Reading Sveva is award-winning author Daphne Marlatt’s response to the life and paintings of Sveva Caetani, an Italian émigré who grew up in Vernon, B.C.
Daughter of an Italian prince, leftist, and scholar of Islam, Sveva grew up with the multilingual and highly cultured European traditions of her parents who moved to Vernon in 1921, when Fascism was on the rise in Italy. At age eighteen, after her father’s death in 1939, Sveva was forced into home-seclusion for twenty-five years with her grieving mother. When her mother died, she entered the community of Vernon and flourished as a high school teacher and respected painter. Her life experiences took the form of an extensive series of dry-brush paintings modelled on the structure of Dante’s Divine Comedy, as well as poems and philosophical commentary.
Marlatt’s lasting interest in the lives of immigrants to the West Coast continues in Reading Sveva, a thoughtful collection of ekphrastic and lyric poems that respond to Sveva’s insular life, the late beginnings of her artistic grown in 1960, and the meaning of home.
Bringing her own perspective as an immigrant and as a woman, Marlatt illuminates the life of this forgotten female artist whose work is a testament to the struggle of the female artist, and the search for a sense of belonging.
About the author
Daphne Marlatt was at the centre of the West Coast poetry movement of the 1960s, studying at UBC and with many of Donald Allen’s New American Poets, most notably Robert Creeley. Her writing includes prose narratives on the Strathcona neighbourhood of Vancouver and of Steveston and several poetry books. In early 2006, she was appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of a lifetime of distinguished service to Canadian culture.
Toyoshi Yoshihara is an award-winning translator who has worked tirelessly to introduce English-language works of drama to Japanese audiences. A Canadian industrialist, he has translated over seventy Canadian plays into Japanese; heads the Maple Leaf Theatre in Japan; and is an honorary lifetime member of the Canadian Association for Theatre Research.
"In writing that brilliantly combines historry, narrative, ekphrasis, imagination, and speculaion, Marlatt creates a reader’s version of Caetani’s life… Marlatt’s poems embody a generous attention to details that unfold into worlds."— Capilano Review
“In Reading Sveva, Daphne Marlatt meets a kindred spirit in Sveva Caetani (1917–1994), a visual artist who, with originality equal to Marlatt’s own, strove to dissolve the same binary concepts that have preoccupied the poet and novelist throughout her career. … The poems are neither commentary, nor interpretation, nor do they evaluate or judge. Rather, they represent the summoning of one artist’s intuitive knowledge of another artist’s being. … At their most powerful, Marlatt’s poems conduct a kind of running interview with Sveva, addressing her as ‘you,’ quoting her own writings back to her in a new context.”
—Pacific Rim Review of Books
2014 ReLit Awards, poetry category (shortlisted)
Winner of the prestigious 2008 Uchimura Naoya Prize
This Tremor Love Is
Finalist for the 2002 BC Book Prize: Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize
Other titles by Daphne Marlatt
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