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Home > Poetries & Communities Project > Daniela Gioseffi–In Search of a Poetry Community: On Being a Women Writer with an Italian Name in American Literature

Daniela Gioseffi–In Search of a Poetry Community: On Being a Women Writer with an Italian Name in American Literature

April 24th, 2015 margento


(Photo Credit: TKMultimedia.com)






Forging into the mainstream of American poetry with the Italian name “Daniela Gioseffi” was not an easy thing to do in the 1960′s. It was a bit like a Tarantella dancer trying to perform a classical ballet, but that fact hardly occurred to me—naïve and blithe spirit that I was then! My Italian-born father’s deeply passionate nature, his ability to empathize with other’s sorrow, joy, and longing—even when they were characters in poetic dramas and romantic novels—much inspired my writing. His histrionic sensibility was not in the stereotypic style of “all-American” culture. Perhaps, as an immigrant daughter, I felt I was among the misfits whose family manner or mode of expression was misunderstood in those literary circles dominated by T.S. Eliot recitations and modes of understated white Anglo Saxon angst.

Richard C. Robertiello and Diana Hoguet in their 1986 analytical text on the subject, The WASP Mystique[1], demonstrate that Latino-, Italian-, African-, and Jewish-American styles of communicating—modes with passionate displays, talk with gesticulation, animated body-language, folksy warmth and informality—were misunderstood by the “all-American” style of social behavior. Robertiello and Hoguet conclude that this emotional restraint has caused much neurosis in ethnic peoples, and sometimes in white Anglo-Saxon Protestants themselves. These polite inhibitions seemed to dominate literary styles, and particularly during my college years, they made any display of passion in poetry seem unacceptable.

At the same time, it seemed there was a kind of “passion envy” afoot in “all American” life and art, the sort of fascination which had made Hollywood characters like Valentino fascinating for my father’s generation and which would make Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and John Travolta fascinating in later decades. I recall that a student-poet named Frances Vanderbilt Whyatt—in workshop sessions, which I attended early on at The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery—wrote a poem titled, “The Passion Through Daniela’s Window,” in response to my work. I was embarrassed by a quality I had not realized others saw in my writing. In any case, the Italian operatic style in which my father read literature to me as a child motivated me to write poetry and caused much of my work to have an ornate emotional or dramatic content.

My identification with the drama of my father’s immigrant struggle against prejudice and discrimination was strong because of the feeling with which he related the painful stories of his youth. His family, like many others in southern Italy in the early part of the century, came to the United States to escape poverty and hunger, only to be met with bigotry. His father, Galileo, sought his fortune, as so many men of his Mezzogiorno[2] village did then, in the New World, later sending for his family via steerage passage. My father and his family were to be met with much prejudice and snobbery in their attempt to Americanize themselves and assimilate.

I inherited my love of literature from a poor, hardworking, immigrant father who had struggled to achieve an education. His constant quoting of Shakespeare to me as I grew was, and still is, an important influence on my themes and style. He’d memorized the Bard’s plays while tending a parking lot at night, and working his way through Union College with an ambition to learn the English language better than his American tormentors. Felix Stefanile[3], an Italian American poet, told me he deliberately portrays working men’s themes in classical, formalist style. Like my immigrant father, he wanted to use perfect English and metric form to portray ordinary lives.

My father’s first American teachers and his classmates had cruelly mocked his immigrant speech when he’d first arrived through Ellis Island in 1910. With very hard work and study, he amassed an extensive English vocabulary and spoke with eloquence. He wanted to use language better than his American classmates.  He admired Abraham Lincoln, and believed in the log-cabin mythos of Lincoln’s life—”the American Dream.” That dream forged my ambition as he read to me such authors as Cervantes when I was ten years old, and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet–weeping with me at the finale. He loved Italian Renaissance painters whose work he would show me with pride in color-illustrated and much-treasured books he’d labored to buy. He was very proud of being an Italian and always told me anecdotal narratives of the lives of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Fermi, Caruso–those whom he considered to be the great Italian men.  However, he never mentioned a woman to admire in his stories of Italian accomplishment!

