Cristina's Library

Joie de livres

Issue 10: Surrealism

I’m honoured to be featured in FEMMELDEHYDE’s beautiful new creation, Issue 10: Surrealism, along with other wonderful Toronto writers and photographers. Read the entire issue at www.femmeldehyde.com.

“We danced in silver moonlight as the skies shed a single star in melancholic ecstasy”

Click here or on the picture below to read my short piece, Sanctuary of Lovers, the title of which is taken from this poem:

Do you know, knower, what the night is?
It is the sanctuary of lovers.
On this glorious night
I am drunk with the moon.
The moon has fallen in love
and the night has gone mad.
– Rumi, Gardens of the Beloved

Sanctuary

Travel Poetry

Hi, everyone! I am excited to announce my new project, Travel Poetry, a digital literary travel magazine. We are accepting submissions for the inaugural issue until the end of January. Please follow the Blog at http://www.travelpoetrymagazine.com/blog/, or on Instagram at @travelpoetrymag, where I post travel vignettes, photos, and poetry. And, of course, visit the Submit page to submit your poetry or short stories.

Here is the latest post from Paris, France:

Each night, in the quivering reflection of puddles
shivering in the cold,
rolled beneath sidewalks awash with tears,
the curbsides of cafes,
a streetlight’s lazy halo,
the shifting shapes of love that stroll blindly in the night,
shadows of passers-by dance
a melancholy waltz.
Arms and legs sway and twirl,
swirling in the street
sheets of rain upon their elongated limbs.
Shadows part, then melt
together again
by a boulangerie, fingers slide
slowly down a creamy neck.
Elegant, curved, a woman swerves delicately
on a moon-coloured arm.
Here in puddles where shadows meet
Life ripples briefly,
on the drowning streets of Paris.

‘The drowning streets of Paris’
From The Music Makers by Cristina Rizzuto, crisrizz (Blaurock Press, 2012)

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© Photo by Cristina Rizzuto (@crisrizz)

Buy a book

booksLast year, I made the tragic mistake of going to Yorkdale mall on the first Saturday of December.

A deafening barrage of shrieking children, frantic parents, lazy walkers, loud talkers, anxious employees, aggressive hagglers, and booming holiday music hit me upon entering. It was a depressing composition of repeated staccato notes, in the phrases of “I’m sorry” and “Excuse me” and “Watch out!”

I felt like I was on fast-forward, my heart palpitating, head spinning, and green tea sloshing mercilessly out of its cup, burning my fingers.

Meandering through the crowds, I overheard different pieces of survival advice in conversation:

“Oh, I always have a big breakfast beforehand.”

“Take a few deep breaths, and you’ll be fine.”

“Coffee. A lot of coffee.”

It seemed that I was the only person who did not know what to do or where to go. I did not walk briskly through the mall with an intended road map in mind (first Williams-Sonoma for dad, then Roots for mom – she just loves those wool socks). The truth is, I possess none of the skills of a professional shopper. I wander, I look around, I pick up and put down. I found myself taking small steps and small sips of tea, gazing at items in store windows for a short time before moving on, my body gently rocked side-to-side by the rushing crowd.

Finally, I made it to the front of the bookstore.

Ah, peace and quiet.

Unsurprisingly, here, I finished most of my holiday shopping. It really is that easy. And if you believe your loved ones are not big readers, I beg you to think again. There’s an escape route for everyone.

They might like Canlit, non-fiction, romance, mystery, history, or art. They might have an idol, a pet, a New Year’s resolution to finally start yoga, a desire to learn French, or an inexplicable relationship with Mexican cuisine. There’s a book for them.

There are cookbooks, how-tos, big and beautiful photography tomes, literature on the performing arts, language, business, or travel. There are books for kids, teens, tweens, adults, grandparents. There’s a book for the plumber, the private dancer, the stay-at-home parent, the cheese addict, the architect, the storyteller, the graphic designer, the cinephile, the writer, the baker-on-the-side, the teacher, the music buff, or the wine aficionado in your life.

And in no way am I limiting the selection to shiny new hardcovers or glossy paperbacks. Do you have a book in your own collection that you think might benefit a close friend or relative? Give it to them. Let them know why. Books, and the stories inside of them, are meant to be recycled into new hands.

Growing up, my parents always gave my brother and I books, and then quizzed us on them afterwards to ensure that we read them. We spent hours in the library, and they took note of the books we were engrossed in. In December, we found them under the tree. In return, we wrote little poems and heartfelt messages in handmade paper cards. We signed them with our own insignia at the bottom, pretending that they were from Hallmark or Carleton: “Cristina Cards” or “Joseph Cards” circled with a sparkly gold pen.

My parents grudgingly accepted our small gifts, while insisting that we did not have to give them anything, that they had their family around the Christmas tree, which is more than enough. They appreciated the little things, the practical and sentimental value of a gift. They taught me the art and importance of truly giving.

