|MEMOIR||by Krystyan Panzica|
Excerpt (A Heritage)
from A Heritage, pages 1-2
My paternal grandmother and grandfather were born in a medieval mountain village in Sicily at the end of the nineteenth century. When they arrived in New York City, they were still infants. She was the first of nine brothers and sisters, he was the first of three. My affection for Sicilian dialect (See the above epigraph: the second stanza of Serafino Culcasis epic poem Lu Tirrimotu, or Il Terremoto.) grew from hearing great-grandparents who had never spoken English. Neither my father, nor his father, spoke more than a few words of Italian, though both of them had always lived in a Sicilian-American neighborhood in Western New York.
Two years after my fathers death, and two months after my eighteenth birthday, I left my Latvian-born mother my first name is derived from her fathers first name and the home we shared with my fathers parents and younger sister. At the time, I spoke no Italian and had not read an English translation of either an Italian or a Sicilian poem or story.
I was studying Italian in college when I attended a meeting of a Dante Alegheri Society. Unlike the Romulus Club, the first Italian-American organization I had encountered, I heard no Sicilian at the DAS.
Not long before I received a B.A. in English, I visited the flat of an aspiring novelist, whom I had met in Sunday school. Without considering whether or not he was an outdoorsman, I was in awe of his typewriter and his plaid, flannel shirt. They turned out to be omens for the solitary craftsmanship I was about to embrace.
The coffee-house culture I had begun to sip yielded two serious, local poets. One of them regaled me with his knowledge of contemporary, American poets, and the other inspired me to finish reading my John Ciardi-translated Divine Comedy. But it was not until I myself had written a few poems, short stories, and articles that, quite by chance, I read in a newspaper the Sicilian poet Salvatore Quasimodo won the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his dual-language, i.e., English and Italian (with no trace of Sicilian dialect) Collected Poems, the following was my favorite.