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Spring 2015


The Harbor of the World
- O. Arieti
Those Italian Boys
- I. Backalenick
Friendless Featherheads
- G. Beck
- K. Cain
- J. Campbell
King Street Comanche
- B. Foster
- L. Giulianetti
Poets Out of Service
- M. Johnson
Irish Farmer
- L. Kumar
Communion Portrait
- J. Lagier
- M. Lisella
Connemara 2004
- C. Lloyd
Carrying Grandpa
- M. Lyon
The Saying of Mass
- C. Moore
Taking You home
- J. Mulligan
- P. Murray
- P. Nicholas
Resurrecting Easter Sunday
- L. Pierro
Dublin Spirts
- F. Polizzi
Nun Ponnu/They Cannot
- N. Provenzano
- K. Retzlaff
- C. Steinhoff
Strawberry Pickers, Cyprus
- J. Tarwood
Melina's Tarverna
- B. Thomas
No News
- R. Tremmel
- R. Volz
Broadway Bagel
- C. Wald
Taking My 8-Year-Old Daughter to Hear Seamus Heaney
- L. Wiley
My Mother Had a Relationship with Good Bread
- C. Young
Sicilian Traces
- A. Znaidi

Spring 2015


- J. Amato
Moving Day, 1897
- D. Corrigan
My Madeleine
- F. Dunne
A Review Of Italoamericana: The Literature Of The Great Migration, 1880–1943
- G. Fagiani
The Immigrant's Grandson
- J. Giordano
Review of The Glass Ships
- R. Crupi Holz
A Sunday Afternoon
- R. Iulo
Dark Idyll
- T. Sanfilip
The Choir Book
- G. Sullivan
Review of My Two Italies
- T. Zeppetella

Featured Artist
Richard Holz



Rosemarie Crupi Holz

Review of Judy Wells’ poetry book, The Glass Ship, (Sugartown Publishing, 2014)

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?” the American Romantic poet, Edgar Allan Poe, hauntingly pondered as he sought answers to life’s mysteries. Irish American poet, Judy Wells, in her collection of prose poems, The Glass Ship, a multi-layered phantasmagoria of Technicolor dreams within dreams, is searching for answers too. Her nameless, lusty, irreverent narrator, an accomplished sailor, voyages alone on a small boat to fantastical worlds. Like Alice in Wonderland, she playfully and mischievously travels life’s looking glass, compelling us to join in her fun as she probes the serious and profound.

Inspired by her study of Celtic voyage tales, Irish mythology, The Odyssey, Ovid’s Metamorphoses and her love of literature and art, Wells describes The Glass Ship as her “island series” and its creation her “writing voyage.” Wells states in her preface that these voyage tales preserve remnants of an oral Celtic “Book of the Dead.” They are meant to teach the craft of dying and to pilot the departing spirit on a sea of perils and wonders. Wells dedicates The Glass Ship to two friends who died during the time of the book’s writing. Her narrator’s odyssey of real and imagined struggles, her search for healing and her final reunion with the living, reflect the wisdom and passion of Well’s tribute.

In the spirit of the Celtic story telling tradition, Wells passes on sacred teachings through adventure, heroism, romance and magic. Her writing style reflects this as well, as each title page is written in calligraphy reminiscent of the Irish monks who transcribed early Christian manuscripts. The surprising layout of The Glass Ship, right side justified, left side free form, is the opposite of what you would expect and contributes to its sense of timelessness and wonder. In a crisp, direct narrative style full of deliberate exaggeration, Wells has successfully created her own original mythology.

Formatted in twenty-two chapters of poetic narratives of an episodic journey, The Glass Ship consists of the introduction, “The Glass Ship,” the twenty islands she visits and the final chapter home from the voyage, “The Island of Epithalamion.” The tale begins with our narrator’s encounter with a magnificent sailing ship made completely of glass. A young man and woman dressed in white are dancing on the deck. They stop and look at her and she realizes the whirling couple are her parents, but they don’t recognize her; she has not yet been born. This introduction is the first of many surreal paradoxes and transformations that propel our narrator. With her dancing parents aboard, the legendary glass ship sails off, never to appear again. Our female Odysseus is left alone on the still sea, her parents erasing her existence as if she has never been born. In dying she comes to life and begins her journey.