Since my father had always dreamed of becoming a writer, my writing has been an attempt to fulfill his dream for him. I can still picture him sitting with his back to us, hunched over his typewriter, forgoing the glories of a sunny afternoon, trying when he could, between the duties of his full-time-job as a chemical engineer, to become a writer. “American Sonnets to My Father” in my second book of poems, Word Wounds and Water Flowers (VIA/Bordighera 1995) written the year he died, 1981, is dedicated to him. It honors his struggle to be an American and tells of how I’ve attempted to fulfill his desire to be a published author. I managed to win a scholarship to the Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony for the Arts the year he died and while there, walking alone in the woods, grieving his loss—he forever so dear to me—I wrote:

You died in spring, father, and now the autumn dies.

Bright with ripe youth, dulled by time,

plums of feeling leaked red juices- from your eyes,

pools of blood hemorrhaged in your quivering mind.

At forty, I climb Point Pinnacle, today,

thinking of you gone forever from me.

In this russet November woods of Millay,

I wear your old hat, Dear Italian patriarch, to see

if I can think you out of your American grave

to sing your unwritten song with me.

Your poetry, love’s value, I carry with your spirit.

I take off your old black hat and sniff at it

to smell the still living vapor of your sweat.


You worked too hard, an oldest child of too many,

a lame thin boy in ragged knickers, you limped

all through the 1920s up city steps, door to door

with your loads of night and daily newspapers, each worth

a cheap labored penny of your family’s keep.

You wore your heart and soles sore. At forty,

not climbing autumn hills like me, you lay with lung disease

strapped down with pain and morphine, hearing your breath

rattle in your throat like keys at the gates of hell.

Your body was always a fiend perplexing your masculine will.

You filled me with pride and immigrant tenacity. Slave

to filial duty, weaver of all our dreams, you couldn’t be free

to sing. So be it. You are done, unfulfilled by song except in me.

If your dreams are mine, live again, breathe in me and be.


You never understood America’s scheme.

Your wounded dream, father,

will never heal in me, your spirit mourns forever

from my breath, aches with childhood memory,

sighs for my own mortality in you,

which I, at last accept

more completely than ever when we

laughed together and seemed we’d go on forever –

even though we always knew

you would die much sooner than I

who am your spirit come from you.

Remember, “a father lost, lost his!” you told us,

preparing us with Shakespearean quotation

and operatic feeling for your inevitable death.


Good night, go gently, tired immigrant father

full of pride and propriety. We, your

three daughters, all grew

to be healthier, stronger, more American than you.

Sensitive father, I offer you this toast,

no empty boast, “I’ve never known a man braver!”

The wound that will not heal in me

is the ache of dead beauty.

Once full of history, philosophy, poetry,

physics, astronomy, your bright, high flying psyche

is now dispersed, set free from your tormented body,

but the theme you offered, often forlorn,

sheer luminescent soul, glistened with enough light

to carry us all full grown. (9-10)

Yet, my immigrant father with all his passions, and despite his sensitivity, had told me it was a useless endeavor for a female “meant for cooking and bearing children” to go to college. It was the men of my generation who left the home to achieve as professionals, not the women. When I dared to defy my father by going to college, I commuted only a few miles from home to a state institution in Montclair, New Jersey.

The message I heard from my father—that a daughter was less than a son—drove me into a feminist rebellion. I began to read such feminist sociopolitical critiques as those written by Emma Goldman[4], and I fondly quoted her declaration, “If I can’t dance, I won’t join your revolution.” I also greatly admired Isadora Duncan’s[5] rebelliousness.

This made women’s themes important in my early work, particularly my first book, a novel The Great American Belly (Doubleday 1977). It is a comic feminist satire that deals with an Italian American heroine, named Dorissa Femfunelli, who travels the country performing a feminist ritual dance celebrating childbirth and women’s nurturing ways. Dorissa—a Goddess worshipping eco-feminist—rebelled against patriarchal religions and her Italian father. At the same time, she was always anxiously seeking his approval.

In addition, an early poem of mine, entitled “Belly Dancer,” was used at the end of my novel to show the triumph of the birth-dancing heroine, Dorissa Femfunelli. The poem celebrates womanly powers and the ability to bring new life into the world:

An Etruscan priestess

through whom the earth speaks,

enters veiled; a mystery moves toward the altar.

