazza at Café Miro

We have an alfresco lunch back at Sant’Agata, overlooking the escarpment, accompanied by an orange tabby, treated afterwards to a cherry cognac by the cafe owner. On the way back to our private apartment (part of the palazzo), I pause to watch a film crew shoot the scene of a period film. The locals are out in full force, hopeful teenage girls in all their finery.

Gaja Cenciarelli & Federica Sgaggio read at the festival
At 6pm, it’s time for the ‘festival’ (as it’s called here) highlight: readings by the Irish contingent and  a number of Italian writers, including a talented 15-year-old from this morning, with video addresses by Catherine Dunne and a couple of absent writers. A great event, followed by dinner – numerous courses of divine food, ending with fresh cherries. We have begun unbuttoning and unzipping, and will clearly have to resort to treadmills when we get home! A late night walk for some, to aid digestion. And now to bed, to dream of Naples...

The proprietor of Café Miro gave us cherry liquor after our meal