Ntozake Shange did the same work of redemption when she created her choreopoem in the San Francisco Bay area: For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf. Performing her sacred rite in bars, cafes, galleries, women’s studies departments and other spots, this modern-day ritual would eventually emerge on Broadway in 1976 at the Booth Theater produced by Joe Papp. Seven women dressed in rainbow colors shared their stories, their loves, music and some of the grief of black women in a wilderness of human relationships where friends are capable of rape and husbands of murdering their children. Continue reading
Poet as Initiate: A Rebirth of the Goddess & The Darkmother in Women’s Poetry in the 70’s[i]
(for my mother Rosa)
“She is you, she is me, she is our mother’s murmurings, chantings, hummings all her days”[ii]
Rites of Isis
When I first wrote those lines in the early 1970’s, I hadn’t yet named the process going on within me, nor had I discovered the works of Lucia Chiavola Birnbaum, which would link the dark mother to my own Sicilian and Neapolitan heritage, as well as our collective African roots. I had seen my life undergoing major transitions, a divorce, job loss, a descent, as well as explorations into new and submerged territories of learning, a “remembering” of African culture and religion as well as a reconnection to people from Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. Continue reading
Poet as Initiate: A Rebirth of the Goddess In Contemporary Women Poets of the Spirit- I
THERE IS SOMETHING wonderful happening. One could call it a reclamation of something lost or forgotten, certainly something distorted and suppressed. It comes by many names: Moon Goddess or Divine Mother, the feminine consciousness and yin spirit. It is the half of divine consciousness omitted in traditional worship of the Father God. SHE is reemerging today as the result of the inner work of a growing number of women artists who, while in search of themselves, amid confusion of masculine and feminine roles in their own time, came upon a larger vision for all time – a mystical feminine revelation. Continue reading
I’ve seen the horrors of the wasteland yet to come Continue reading
Part Two: Departure
The six month visit in Ghana had finally come to an end. Although it was the last night for sharing a supper or sitting by the fire to tell or listen to a story, no one could eat or find voice to speak. Only the sound of the crackling fire broke the heavy silence. Ashneen was away, but had promised to be back by morning. Ashtai had already left for the country. Only Kwame, Essie and the young children remained to sit out their final vigil. Continue reading
Part One: Ghanaian Festival
… Once again the Kwando family welcomed them. They had arrived auspiciously. “Tomorrow will be the most important Ga festival,” Kwame said. How privileged they felt when he spoke with the elders to get them permission to enter parts of the ritual normally excluded to outsiders. Continue reading
The night was totally still
empty of any artificial light or sound
as it rarely is in industrial countries,
and although you complained of these troublesome blackouts
the poor electrical connections in Khartoum
for me, so burdened with progress and stress
this was a reprieve–
the sky so close and black except for punctuating stars,
I could nearly touch the diamonds
as you walked weighted beside me, an ancestral figure
head filled with thoughts of war
bent you were
with only your eyes touching the heavens.
(For Kassu Tsadik, courageous Eritrean mother)
Khartoum Telatta, a refugee camp (1978)
and the young men and I grow closer.
We visit refugee camps regularly,
and on one particularly bright day,
a day when people and objects
appear closer and more luminous,
we meet an old and beautiful Eritrean woman.
In the late 1970s, a journey of the heart tugged American-born Louisa Calio to Africa to reunite with a young man she’d met and loved several years prior in the US. The two friends shared a connection to Eritrea. He was born in Asmara, considered the “Rome” not only of Eritrea, but of Italy’s total African empire. His was a city built by Sicilians and, as WWII began, more than half of its residents were Italians. Now a different war was ravaging his country. Colonized first by Italy, then by Great Britain, and finally ceded to Ethiopia, Eritrea was then 17 years into a war for independence. Louisa, an Italian-American with Sicilian roots, felt profound empathy for the plight of the refugees fleeing the bombs pummeling their country, just as she still felt a profound pull to her beloved.
Louisa Calio won first prize for her poem “Bhari” from the City of Messina, Sicily, an International Poetry Competition 2013, was 2013 Finalist for Poet Laureate of Nassau County, NY and in Oct. 2014, Legas Press published her epic, Journey to the Heart Waters. Director of the Poets and Writer’s Piazza for Hofstra’s Italian Experience for 12 years, she is on the Advisory Board of Arba Sicula, was honored at Columbia/Barnard with Alice Walker, Ruth Beta Ginsberg & others, as a Feminist who Changed America 2nd wave. won the 1978 Connecticut Commission of the Arts Award to individual Writers, the 1987 Women in Leadership Award for her contribution to Arts development in Connecticut, the Barbara Jones and Taliesin prizes for Poetry (Trinidad and Tobago), an Educational Center for the Arts Grant for the Production of In the Eye of Balance her collection of poetry published in 1978 by Paradiso Press.
Her writings have been translated into Korean, Italian and Sicilian. Her work appears in numerous anthologies & journals ie: Birthed From Scorched Hearts: Women on War, Sister’s Singing, I Name Myself Daughter, She is Everywhere, darkmother, Italian Heart/ American Soul, Remembrances, Sweet Lemons 2, Arts and Culture, Humorous Stories. Journals: Long Island Sounds, GRADIVA, Journal of Italian Translation, Korean Expatriate Literature, Voices in Italian Americana, STUDIA MYSTICA, SALOME, POET’S ON, Feile-Festa, New Verse News, Descant, a Canadian Literary Journal and others. See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisa_Calio