On Thursday, October 26, Co.As.It. will host the launch of Maria Salpietro’s evocative collection of poems, … fiori dalle antiche radici … (flowers from ancient roots).
Hailing from Leni on the island of Salina, Ms Salpietro has been passionate about poetry since she was a young girl.
A post-war migrant to Melbourne, the talented wordsmith proudly celebrates her cultural heritage and writes with sensitivity and grace about her life experiences.
Ms Salpietro has been honoured with myriad awards both in Australia and abroad.
… fiori dalle antiche radici … is her latest published work, showcasing a selection of her poems accompanied by summaries of each masterpiece in English.
The revered work reflects on Ms Salpietro’s life and on her journey from her native Italy to Australia, drawing inspiration from her deep love for her family, for humanity, for nature and indeed for all creation, the source of which she acknowledges as Divine.
This collection of poems has been selected from her many writings and was first published privately as a gift to her family.
This second printing will allow readers from far and wide to enjoy Ms Salpietro’s work and to be invigorated as they enter her world of memory, values, reflection, dreaming and hope.
The collection’s launch will feature special guest speakers, Dr Paolo Baracchi of Co.As.It., and Mr Bernard Caleo, a storyteller, artist, author and performer.
Mr Caleo is a familiar face at Co.As.It, having participated in many performances and events held at the organisation’s headquarters in Carlton, including the launch of a book by fellow Aeolian writer, Joshua Santospirito.
However, he was particularly honoured to have been asked to speak at the launch of … fiori dalle antiche radici …, given his connection to the Salpietro family: his father, Salvatore, and Ms Salpietro are cousins.
Mr Caleo’s paternal grandfather, Felix, was born in Sydney and returned to Salina as a child, staying on the island until he blossomed into a young man.
He ventured back to Sydney as an adult, before moving to Victoria to establish a cafe in Sea Lake, in the Mallee district.
Though born in Australia, Mr Caleo feels a strong connection to the Aeolian islands, which he describes as “majestic jewels”.
“I believe the islands are an incredible metaphor for humanity because they’ve been inhabited by so many different groups, from the Greeks to the Africans, Italians and Phoenicians,” he says.
“I have two sons of my own now and my dream is to take them there and show them where their blood comes from.”
During his travels to Europe in 1990, Mr Caleo stayed in the Salpietro’s family home in Leni, a place which is often mentioned in Ms Salpietro’s work.
In his speech, Mr Caleo will explore … fiori dalle antiche radici …, the words of which he has read aloud and savoured, referring to his own memories of the island of Salina.
“I find Maria’s poems to be very reassuring; it feels like they have a real moral core as well as a belief and faith, not just in God, but in nature and family,” he explains.
“At a time when things move very fast and there’s a lot of upheaval, they feel to me poems with a great deal of stillness to offer an audience, and certainly hope and joy.”
One of seven children, Mr Caleo can relate to the significance Ms Salpietro places on family.
“Every Monday night we have a family meal with children and grandchildren,” he says.
“That sense of shared hospitality that Maria writes about is quite vital for my family as well.”
Mr Caleo highlights two other major themes within the collection - faith and nature - referring to them as islands themselves within the poems which continually emerge from the ocean of language.
Another point of interest is Ms Salpietro’s mother, who features quite heavily in the collection of works.
“She was a great letter-writer on the island of Salina,” Mr Caleo explains.
“In a time when people were variously literate, they would go to her and she would write them a letter to communicate. That tradition is being continued by Maria, being a person who distils knowledge and wisdom through her writing.”
Mr Caleo will also emphasise the beauty of the book itself, something created out of a family collaboration.
Ms Salpietro’s nephew, Giancarlo Mazzarotta, created the image on the front cover, while the book was designed by her niece, Tonia Mazzarotta.
Penned by Ms Salpietro, … fiori dalle antiche radici … is a treasure to be discovered and a gift from her family to the world.