Nancy Caronia

SESTINA FOR LOUISE DESALVO

September 27, 1942 – October 31, 2018

Literary history teaches us that enormously successful writers are often members of a cohort of creative people who, as they mature in their field, help one another achieve success. The work of each member of the group gains more notice than if each had worked in isolation.  —Louise DeSalvo, The Art of Slow Writing

           

At your desk, birthing the work. 

Research. Write. Read. Quiet. You created

your life: not isolated history.

Imagine how we might grow as writers,

you wondered for yourself, for us; people

who searched for those who had achieved success.

 

In shunning empty success,

your discipline exposed the hardest work

of becoming. Scrutinizing people’s

(your) ideas, you noted creativeness

that could move us ever inward, writing

a world—worlds—which would expand history.

 

You wrote women’s history,

revealing marginally successful

lifetimes steeped in isolation. Writers

no matter circumstances. You said: Work

of the intellect is ours. Create—

like Woolf—the important work that peoples

 

a world beyond the people

of the puttana—whores of history’s

moldy assimilation creations.

Our (im)migrant ancestors’ success

shown in our shift from physical work

to the laboring habit of writing.

 

Biscotti and tea, writing

talk motivated by our people’s

memories. Crafting the important work

of remembrance. Forgotten histories.

Hibiscus and chocolate, such success

matters. All our earthly creations

 

in pursuit of creative

lives. Emotional, physical writers

knitting an intellectual success

so we might embrace our personhood.

We grip complexity. Shared history

leaves us unafraid, curious writers,

 

but lately, I’m not succeeding at the work of grief. Creating

nothing more than busy work. Isolating. Lost not in my writing,

but memories of you as my people, our shared history.

 

 

Bio:

Nancy Caronia is a Teaching Assistant Professor with West Virginia University. She co-edited Personal Effects: Essays on Memoir, Teaching, and Culture in the Work of Louise DeSalvo (Fordham University Press, 2015). Most recently, she guest edited a special issue on the Rocky film series for Italian Americana and wrote “The Language of the Women” for a special section on folktales in VIA. Follow her on Twitter @n_caronia

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