Negotiating Caponata. A Book Review by Josephine LoRe

Negotiating Caponata

Carla Scarano D’Antonio   https://www.carlascaranod.co.uk

Dempsey & Windle

2020

ISBN 9781913329228

£ 8.00

https://www.dempseyandwindle.com/carlascarano.html

Negotiating Caponata … a review by Josephine LoRe

Carla Scarano D’Antonio’s Caponata arrived late last year and I devoured it in one sitting.  Enough time has passed now for the unique flavours to blend as they would in the caponata my mother prepared at the end of every season from her summer garden:  the marriage of sour eggplant with sweet bell pepper and tomato, the infusion of vinegar and capers to add just the right tang.

Similarly, Scarano D’Antonio’s intriguing collection incorporates at first seemingly disparate components … part recipe book, part memoir of place, part meditation on human interactions, these poems are at turn soft with nostalgia and sharp with the honesty of relationships sometimes difficult to negotiate.

*

The themes and mood of this debut collection (fact-check) are alluded to in the prelude, a quotation drawn from Proust’s Swann’s Way: “after the people are dead, things broken and scattered, taste and smell alone remain poised, remembering, waiting, hoping …”  (a free translation).

The collection is arranged in three movements proceeded by Pajarita, a tender and thoughtful poem that perhaps teaches us how to approach the works in the collection. How rich to learn that pajarita denotes three things:  a small bird, a bow which ties things together, and a piece of origami.

My thoughts are tiny ideograms

inked on wrapping paper,

hidden in the folds of my paper bird …

How gentle the unfolding to find Scarano D’Antonio’s subtle poignancy?

*

In the first section of Negotiating Caponata, it is revealed that this is not simply a guide to cooking; there are darker undertones:

Negotiating Caponata

Simmer for one hour or two.  Stir.

The aloofness at times.

The body has no protection

when the light dims.

Cooking betrayal

Who knows what he thought.

Who knows what you concealed under the lids.

Smoothie

The skin yields easily

under the penetrating bade,

the flesh is soft and juicy.

Special Carbonara

The dizziness of the beaten eggs

mixing with black pepper and parmigiano.

[…]

filling the kitchen with thick vapour

in a bellicose conversation.

Only a cake

It is in the beating of the yolks plus sugar,

The egg cream where frustration releases

Its poisoning stings

Along with this laden language, Scarano D’Antonio uses lush, evocative descriptions, a feast for the eyes and the other senses:

What I was leaving

Before the weather changes

into mist and dim light,

the trees turn gold and vermillion

purple and burnt sienna.

[…]

The full moon is ricotta cheese in a sea of blueberry juice.

[…]

Their scent warms the house in reassuring airy blankets;

we walk through it as if it’s all we have longed for.

*

Some of the mystery of the tension and the unknown “he” of the first section become revealed in the second section, My Father’s Death.

Early Flight

I’m leaving to go back home

as light as a butterfly.

Your illness

was sudden and ferocious

[…]

A wounded hawk

clutching his branch.

Flying

you knew we would scatter

into the dangerous world

when you’d gone.

At the hospital

in the dim light of the hospital room

the sounds like bat wings measuring space.

This section ends with the poignancy of a difficult leave-taking, negotiating a leave-taking, uncertain if the situation will ever truly be resolved:

Dispersing your ashes

The ashes whirl in the wind, unstrained

mix in the roaring waves of the backwash

[…]

They splash on my legs

soak my skirt to the waist.

I wonder if they will leave stains

*

The third section In Touch releases us like the father’s ashes and we travel in time and place, before memory through an idyllic childhood tinged with the cruelty natural to children in Snake Eggs, via a poem to a daughter living in Tokyo, to a final place of tranquillity in Surrey, England, where Scarano D’Antonio now lives.

Grandad Ciccio and Grandma Orsola

Sitting serene like ancient Roman statues

[…]

He in grey uniform and high boots, she in black dress and hat

This poem’s structure is unique … ten verses which then are offered backwards, giving a sense of travelling forward and backward in time.

Mum during the war

You picked up dead branches, insignificant twigs

piling them up, imagining to build a shelter

that would defy bombs

Volcano

The city sinks into torrid August.

Sounds brood within,

murmurs beneath closed lips.

She is a sealed volcano.

Snake eggs

We scooped them with care

and set them on a slab,

then crushed the soft white shell with stones

In Cyclamens for my mother, the theme of being uprooted and transplanted in a new environment are explored through verse:

Cyclamens for my mother

You were surprised they were blooming in summer

in my English house,

purpurascens from the Mediterranean

Although in this same poem as in a good caponata, there linger hints of the bittersweet:

The dead are calling you

I’ll hold your hand walking the last steps of the journey

The final poem in this section has an almost haiku quality, a capture of the moment and timelessness:

The new house

has unfilled spaces

I measure with my thoughts

*

Which takes us to the epilogue of this collection, a different leave-taking, from the South of Europe, the warm Mediterranean to an arrival in England and all that North contains within its letters

Sailing North

branches torn bare

frozen.  North:

thorn, torn, horn

ton, not

*

As in any good amalgam, this collection of poems is stronger than the mere compilation of its distinct pieces.  The poems speak to each other, to the poems which proceeded and the poems which follow, and the overall effect is richly satisfying.  Arriving at the end has made me want to start again, this time savouring more intently each individual taste, ultimately learning the secret to Negotiating Caponata.

a pearl in this diamond world … Josephine LoRe has published two collections:  ‘Unity’ and the Calgary Herald Bestseller ‘The Cowichan Series’.  Her words have been read on stage, put to music, danced to, and integrated into visual art.  They appear in anthologies and literary journals across nine countries. https://www.josephinelorepoet.com/

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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