Writer Wednesday: Alessandra Bava

A couple bits of news before we get to La Bava: the fabulous Dana Fredsti will be stopping by the Girl’s Guide to Surviving the Apocalypse on the 19th of this month with prizes (as if she wasn’t a gift herself). Also I managed to miss the release of Dogcast #5 which features my piece “Words” right at the start of the podcast.

I’m delighted to welcome my friend, Alessandra Bava, poet and translator (who just revealed that she will be translating for Tom Stoppard next week, leaving me pea green with envy!). Alessandra was born in Rome in “the year of the barricades.” She holds an MA in American Literature and manages her own translation agency. In 2010 she had a cathartic encounter with SF poet laureate Jack Hirschman and she is currently writing his biography. Over 50 of her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in several journals and anthologies. Her first bilingual poetry chapbook, Guerrilla Blues, has just been published by Edizioni Ensemble. We appear side by side in the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology (which is looking to publish in print, you can help).

Q: What do you write on? Computer, pad o’ paper, battered Underwood? Give us a vivid picture.

I write on anything. From pieces of paper to pads to my laptop. I always carry pen and pad on me, but I have also learnt to use my cell phone in case of “emergency.” Muses can be frivolous! I do not have a writing desk, since I write wherever and whenever, even at work occasionally. Managing a translation agency is a great job because it is a great linguistic exercise. Translating from one language into another is a very creative process, as it forces you to recreate a text in your own language. It’s both frustrating and rewarding. It’s both heaven and hell, very much like writing at times.

Q: Do you listen to music while you write? Does it influence what you write?

Music inspires me in many different ways, but I seldom listen to music when I write. I hammer words and make enough interior noise as to require my listening abilities to be fully available. I follow my inner rhythm: writing to me is like singing – so I must concentrate on my own voice.

Q: Do you write in short bursts or carve out long periods of time to work? Is it a habit or a vice?

Poems usually come to me unasked, whether short or long. A word or a sentence pops into my head and usually turns into a poem, often as it is meant to be. I do very little editing. I so wish writing could be a habit, but I can’t afford to be a professional writer and devote 8 hours per day to writing. I am a vicious amateur.

Q: What writer would you most want to read your work? What would you want to hear them say?

I feel lucky for having had poets Jack Hirschman and Agneta Falk read my poems and appreciating them. Jack even wrote the introduction to Guerrilla Blues. What he said and wrote makes me happy in ways I find hard to express in words. I honestly look forward to receiving some critical feedback now. Too much praise won’t do me much good as a writer.

Q: On the days where the writing doesn’t go so well, what other art or career do you fantasize about pursuing instead?

I so wish I could draw or paint or even play an instrument, but I can’t. If I lived in the 19th century I would be considered a very unaccomplished lady, I fear.

Q: What do you read? What do you re-read?

I have read and re-read an impressive number of poetry collections in the course of the last 2 years, but I’m attacking fiction again. I’m currently reading DeLillo’s Cosmopolis and George Sand’s Letters.

Q: Where did the idea for Guerilla Blues come from? Do you have a surefire way of sparking inspiration?

I was looking for a publisher for an Anthology of Rome’s Revolutionary Poets Brigade (a group of 10 poets living or aspiring to live permanently in Rome inspired by Jack Hirschman’s RPB in San Francisco that include the undersigned and John Claude Smith as well). And, when I met Matteo (the publisher of Edizioni Ensemble) to talk to him about the project last December, I gave him some of my poems to read. He loved them and decided to make a real book out of them. This is how Guerrilla Blues was born. In other words, it was a collection of poems that I believed worked well together triggered by my idea of poetry as a means of “disobedience” to awaken consciences in our too often “sleeping” world.


Like Thoreau
      I believe that things
            don’t change, but that
               we can and must
change. With superb fury,
      we fight liminally,
The Armed Voice
     inspires us,
        unites us,
            re-unites us.
                  We garrison arsenals
                  of poetry and we fear
                  not to be taken to the
                  stocks: words, naked
                  craving flesh,
            bones, dripping
        lines, teeth sunk in
  bowels of sense
                     and dissent.
              Hands and hips
   drowned in truth’s
                    ready to give birth
             to several leaves—ready
       to give birth to several

Find Alessandra at her blog as well as on Facebook and Twitter. And get yourself a copy of Guerilla Blues: it’s simply incendiary as the best poetry always is. Grazie!