My Etruscan Face.


108 pages
ISBN 978-0-9782806-3-5
DDC C811'.54





Reviewed by Lori A. Dunn

Lori A. Dunn is a ESL teacher, instructional designer, and freelance
writer in New Westminster, B.C.


My Etruscan Face, Gianna Patriarca’s sixth book of poetry, is a collection that examines a woman’s relationships with her family, her homeland, and her work. Despite the personal topics explored in these public poems, the first, “Woman in Narrative,” jabs at the reviewer with “you are not always welcome / to break pieces for your thesis”—reminding the reader that all of the works in this collection express both personal and universal truths, and are necessarily the reality of the poet.


The initial section, entitled “My Etruscan Face,” gathers poems that investigate themes of belonging and connection with one’s home, whether it be a country or a family. One poem, “i am ciociara” (or “sono ciociara”), is written in, and translated from, a dialect from the region of Lazio, Italy, known as Ciociaro, and aches with the envy of not belonging: “you have a history / i keep inventing mine.” The poems “Very Very Venice” and “Silence Women Make” both continue the theme of feeling both connected and disconnected from the country of one’s birth. One especially moving piece is “Prodigal Daughter Returns,” which touches on the possible return to one’s childhood faith: “am i still welcome / do i still please.”


The second section is aptly titled “They call me Teacher, Teacher.” The poems here are clear, anecdotal, and express the emotional memories of Patriarca’s career in the 1970s. The moments of pain, sweetness, and humour bring these past students, who “spent a lot of time shopping / and shoplifting,” to life. The final section is aptly entitled “Miscellaneous Lives.” The pieces here are intimate walks through the neighbourhoods of the poet’s plentiful lives. The images, the dedications, the sounds of the streets, all are made real for the reader, as “the espresso machine / sings arias.”


Overall, Patriarca’s verses are clean and not flowery, expressing her realities with spare but strong images. The highlights of this collection are the innumerable perspectives on being, or not being, a woman of Italian origins, experiences that can be echoed in different voices across our country.


Patriarca, Gianna., “My Etruscan Face.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024,