In her newest book, Dianalee Velie provides the reader with a vacation in Italy— the best kind of vacation, stunning beauty enjoyed in the company of the people one loves. Page by page, we are served her sheer pleasure of being alive. We travel with her to northern Italy, Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, and Sicily; along the way, we vicariously sip espresso and grappa, drink wine, or taste olive oil, all served in an impressive array of poetic forms (terza rima, ottava rima, terzanelle, rondeau). In a particularly playful exploration of traditional form, Velie describes a Lipizzaner stallion named Petrarch inside a Petrarchan sonnet. Along the way, we share with humor the inevitable snafus of being a tourist, such as her near disaster with a saint’s relics. Throughout Italian Lesson, imagery transcends the gastronomic to the historic and sacred. In one poem, the spear points of marching Roman soldiers transmogrify into olive tree leaves; in “Wizened,” we encounter a persona poem from an olive’s point of view. In “Blessings of the Birds,” a “flock of common redpoll finches/ their tiny heads capped in scarlet” land on her patio and become “like the cardinals descending upon Rome.” This poet is singing to the rafters about the glory of life.
—Alexandria Peary, New Hampshire State Poet Laureate
Everyone who has visited or dreamed about Italy will delight in the wide-ranging images and experiences captured in Dianalee’s poetry. Her words make me eager to return to Il Bel Pease.
—Ken Tentarelli, award-winning historical fiction author
Dianalee Velie is a poet of exceptional vision and creativity. In Italian Lesson, like a master crafter of Vino Nobile, she picks her poetic grapes, her words, with care and insight, and creates sensual, evocative and multilayer images filled with love and nostalgia not just for Italy, but humanity, nature, earth, in poems that must be savored verse by verse. Che vino perfetto! Cin cin!
—Ala Khaki, poet, author of Return
I have never been to Italy, and now I have. These poems have given me this country through lovers’ heightened senses: a wild and synesthetic journey.
—Marie Harris, New Hampshire State Poet Laureate Emerita
While Dianalee Velie was teaching poetry in Italy, she composed these poems to reflect her love of the country and for her cousins in Santa Croce di Camerina, Sicily. Italian Lesson celebrates the sights and sounds of Italy—explorations of the local food & drink, sightseeing expeditions, and the lively spirit of the Italian people as they welcomed and shared their way of life. Come along on her Italian journey and you too will fall in love.
La Commedia Divina de Caffe
~An Ottava Rima
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
—T.S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Coffee paradise encompasses all of Italy.
The aroma of caffe, rich dark espresso
with perfect freshly pressed froth on top,
is not sipped but chugged from shot glasses
while standing at a bar. Divine words
are not sufficient to describe this pleasure
unless you are ordering a doppio or double.
Then beatific and miraculous reign appropriately.
The Madonna must have invented
the macchiato, the not so pure espresso,
with a dollop of foamed milk
sitting atop like a halo,
or the cappuccino, more mellow
than the macchiato by the addition
of steamed milk. These drinks, as smooth
and gossamer as angel wings, beg forgiveness
from a true coffee connoisseur.
If you want to commit all the deadly sins
of a coffee addict, sip the decadent Borgia.
This richness of lust and intrigue,
fitting for the family of which it is named,
will tickle your sinful sensibilities.
Wicked whip cream tops a mixture
of espresso and hot chocolate
sprinkled with cinnamon
and slim slivers of orange peel.
Go to hell with the Borgias.
- a selection from Italian Lesson - published 2021