During moments of isolation and loneliness that may arise from the tribulations of our current times, dwelling in the gentle memories of familial comfort may put us at ease. Antonia Facciponte perfectly captures these genuinely touching memories filled with joy and comfort in her debut collection of poems To Make a Bridge. Canadian author and poet Bruce Meyer spoke of the fleeting nature of memories in his latest collection of short stories Toast Soldiers, saying: “Some things are meant to vanish. That is why we are given memories, inexact as they are. Reconstructing an experience, unraveling the mystery of a first taste, is part of the art of living.” It is only fitting that Meyer’s words are echoed so strongly in the sentiments of Facciponte’s work, as he is her mentor and editor for this collection.
Facciponte explores the wide expanse of memories from every facet of human expression, ranging from the warm enclosures of “my papa’s coat” and “hand-stitched blouses” to the melancholic melodies of “a speechless ballad” accompanied by “a steady beat of song.” Though the most overwhelming sense Facciponte emphasizes is taste, incessantly enticing the flavors of passion, jubilation, and playfulness. She uses food as a narrative building block and beautifully weaves abstract emotions through tangible experiences, like kneading dough or fighting back tears while cutting an onion.
Acclaimed food critic and adventurer Anthony Bourdain once proclaimed that “food is everything we are,” and Facciponte expresses the overarching nature of communal nourishment for her family. For Facciponte, food is the lifeline that holds together our past, present, and future. Her words leap off the page and find solace in the tastebuds of remembrance, and the feelings evoked simmer in the reader’s mind like a savory broth. Facciponte’s poetry has a natural flow that is filled to the brim with sincere sentiments of familial intimacy stemming from the joys of cooking. The collection truly proves that our heart grows out from our stomach.
The collection is structured like an opera, divided into an Overture, two main acts of L’Arte Della Famiglia and L’Arte Culinaria, an Intermezzo between the two acts, and a finale. The poems in the overture and finale help to frame Facciponte’s storytelling in a superbly elegant way, bringing a level of grace and integrity to all the “young hearts linked by love.” The poem which gives the collection its name, “To Make a Bridge,” sets the mood as a collective legacy of creative devotion. Dedicated to her Nonne, the poem celebrates collective intergenerational communication that manifests itself through shared delights; poetry for Facciponte and food for her family. Each poem is meticulously crafted to be a love letter for her family, specifically her grandparents, from resting her head in Nonno’s lap to dipping Nonna’s homemade biscotti in a latte.
There is a hint of a vague nostalgia that whispers in your ear like a gentle wind, begging to be passed around and cherished across eras and borders. Poems such as “Mouthful,” “Fresh Sauce,” “The Flower on My Nightstand,” among many others, are a glowing tribute to her ancestors, representing a heritage passed down through love, language, and food. One will close the book feeling as if they have sat around the dinner table with the Facciponte family, smelling her Nonna’s honeyed perfume while tasting the tangy sugo that’s been canned with a “memory in translation.”
Antonia Facciponte truly has the innate talent to paint a vibrant picture with words, forging an ancestral connection by stimulating all the senses. For her first ever book, she transcends conventional literature and carves out a place for herself among the Canadian poetic scene. Her poems make a home in your heart, like the love that seeps through the edges of a worn out recipe book passed down through generations. To Make a Bridge is a stunning piece of art that sets a standard for an upcoming feminine voice in Canadian poetry, representative of our nation’s mosaic blend of unique cultures and stories.