Irish-Italian-American poet and playwright Franco D’Alessandro is a native New Yorker and speaks fluent English, Italian, and basic Gaeilge. D’Alessandro has had twenty-two international, Off-Broadway, regional productions of his work and has been published or produced in eight languages over 11 countries on four continents. His Off-Broadway hit play Roman Nights explores the tumultuous lives of stage and screen legends Anna Magnani and Tennessee Williams. This play was a critical and commercial success in New York (2002) and London (2004) and various productions of the play have been touring much of the world ever since.
D’Alessandro’s poetry has been published in various American and international literary journals and in September 2009 his poetry chapbook Supplications: Immediate Poems of Loss and Love was published by Finishing Line Press. In Fall 2011, Stranger Love: Five Short Plays was published; both books were immediately selected as Book of the Month by its publisher and have been endorsed by the National Italian-American Writers’ Association and Irish-American Writers & Artists. In May of 2021 Everything is Something Else was published, marking the first major published collection of Franco D’Alessandro’s poetry. All three books are available on FLP.com, Amazon.com and at the prestigious Drama Bookshop in New York City’s theater district.
Franco D’Alessandro is a three-time Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference Semi-Finalist. In addition to his work as a playwright and poet, D’Alessandro is an LGBT equality activist and holds a Master’s Degree in English Education and teaches high school English at the prestigious Bronxville School. He also teaches drama and theatrical text analysis as an adjunct professor at several universities and conducts Master Classes in American Drama at various conservatories – here and abroad. Franco sits on the Advisory Boards of the EquiLibri/Piazza Navona Italian Literary Prize, where he is a poetry judge. He lives with his partner, Michael Milek, in Bronxville, New York.
Poems below from EVERYTHING IS SOMETHING ELSE (Finishing Line Press)
for Raffaele Ronca
how it swiftly hits you;
Walking down Fifth Avenue through the arches
at Washington Square Park
The who-why-when-what-where-how… smacks me–
‘no schiaffo across the face
like the women in my family would do
when at their wit’s middle;
(I think I’m there now,
stuck in the endless in between)
Years of thinking with only half of an American brain
Speaking with a forked tongue will do that;
Makes you feel like a lost fraud; unsure of your next step
as much as your last word;
either way you’re stumbling toward
another inopportune epiphany.
So I start to question why I am even here, now.
Mumbling quietly, sad supplications to myself
I ask: Why do I long for a day
‘na giornata or ‘na serata, doesn’t matter:
a time – a place – a memory
that gives me the peace, the harmony
I once felt for not long enough,
Not too long ago?
When I sat in the Campo de’ Fiori
drinking the sun,
perhaps becoming one
with my espresso,
feeling – belonging –
living each day part of a vibrantly ancient bloodline
every evening feeling that somehow Italia
Where the time is deliberate –
and the people serene in their warmth
surrounded by those subdued colors:
terracotta, gesso, pietra
words that make love to your tongue
parole che fanno l’amore con la lingua…
Italian days are designed and built;
Constructed for connection,
Via, Piazza and Passeggiata demand it;
In the land of eternal yesterdays the now is all
and no little thing incidental,
Not a church bell wasted on regrets and recriminations:
The message muttered from the ancestral dead
Is to not just politely exist;
But to live (Viva!!!) with exclamations–
for in Italia ‘na chiacchierata –even with the long gone
is simply impossible to resist.
What matters is the soul – “bell’anima”
the face is but a frame;
eyes that tell – hands that speak
words that feel unabashedly
with songs and cries!
A certain pride in their–our?
But here they tell me to always calm down;
(Passione sfrenata…) no brakes on the passion, please!
“Don’t be so animated” they try to convince me.
I try to tell “them”: brakes are for cars
Not for the ectoplasm of Eros that pulses non-stop
through your body, like the flight from JFK to DaVinci.
Why isn’t it the same here?
To myself I’m talking as I’m stalking down
5th Avenue amongst the walking dead;
Checked out hipsters and the gloomerous illiterati;
Pill popping poseurs and anti-socialites
with their faces pulled tight;
Why? (I am back to ‘why’, again?)
The faded plaster and stone walls along the Via della Maschera d’Oro
Have slightly more expression and infinitely more to say.
A façade is just that, a face.
But, here, the external reigns supreme
and always wins the race.
But, I’m out of the running or
Simply losing steam
living my American life
with one foot just off Broadway,
the other in a neo-realist dream.
How I want to return…to the land of many ands
Always more… ancora—
To go away from these cold people,
this vague climate;
Through another set of arches,
The Arco Tito, maybe, and glide
Caesar-like among the
Foro Antico, and slide and glide
Passing the past, running my hands along
The cool sooty stone of the Colosseo;
And, yet again, I want to find myself
and discover and roam,
like I just stepped out
of La Dolce Vita,
into a land that
calls my blood
The summer I watched the grapevine grow
was the summer
I lost my innocence
Every day and into the night…
I sat watching the grapevine grow
Twining, pining, and vining around the lattice arbor
They both called on me that summer, and I eagerly followed
Showing me the red and white of life, I plunged headfirst
Drowning my thirst in
Rosso passion and Bianco desire swept me away
to a land of no choices
The grapes grew side by side
The fiery, sun rose and set, day after day,
beaming through the shield-like grape leaves
Apollo’s blaze ripened the virgin grapes, and bathed me in its warmth,
strength, and power.
I studied him with burning admiration,
as he taught me vigorously
Until the moon came. And she, cool and white,
surprised me every night,
by grabbing my heart as she shone through the lattice of the arbor.
In perfect darkness she alone was luminous. And I watched her with the sweetest devotion while she caressed me deeply, to sleep.
The smooth essence drifting down my waiting throat,
kept my thirst quenched, but left me always wanting
for another sunset or sunrise.
Il Fratello Sole and La Sorella Luna
awakened all my senses
Tasting each grape, different from the other,
Savored and then known…
The summer I watched the grapevine grow,
The summer I lost my innocence,
The summer I fell and soared
It was the summer I let myself be
Seduced by Chianti’s rosso and Vernaccia’s bianco…
And in those days and nights I learned
to drink from two glasses
to the Sun
to the Moon.
For other contributions by Franco D’Alessandro, please follow the link below:
Poetry in this post: © Franco D’Alessandro
Published with the permission of Franco D’Alessandro