Unknown features, shadow of death, of brows,

of eyes, mouth, lips, teeth of the night,

jaw thrust forward like a pelvis,

navel hidden, mysterious circuit,

electrical wire of the first cries

thrust from the womb.

Silk veils hover over her,

turn with a whirling gestures

—the  moon glows in her belly.

Her navel winks in an amorous quiver.

Amazing belly that stretches large enough

to let a life grow. She glides, dips, shimmies,

thrusts one hip, then another.

The music breaks. Pain fills the drum. She

falls to her knees, doubles  over, leans back on her heels

as her stomach flutters, rolls with contractions, upward,

downward. She raises her pelvis, arching, widening.

Arms rise like serpents from a flesh basket,

beat, caress, nip, shimmer the air with rhythmic

pulse. At last the bloody mystery emerges,

inch by inch the head presses through the lost hymen.

Her pain works into a smile.

as the decked and bejeweled mother

pushes out her ecstasy.

Formless fluid shot into her,

molded, fired in the secret oven,

emerges, a child crying: it lives!

Its voice rings in her finger cymbals.


She rests her body, slowly rises from the earth.

Her breasts fill with milk.  She shakes them:

these are food; I am life; I give food!


Woman, whose nerve-filled clitoris

makes her shiver, ecstatic mother, dance with a fury

around your circle of women.

Spin out the time locked in your own womb,

bloom from your uterus,  Lady of the Garden.

The moon pulls you, crashes waves on the shore.

Undulate the branches of your arms in the wind,

Goddess of Trees, of all living things.

Your flesh is not defiled by

men who can’t contain your mystic

energy of woman. Belly

that invites life to sleep in you,

breasts of mortal ambrosia,

Amazon groin that lit the hearth,

altar, oven, womb, bread, table, Earth

Mother, pagan witch of magic birth,

from whom all suck  leaves that flow

through the body’s blood,

cave of your sex, our home,

moon of earth, Great Mother! (180-2)


Thus, the poem portrays an ancient folk ritual performed by women as a birth dance in imitation of birth contractions. The performance of the belly dance was a primitive Lamaze type of exercise to prepare women for natural childbirth—the quintessential feminine dance of life and birth—counterpart to the male “war dance” or “dance of the hunt.” It became a café spectacle after being put on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, but had been a folk art ritual of the Middle East and the vineyards of Italy and Greece.

“Belly Dancer” became an important part of the theatrical performance “The Birth Dance of Earth: A Celebration of Women and the Earth.” It was a choreo-poem with music and dance which I performed on campuses and in theatres around the country, travelling from Miami to Milwaukee, San Francisco to Buffalo. During the performance, I danced, with other women joining in at the finale, joyously celebrating woman’s birth-giving and nurturing abilities.  The tour culminated in a performance at the Brooklyn Museum where the leading feminist artists of the day featured their works.

If my father had taught me that women were only meant for bearing children, I devised a liberating way of celebrating the fact, and making it a feminist ritual. My work on the belly dance was published by MS. Magazine in a centerfold spread, titled “The New Dance of Liberation.” My earliest publications in those first issues of MS. were what encouraged me to persist in these womanly themes down to the present day as the Feminist Press prepares to reissue my international anthology of women’s writings, Women on War: Voices for Survival in the Nuclear Age.

Early on in the 1970′s, I also created an experimental, dance theatre and poetry piece, with visuals, titled “Care of the Body,” which won me a grant from The New York State Council for the Arts. I used the grant to create the first “Brooklyn Bridge Poetry Walk,” a multimedia street theatre piece with David Amram, famed jazz flutist, as Pied Piper, and poets reading poems about “The Bridge.”  We walked over “The Eighth Wonder of the World,” Hart Crane’s “harp and altar of the fury fused,” reading Lorca, Mayakovsky, Walt Whitman and others through megaphones. We carried hand-painted placards I’d adorned with poet’s names. Seeing mine as the only Italian name on the list of grantees for the State Council on the Arts, had given me license and ambition to forge on in that mode or form. It was a great impetus to my sticking with writing as a career.

