This is a story about poetry and friendship. It began in 2015, when 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a world-wide movement of poets and artists of all expressions, speaking on the state of this world, co-founded by the poets Michael Rothenberg and Terri Carrion, held a World Conference for poets from all corners of the globe in Salerno, Italy.
Here is where we gathered forming the bonds of a global community and this is where I first met Patrick Harford and Susanne Johnston, writers, poets, artists and international cultural promoters. On the spur of the moment, Patrick invited me to visit with them at their residence in Poggio on Isola d’Elba, which he uses as a creative space for certain artists. With such a kind offer we agreed on the spot.
Arriving by ferry from Piombino, the green and rocky island slowly rolled into view, with a high citadel fortress looking down from its hillock, guarding the bay and harbor of Portoferraio.
Susanne had met us at the dock, and after feasting on anchovies and wine, at a restaurant café that only those who know where to look would find, along the forested beachside cliffs, under a bright crescent moon leading our route to their villa, Susanne began to tell us stories of Isola d’Elba’s history and legends, and in that moment, as a poet’s mind may wonder, the seeds of a an epic poem were planted.
Arriving in Poggio we settled in for the night and woke the next morning, up high in this hillside side village, overlooking a sparkling sapphire sea. The villa, Patrick and Susanne explained was used primarily to promote cultural events, where artists, writers, film makers and all sorts of creative individuals come by invitation to help build the cultural life and foundations on the island. This is when Susanne began to mention the possibility of hosting a poetry festival on Isola d’Elba, and that their daughter, Donatella, was already connected to the local poetry scene and was helping to organize events.
In 2017, I returned to the island, to write on sabbatical, where drawing upon history, legend and myth, with Isola d’Elba at the center, I began work on what would become my new novel, The Empireid, an epic poem in 17-line terza rima verse, which we now bring back complete to the place of its birth.
It was at the time of this writing that Susanne and I
discussed moving forward with a poetry festival, to bring poets to the island
to build upon the work Donatella had started locally. 2020 was our goal at the
time, though with the pandemic plans had to be postponed. Now, with hopefully
the worst behind us, in June 2022, returning from a world-wide hibernation, the
poets awake and ready to take Tuscan shores.