Giovanna Summerfield

Giovanna Summerfield

Giovanna Summerfield was born in Catania, Sicily and currently lives in the United States. She is Professor of Italian and French at Auburn University (where she also served as Associate Dean in the College of Liberal Arts) while serving as chief editor for Italica and as a book review editor for Modern Italy. She received her PhD in Romance languages and literatures with a minor in European and Mediterranean history from the University of Florida. Her research focuses on the long eighteenth-century (1660-1830) French and Italian literature (emphasis on Sicilian writers), religious and philosophical movements, Mediterranean studies, cinema, and women’s studies. She has published extensively and consistently. More recently, she edited and contributed to the volume Sicily on Screen: Representations of the Island and Its Culture (2020). Summerfield is also an international poet and a short story writer. One of her collections is Remembering Sicily (2009).


You were my Italy
My swordfish, on a hand-painted plate
Upon returning from a long flight
A sunny May day
My afternoon hours in front of the TV
My home that is no more.
You were unconditional love
That does not leave you behind
That does not count the wrongs
The one that brings you back to your childhood.
You were my tears if I did not see you next to me
My reading aloud to memorize
My aubergines fried in oil
My mail that does not arrive.
You were,
A past that does not ring true
A rain that does not wash
An evening that never ends
My island slowly sinking faraway,
My mother.


The waters are cold and dark, splashing against the rocks. Fishermen sitting around, pulling their nets with their rough hands. Fishes flapping, bloody and inert. The shouts in the market are signs of life, communion delivered to all gathered around, messages of good taste and parsimonious upbringing. The fights, the subjugations, the heritage, the discoveries all jealously kept in this island. Water to the right, water to the left, to the south and to the north. We swim, we almost drown; at times we sink and gasp for air. The words, the musical notes, the dancing steps all recount these waters and the manners in which we navigate them, keeping at bay our Mediterranean soul.


Flowing down
Covering and uncovering,
Leaving behind dark hard sidewalks
Burning hurried feet of tourists
Amassed around la cattedrale,
In front of which a stoned elephant
Carrying a white obelisk
Becomes the hallmark of meetings
For teenagers and their lovers.
Lava that moves with a swoosh like a veil,
Red and black,
Smoke coming out of the highest peak
Still covered with snow
Like on a postcard.


When I think of you
My taste buds scream:
Figs and tangerines.
The green and the bright orange
The sweetness and freshness
Of home,
Nostalgia –
I picked them up
With the little
Hands of a hungry child.
The green and the bright orange
In my basket,
The sense of home
My mother calling:
Vieni, vieni.

(Published in Remembering Sicily, 2009)

Poetry in this post: © Giovanna Summerfield
Published with the permission of Giovanna Summerfield