I’d based the “Brooklyn Bridge Poetry Walk” on an Italian Renaissance custom expounded by Florentine historians. The people of Florence, for example, are known to have paraded Michelangelo’s statue of David through their streets to celebrate its creation. Also, Italian street fairs where an experience of my youth when huge sculptures were carried through ghetto thoroughfares to celebrate saints’ days with festivals. Such influences explain why much of my early work was performance poetry for theatre and street theatre.

I chose to acquire my higher degree in world drama, not poetry; all of this bravado for performance, I believe, came directly from my father’s, Donato’s, operatic way of storytelling. I had wanted to be an actress, and had acted early on with Helen Hayes and Ann Revere in Brechtian and Classical dramas.  I also wrote a playlet, titled “Daffodil Dollars.” Again, the theme was women’s empowerment. I was a part of the early experimental poetry scene in New York’s Soho—creating “happenings” or multimedia poetry events involving performance, music and dance. From there, I made a slow segue from poetic drama and theatrical performance to poetry for the page.

Although my feminist writing takes delight in all aspects of women’s lives, the women in my family—my grandmother, my mother, and my aunts—seemed to be bound to the home, the kitchen, and the sewing-machine and did not seem to find much joy in being women. I viewed them as repressed; their limitations and their need for liberation inspired me to write about women’s lives. I wanted to release them from the patriarchal culture in which I was raised where only men’s opinions were voiced because they were the only opinions that mattered.

My poetic monologue, “The Sea Hag in the Cave of Sleep,”[6] which tells of the sexual and mothering adventures of three women of different ages, was produced off-Broadway from 1968 through 1972. The “sea hags,” characters inspired by James Joyce[7], represented my Italian aunts and grandmother telling the stories of their struggle as women in a male-dominated world. They tell of how Pandora and Eve are blamed for all the troubles in men’s lives, and all the while macho ways are causing destructive conflicts, famines and other brutalities that follow war. The poem ends with the lines: “I come out of my own legs into this world,” which is meant as an affirmation of women’s self-actualization. Woman is born of woman, and that’s a different phenomenon than being man born of woman.

In tribute to this, and to Grandma Lucia (my father’s Neapolitan mother), I wrote a poem which seems to embody all that was self-sacrificing and limiting for women in a patriarchal culture and performed it at Casa Italiana, Columbia University, in 1978 at the dawning of the current Italian American renaissance in literature[8]. The poem, titled “Bi-centennial Anti-poem for Italian American Women, 1976,[9]” is not only dedicated to my grandmother—Lucia La Rosa or “Light the Rose”—it was also inspired by Ernesto Falbo. Falbo had been in the audience at one of my earlier readings[10] my reading of mine where, afterwards, he said to me, “You’re one of only two or three Italian-American women poets in this country. You’re a pioneer. There are fewer of you known than Black or Puerto Rican women poets.” Through this statement, he inspired the following:

On the crowded subway,

riding to the prison to teach

Black and Puerto Rican inmates how to write,

I think of the fable of the shoemaker

who struggles to make shoes for the oppressed

while his own go barefoot over the stones.


I remember Grandma Lucia, her olive face

wrinkled with resignation,

content just to survive

after giving birth to twenty children,

without orgasmic pleasures or anesthesia.

Grandpa Galileo, immigrant adventurer,

who brought his family

steerage passage to the New World;

his shoemaker shop where he labored

over American factory goods

that made his artisan’s craft a useless

anachronism; his Code of Honor

which forced him to starve

accepting not a cent of welfare

from anyone but his sons;

his ironic “Code of Honor”

which condoned jealous rages of wife-beating;

Aunt Elisabetta, Aunt Maria Domenica, Aunt Raffaella,

Aunt Elena, grown women huddled like girls

in their bedroom in Newark, talking in whispers,

not daring to smoke their American cigarettes

in front of Pa;

the backyard shrine of the virgin,

somber blue-robed woman,

devoid of sexual passions,
to whom Aunt Elisabetta prayed

daily before dying in childbirth,

trying to have “a son”

against doctor’s orders, though

she had five healthy daughters already;

Dr. Giuseppe Ferrara, purple heart veteran

of World War II, told he couldn’t have a residency

in a big New York hospital because of his Italian

name; the Mafia jokes, the epithets:

“Wop, guinea, dago, grease-ball.”

