Exploring the Depths of Loss and Hope, Grief and Resilience

For over 35 years Gianna Patriarca has been writing sensitive ethno-centric poetry about her colourful community of Little Italy in downtown Toronto. She is now widely recognized as an Italo/Canadian treasure across the international literary stage. Gianna Patriarca’s latest book, To The Men Who Write Goodbye Letters (Inanna 2020, 104 pages), is a colourful tapestry of the friends and acquaintances she has loved and lost.

As she recently told, me, “This collection of poems is a sensitive investigation into the aspects of death and loneliness. This book took me three years to write and was inspired at a time when my mother was ill and friends were giving up on life. I wrote it to try to make sense, not in a clinical and medical way, but to look at suicide, death and loss, and let poetry make sense of it for me. At the time, I hoped to bring a certain celebration to the subjects and a certain respect to the choices made for whatever reasons they were made. It is purely written with love and appreciation for the lives of those who have enriched my life and the world. Often there were goodbye notes, but sometimes those notes were not written [in] words but with objects left in special places, often by methods and actions simply meant to disappear. Because they left us with so much, as an artist, I knew I had to honour their essence, time and silence.”

The collection of 54 poems presents us with powerful voices and loving affection that searches for clarity and value of space and time. Patriarca ultimately leads us with her exceptional talent for chronicle, empathy, self-discovery and reaffirmation of individuals she once touched and loved. Despite their seclusion and sad events, Gianna’s skilled verse helps turn the nature of her subjects into inspirational lyricism – her voice and idiom soars exquisitely in classical shaping and iridescent sensitivity – their effect honours and celebrates human memory.

To The Men Who Write Goodbye Letters is the work of a thoughtfully dynamic artist in both elegance and delicate search for substance and human affection. Patriarca gives us the magical transience of her poetic and personal experience. Her lyrical ability to enhance the tragic emotions of loss and seemingly elevate its exceptional human touch to empathetic levels is profound. For most, suicide and death do not have a palatable effect, however Patriarca’s wonderful flow of subtle voice and vitality of vision gives the reader the necessary hopeful touchstones and affection to feel deeply into her subject’s essence, leaving the reader with intimate affection for change and absence. Her attention to detail and characterisation complements many of her sorrowful events with grace and sensitivity, often reserved or activated from shared private ceremonies and elevated to heavenly redemptions between Gianna and her subject. To order.

Gianna Patriarca was born in Ceprano, Italy. Her family immigrated to Canada in l960. She worked as a schoolteacher for over 40 years and published her first book of poetry in 1994 with Guernica Editions. Patriarca has written eleven books, and her work has been included in many Canadian, Italian and American university courses and is anthologized in numerous publications.

Angelo Sgabellone is a Toronto-based writer and editor. He was worked for Maclean’s, the Financial Post, Millions, Canadian House and Home and University of Toronto Magazine. His latest work is I Terroni, a metaphysical journey into the soul of Southern Italy

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