First Language(s): Italian
Second Language(s): English
Born in Siena, Italy, Federica Santini moved to the US in 1999. She holds a PhD from UCLA and is Professor of Italian and Interdisciplinary Studies at Kennesaw State University, in Georgia. Her main research fields are experimental Italian poetry, women's writing, and translation studies. Her articles and translations have appeared in numerous publications in the US and Italy.
What was your favorite book as a child?
My favorite book as a small child was “Were the Wild Things Are” by Maurice Sendak, in the Italian translation by Antonio Porta. It was a charred copy, salvaged by my father from a small bookstore that had burned down in my hometown, but I thought that the black, uneven edges belonged with the book, an outwardly mark of having been with the wild things. The burned corners always made me think of the fading walls in Max’s room. I would look at the leafy pattern of the wallpaper in my own bedroom and wish to also see it change, to go to an unknown elsewhere. In the book, my favorite sentence was at the very beginning, “e ne combinò di tutti i colori” (literally, and his actions took on all colors), which I later discovered to be quite far from the original, “and made mischief of one kind and another.”
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
I think that, for me as for most writers, the main reason for writing is not being able not to write. Being in love with the written word is a close second. Finally, working for years as a poetry translator and literary critic has shaped the way, though not the why, of my writing, especially for what concerns translingualism: in writing creatively in English, this language not my own, I feel that the cultural barriers that shape my rapport with my native language blur, and at times I can glimpse at the rare, elusive place where languages melt
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
The greatest adventure is in what is yet to come, in the minute, daily changes of nature, and in trying to acknowledge and marvel at those changes.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
Music has an influence on my writing, often a very direct one, but when writing, especially when writing poetry, I only listen to the rhythm in my head. Often, my poems start from a phrase overheard or read, one that affects me not for its meaning but for its rhythm and the pattern it designs, not unlike la pénultième est morte in Mallarmé. I then follow that daemon rhythm as far as it takes me. Lately, one such phrase is “this is the place inside the blizzard” in Ursula Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness:” I’m waiting to see where I’m taken, and what the pattern is.
Asleep No More
Issue Spring '20