And the stories told by Papa

of Dante, Galileo, Leonardo, Fermi, Caruso

which stung me with pride for Italian men;

how I was discouraged from school,

told a woman meant for cooking and bearing

doesn’t need education.


I remember Grandma

got out of bed

in the middle of the night

to fetch her husband a glass of water

the day she died,

her body wearied

from giving and giving and giving

food and birth. (7)


Though I devoured Nancy Drew mysteries in grammar school like any all American girl, in my teens I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay. The drama of her life, the fact that she won a scholarship to Vassar for a poem she wrote and her subsequent rise from poverty into the light of poetry really impressed me. It was a dramatic story like the ones my father told of his struggle to become educated and respectable from humble beginnings. But Millay was a woman and a feminist, and to see that a woman could work hard to become a writer–from humble beginnings –and be respected for her work, really influenced me. She was such a great beacon to me, both her life and her craft with language. I was pleased to find how Millay had marched for Sacco and Vanzetti. Her poem “Justice Denied in Massachusetts,” is a tribute to the Italian immigrant struggle in America. Her example as a liberated woman and her involvement with social justice inspired me greatly.

My father didn’t teach us Italian, not for lack of pride in it, but perhaps because he’d experienced so much prejudice for being an Italian immigrant. It’s a little remembered fact that there were concentration camps for Italian immigrants in the United States during World War II, similar to those in which Japanese immigrants were unjustly incarcerated.  I remember a poster I saw in my ghetto neighborhood as a child living in the Ironbound section of Newark. I wrote this poem as a result. It explains why I, born during World War II, am not fluent in Italian:


“Don’t Speak the Language of the Enemy!”[11]

reads the poster at the end of a gray alleyway of childhood

where the raggedy guineas of Newark

whisper quietly in their dialects on concrete steps

far from blue skies, olive groves or hyacinths.

Bent in a shadow toward the last

shafts of sunlight above tenement roofs,

Grandpa Galileo sadly sips homemade wine

hums moaning with his broken mandolin.

Children play hide-and-seek

in dusty evening streets as red sauce simmers,

proverbially, hour after hour, on coal stoves,

garlic, oil, crushed tomatoes blended

with precious pinches of salt and basilico—

a pot that must last a week of suppers.

The fathers’ hands are ugly with blackened finger nails,

worn rough with iron wrought, bricks laid, ditches dug, glass etched.

Wilted women in black cotton dresses wait in quickening dark,

calling their listless children to scrubbed  linoleum kitchens.

In cold water flats with tin tables, stale bread is ladled with sauce,

then baked to revive edibility. Clothes soak in kitchen laundry-tubs,

washboards afloat. Strains of opera caught in static

are interrupted by war bulletins.

The poster pasted on the fence at the end of the block

streaked with setting sun and rain reads:

“Don’t speak the language of the enemy!”

But, the raggedy guineas can speak no other,

and so they murmur in their rooms in the secret dark frightened

of the government camps where people like them

have been imprisoned in the New World.

They teach English to their children by daylight,

whispering of Mussolini’s stupidity–

stifling the mother tongue, wounding the father’s pride,

telling each other, “We are Americans. God bless America!” (36-9)

In addition to the time period I grew up in, my grandfather, Galileo Gioseffi, was also a great influence on my life and writing. From him I learned to question and rebel; Galileo was an iconoclast who loathed the Church’s hypocrisy and his rebellious attitude rubbed off on my father, and then onto me. No doubt the prejudice he suffered inspired me to join the Civil Rights Movement in 1961, at which time my writing turned to journalism for a spell.

I became a television journalist in Selma, Alabama on WSLA-TV during the days of the Freedom Riders and lunch counter sit-ins. Because television programming was not integrated in Alabama in those days, I was beaten and sexually abused by the Ku Klux Klan for making an announcement on an African American gospel show. There were burning crosses and broken watermelons on the lawn of the television station the next morning. It took me many years to write about that as I wanted to spare my father the truth. He never knew what happened to me, and I was ashamed of it, too.

