An Evening at San Colombano

 Alessandro, at the bar in Padova

Alessandro, at the bar in Padova

If a tiny Sicialian girl hadn't come to bum some tobacco from our friend Alessandro to mix in with the spliff she was rolling, Simone and I would have never made our reading the next morning in Bologna. We were planning to take the train from Padua, sometime around noon. The reading was scheduled for 5:45pm, so we figured we'd have two hours or so once we'd made it there to check in at the hotel and print the poems we were to read. But somewhere in the midst of the necessary two minute chat every Italian cigarette lender has with his cigarette borrower, which Alessandro extended into a ten minute conversation (Ma dai, sei siciliana! My mom is Sicilian but I was raised in Puglia...), the Sicilian casually mentioned the TrenItalia strike scheduled for the next day, which was news to us. Important news. Immediately we scrapped the train plans, bought tickets for a 9:20am bus the next morning, and made it to Bologna just before noon on the 14th.

In Bologna was the chocolate fair, to which they've given the slightly annoying and technically incorrect name of "Chocoshow"—though pronouncing it in Italian is somewhat addicting. Simone and I wandered in search of a copisteria to print the poems and sat down for some tagliatelle al ragù. The reading was held at the Oratorio di S. Colombano, a splendid room filled with antique instruments. Paolo Valesio, who runs the study center responsible for the event—Centro Studi Sara Valesio—brought us down into the crypt beforehand to observe its unattributed fresco. Then at last we read from our translations of Donald Justice, Amy Clampitt, Debora Greger, Emilio Rentocchini, and Wallace Stevens.