The first island she visits after parting from her parents is “The Island of Pink Flamingoes” where hundreds of pink birds turn their heads toward her as she steps onto their black sand beach. She meets 17 young women who welcome her as their mother. But she looks as strangely upon them as her parents looked upon her; these daughters are unknown to her. They claim they are her offspring, the poetic creations of her mind. These shape-shifters have become human only through her words and insist she was their queen mother once but left them and metamorphosed into a sailing captain. She sails away from them confused but full of love and inspiration as they fly over her boat like a winged sunset.

Our narrator saves a handsome sailor floating on a tormented sea from certain death on “The Island of the Great Egg.” A woman at sea for too many months without a man, she boldly claims she felt no shame when she had an urge at first to bend down and kiss him. When she realizes she is twenty years older than him, her urges become more maternal and she nurses him back to life. She feeds the sailor a large egg; he eats it raw and becomes transformed into a giant bird, an eagle. He tells her his name is Sweeney and his destiny is to fly to the island inhabited by the 17 beautiful women where he will court one of her daughters and marry her. Then he flaps his enormous wings and soars into the turquoise sky.

On “The Island of Joe,” she is reunited with her dead friend, Joe, who is living in a small hut thatched with crimson bird feathers. With a beatific smile on his face, he reads to her the story of his life. He gives her permission to write her own story and hands her a red book with blank pages. Seeing him at peace sets her free to continue her journey. Her boat awaits and with her pen and red book in hand, she will immortalize their encounter.

She hears from her daughter about the arrival of the magnificent bird who proclaims his love for her. When her daughter kisses his beak, for she has fallen in love with him too, the bird begins to shed his sleek brown feathers and transforms into the tall, beautiful, well muscled man her mother knew. Then he kisses her mouth but what happens next is unbelievable. Suddenly she begins to grow feathers and turns into a pink flamingo. She begs her mother to write a poem that will break the pink flamingo spell so she may marry.

Our narrator meets her former companions, Rose and Joe, on “The Island of Ash.” Here she recognizes that like Odysseus she is tied to her fate and does not know how to propel herself home. Rose and Joe, sitting on a mountain of ash, have crossed over to the other world. They were happy and asked her to join them in their discussion of literature and art. But she could not. She feels stuck as she keeps trying unsuccessfully, step by step, to climb the mountain of ash to them. Joe announces his time is up, smiles and his body crumbles into ash. Soon the same happens to Rose. Our narrator feels emptiness in her soul as her friends disappear. She drifts out to sea, but a voice within her whispers over and over, “Go carry the living.”

In the conclusion of The Glass Ship, on the “Island of Epithalamion,” a weary sailor makes her way home. In this final prose poem, an ode to marriage, she is greeted by a Pink Flamingo, her anguished daughter, who begs her to compose the poem that will break the spell of her bird-body so she may marry Sweeney. Her disenchanted mother no longer believes in the power of magic but does not have the heart to tell her daughter. The wedding is about to take place and the guests have arrived, including an astonishing parade of all the islanders she had met in the other world. The humans come as well, the ancient trickster couple, her parents, and Joe and Rose. Though she feels her poem will be ineffectual, amazingly the words, “Human flesh is best,” repeated three times transform her daughter and she marries Sweeney. She whispers in her daughter’s ear,“ I must disappear now. There are more Western Isles to visit.” We are not surprised when, as she slips away, her arms become wings and allow her to do what she had only before imagined.

At every turn in The Glass Ship, through Well’s magical realism, things transform in most unusual ways. As Alice in Wonderland taught us, we are never the same: you can’t go back to yesterday; you were a different person then. Life goes on and we transform in ways unimaginable. Like Poe’s dream within a dream, we are layered with all that is spiritual and real. We can only imagine the dreams within dreams our narrator will continue to weave as she soars on her journey of self-discovery.