I was over fifty when I finally published “The Bleeding Mimosa,” a story about my rape and abuse at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan. Luciana Polney, a younger Italian American woman writer, adapted it for the stage, and it was produced at the Duplex Theatre in New York City’s Sheridan Square in 1994. It was a very liberating experience for me to view my story acted out by others. I watched the scenes between the immigrant father and the American daughter; the conflict in those scenes—to be a good daughter, and at the same time, to struggle to overcome prejudice toward liberation—was my conflict. I felt healed as I saw it played out to a survivalist’s conclusion.

Now, as I’ve reached the age of sixty and look back over my career as a writer, I can clearly distinguish my influences. My Italian father—his passionate nature, his frustrated desire to be a respected writer in America, the prejudice he suffered, the reading he taught me to love, the education in literary art and science which he worked hard to acquire—was a large influence on my tenacious desire to forge my way into the mainstream of American letters. On the other hand, my Grandmother Lucia’s subjugation to my grandfather’s will; my coming from an immigrant family which rebelled against the Church’s ways, but in some measure upheld its patriarchal values; my own rebellion against Old World ways, seeking for truth and anarchistic liberation from the past; my desire to keep my father’s surname and strive for acceptance as a daughter who could not be a son, as a woman who wanted to make a loving father proud: all these factors had a profound influence on my drive to become the first educated woman of my family, and my strife for an accomplished voice imbued with feminist themes in American literature.

My immigrant Italian forbearers made me who I am for worse or for better, and I can never deny that rich heritage of passionate emotions—the suffering and joy that art portrays—which I learned early on from my Old World Italian family. Despite my feminism, I have to say that my Italian patriarchal father’s love of literature—his tenacity to fulfill the American Dream—was my greatest inspiration to being a writer. Sandra Mortola Gilbert, Diane Di Prima, Josephine Gattuso Hendin, and I—we feminists of that 1970s era—have I hope, offered some impetus to the women who began to publish later. The following poem says it all for me. It was written when I finally made the pilgrimage back to my father’s village of origin, Orta Nova, near the Gargano—the spur of the boot—not far from Bari, in 1986, five years after his death. The poem is titled after the village, “Orta Nova, Provincia de Puglia”[12]:

“Land of bright sun and colors,”

you’re called in Italia.

Near Bari and Brindisi where the ferry

for centuries has traveled the Adriatico,

to and from Greece.

Orta Nova, city of my dead father’s birth.

How strange to view you, piccolo villaggio,

with ladybugs, my talisman,  landed on my shirt.


They show me your birth

certificate–”Donato Gioseffi, born 1905,”

scrawled in ink, on browning paper.

When I tell them  I’m an author, first of my American family

to return to my father’s home, I’m suddenly “royalty!”

They close the Municipio to take me in their best town car

to an archeological dig near the edge of the city.

There, the Kingdom of Herdonia, unearthed with its brick road

leading to Rome, as all roads did and still do,

back to antiquity’s glory! Ladybugs rest on me at the dig

of stone sculptures the Belgian professor shows me. I buy his book,

“The Kingdom of Herdonia: Older Than Thebes.”


Ah, padre mio, the taunts you took as a thin,

diminutive, “guinea” who spoke no English

in his fifth-grade class

from brash Americans of an infant country!

You never returned to your ancient land where now the natives,

simpatici pisani, wine and dine me in their best

ristorante. I insist on paying the bill. They give me jars

of funghi and pimento preserved in olive oil–their prize

produce to take back home with me. They nod knowingly,

when in talking of you, I must leave the table to weep–

alone in the restroom, looking into the mirror

at the eyes you gave me, the hands so like yours

that turn the brass faucet

and splash cold water over my face.

For an instant, in this foreign place, I have met you again,

Father, and have understood better, your labors,

your struggle, your pride, your humility,

the peasantry from which you came to cross the wide

sea, to make me a poet of New York City.

Which is truly my home?

