Culture and the Creative Cure

I noticed something about my musings that I never really appreciated, until now, as being part of who I am as a writer. Time and time again, I find my Italian heritage creeping up into my work. I don’t tap into it consciously, yet somehow it manages to appear in so much of what I create.

Sometimes it just takes a little nudge by way of music, literature or fellow bloggers like Elena Ferranti of Maple Spaghetti! Her posts are a beautiful reminder of my own Italian roots.

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Thanks Elena!

So how does my Italian culture fit into the topic of poetry? Well, there’s no simple answer. Even though I minored in Anthropology, I still can’t briefly articulate why culture matters. Sure, I can write pages and pages on it, but to sum it up in one sentence would be an injustice to culture itself.

Let’s tie in my previous post on nostalgia and its influence on creativity. If nostalgia creates the itch, then for me, poetry is the cure to scratch that itch. And, when I think about my childhood, my fondest memories are grounded in cultural events. Even now as I reflect on some of my poetry, I’m surprised by the prevalence of my Italian roots. Here is one poem of many:

I was Twelve that Summer

When I buried my legs in the sand
on that Italian beach.
Zia Pupina said it healed her
and she lived a hundred years
before losing her marbles.

Must have been true about the healing—
I grew three inches that summer
finally in the normal range—
like it was a good thing.

That was the summer I learned
that my older sister is “the pretty one”
and I was happy—
who wants to cry about a “bad hair day.”

During siesta,
instead of sleeping my dream-wish away,
I opened the secret door at Nonno’s house.
The broken cement spider-webbed stair case—
a portal between here and there.
a test of will and purity.

On top of the flat tar roof
toes at the line,

I floated
over the tips of the tobacco plants
I could not reach them from the ground

I fluttered
above the house next door
The one my dad built

I rode
the green Vespa
The one for adults only

I dived
into the vegetable basin
The one they said is not a pool

I drove
the big tractors
The ones I could only pose with

I kissed
the sleeping bunnies
The ones I could not get attached to.

At the edge,
I wrote and wrote and wrote
in my NKOTB diary.
I tore and tore and tore.

Then I watched
the paper snowflakes drift
safely away.

Roberta C Natale

There’s a feeling of validation that comes with sharing cultural experiences with others, and that’s why culture and art go hand in hand. I’m sure most second generation Italians know what it means to not get attached to the bunnies…

Nostalgia is responsible for two very important factors in the world of art and creativity. First, it stirs the artist. Second, it draws in the audience. Then, it’s culture that brings the artist and the audience together.

Canadian comedian Frank Spadone is an excellent example of how culture brings audience and artist together. Enjoy!

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