This piccolo villaggio near Bari, with its old university,

the province where Saint Nicholas’s Turkish bones are buried,

in hammered-gold and enameled reliquary,

the province of limestone caves full of paintings older than those of Lescaux,

this white town of the Gargano, unspoiled by turisti, this land of color

sunlight and beauty. This home where you would have been happier

and better understood than in torturous Newark tenements of your youth.

This land of sunlight, blue sky, pink and white flowers, white stucco houses,

and poverty, mezzogiorno, this warmth you left to make me

a poet from New York City, indifferent place,

mixed of every race, so that I am more cosmopolitan

than these, your villagers, or you

could ever dream of being. This paradoxical journey

back to a lost generation

gone forever paving the way

into a New World from the Old. (57-8)


[1] Robertiello and Hoguet, The WASP Mystique, New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1987.

[2] Mezzogiorno, literally meaning “midday,” is used to refer to southern Italy and sometimes connotes stereotypes of southern Italy, including notions of poverty, illiteracy, and crime, that still persist today.

[3]Stephanile (1920-2009) was won many prizes for his poetry and work including the Emily Clark Balch Prize (Virginia Quarterly Review 1972) and the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement (Italian Americana 1997).  In reference to Stefanile’s collection of poetry, The Dance at Saint Gabriel’s (Story Line P 1995), Dana Gioia wrote that “To say that Felix Stefanile is the most significant living Italian-American poet does not do justice to his achievement.”

[4] Goldman (1869-1940) was an early figure in the women’s rights movement, birth control history, and the free speech movement. She supported anarchism and lesbian rights. Many of her papers can be viewed at “The Emma Goldman Papers,” Berkley Digital Library SunSITE. Ed. by The Emma Goldman Papers Project. 2005. The University of California Regents. 10 Dec. 2009 <http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/Goldman/>.

[5] Ducan (1878-1927) was a dancer, adventurer, revolutionist, defender of the poetic spirit. She broke away from convention in an attempt to return dance to its sacred roots. She has endured as one of the most influential figures in twentieth century dance.

[6] Poem published in Gioseffi’s Eggs in the Lake, fwd. by John Logan, Brockport, NY: BOA Ed., 1979. 46-50.

[7] See “Episode 3: Proteus” in Joyce’s Ulysses.

[8] A few years prior to 1978, Richard Gambino of Queens College had joined with Ernesto Falbo, in editing Italian Americana at the State University of New York, Buffalo, a historical fact which Gioseffi attributes to signifying the dawn of the Italian American literary renaissance.

[9] Published in Word Wounds and Waterflowers, West Lafayette, IN: Bordighera, Inc.

[10] The reading  mentioned was held at the State University of New York, Buffalo in 1976.

[11] Published in Symbiosis: Poems. New York: Rattapallax Press, 2001. Rpt. in Blood Autumn/Autunno di sangue: Poems, New and Selected. New York: Bordighera Press, 2007.

[12] “Orta Nova, Provincia de Puglia” was published in Gioseffi’s Going On: Poems, Lafayette, IN: Bordighera P, 2001.


Daniela Gioseffi won an AMERICAN BOOK AWARD in 1990 and has authored sixteen books of poetry and prose from major and university presses. She was a multicultural pioneer editing anthologies of world literature since 1988. Her books and writings have been translated into Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, and Serbo-Croatian, and published worldwide. She’s published in hundreds of major literary periodicals. Gioseffi’s renowned anthology, Women on War: International Writings, (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster) was reissued in a new edition by The Feminist Press: City University of NY, 2003. It’s a women’s studies classic in print for over 25 years.

This essay (which I have solicited and received from the author in 2010 while commencing the Poetries & Communities project at San Diego State University) also appeared in 2013 as:

Gioseffi, Daniela. “Forging into the American Mainstream since the 1970s: On Being a Woman Writer with an Italian American Name.” Pioneering Italian American Culture: Escaping La Vita Della Cucina, Essays, Interview, Reviews, by and About Daniela Gioseffi. Ed. Angelina Oberdan. NY: VIA FOLIOS 85, Bordighera Press, 2013: 119-130.

Folios/Bordighera Press: http://www.bordigherapress.org/


Many thanks to Angelina Oberdan for bringing the reference to our attention.

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