So, my brother and I bought them books, too. Last year, I added to my father’s bookshelf Open Secrets: Wikileaks, War, and American Diplomacy. For my mother, The Glass Castle. For my brother, Flushed: How the Plumber Saved Civilization. (He’s a plumber).

You may not think so but, as I learned from my family, buying a book is an intimate and thoughtful act. It is as personal as a piece of lingerie, as gracious as a box of chocolates. It’s like placing a blanket on top of someone after they’ve fallen asleep, or smiling at a stranger. If you’re buying a book for someone this holiday season, you’ve made a conscious effort to enhance their life. You care. Think about how much consideration goes into choosing a book — it means that you are attentive to what they say, that you know and support what they’re interested in.

A book may not be the only gift you’re giving someone, but it is perfect on its own, or in addition to something else. Make it even more special by writing a little note inside. They’ll treasure it forever.

Toronto International Book Fair

Are you going to TIBF (Inspire! Toronto International Book Fair)? I’ll be reading from The Music Makers on Saturday November 15 at 1 PM at Booth #918, along with fellow AICW members. Hope to see you there!

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Talking to Strangers

My article in the November issue of The Florentine, Florence’s English newspaper!

Talking to Strangers

Full Text

Talking to Strangers: A Snapshot of Life in Chianti

I went to Florence to immerse myself in beauty. A few weeks ago, I leaned on the Ponte alla Carraia with a delicious treat from its namesake gelateria and looked out at the Arno. An old man on a bicycle stopped and stood beside me to do the same. We greeted each other, buona sera, and chatted. As he slowly climbed back on his bicycle, he said that my eyes are ‘full of light.’ ‘No,’ I replied awkwardly, never one to take compliments well. ‘It’s not me. It’s Florence that is full of light.’ He shook his head with a smile. ‘Something in your eyes, it says maybe you want to know the whole world.’ Then he rode away.

He’s right, the old man on his bicycle, making cryptic statements and reading people’s eyes. I do want to know the whole world. That’s what’s so beautiful in Italy: the relationships. That you cannot walk into a salon, a store or a café without indulging in pleasant conversation, a glance, a smile, either from those who work there or a fellow patron is enough to justify buying a crumbled old villa and settling down somewhere in the Tuscan hills—not to mention the local produce, perfect weather, Chianti wine and unique artisanal crafts.

It is such a change from life in Toronto, where many harbour almost a peculiar, inexplicable sense of refuge in anonymity. One can easily become another faceless person in the vast city, walking through the streets or sitting in a café without ever catching someone’s eye or engaging in genuine conversation. Sometimes I just want to talk to strangers. Which is what I do here in Greve in Chianti, where I am currently an artist in residence.

I awake to the sound of a cooing rooster, murmuring voices outside, a vine tractor meandering the vineyards. It’s harvest time, vendemmia. Each morning, I go to piazza Matteotti, Greve’s main piazza, for a cappuccino and brioche alla marmellata at my favourite place to sit and watch the world. The staff has memorized my order now. I once ordered a cappuccino without the brioche and received a startled look. The barista placed the drink on the counter and pressed the warm, soft pastry into my hands anyway. ‘Eat,’ he said. ‘It’s not right without.’

Despite its constant impermanence and change, there is a comforting sense of continuity here, an access to natural symmetry that cannot be found anywhere else. Things grow, die, replenish. People enter and leave. Time moves a little bit differently in Chianti than it does in other places—it’s slow enough to give you a true impression of who you are outside of the bustle of routine and industrial life, to make you stop and look at not only the world but yourself. It’s a special place.

Later, I walk into one of the many art stores to decide on a new print for my bedroom back home. As I’m considering the works, I hear a loud OINK! behind me. I turn—it’s Carmellino, the shop owner’s friend. The diminutive ‘-ino’ on the end seems far too young for this retired 60-year-old artist, but I realize people continue to call him this because he has never really aged.

OINK! He squeezes a stuffed piglet at us, and we laugh and shoo him away. He goes onto the sidewalk and squeezes it at tourists passing by, cradling their many purchases.

‘Buongiorno! Good day! Hello!’ OINK! OINK!

They give him dirty looks or roll their eyes. He comes back inside looking dejected. ‘Non ride più nessuno.’ No one laughs anymore.

The shop owner, Jacopo, turns the radio up louder—Michael Jackson is singing ‘PYT.’ He starts to sing. He grabs my hands with his hands that have wet paint on them and twirls me around. I laugh and chide him for dirtying my new white shirt, but, in spite of myself, dance along. It doesn’t matter really. It is a joy for me to simply come here every day, chat and browse the new paintings by local artists or the old photographs of Greve, grainy figures soaked in sepia, staring back at me. I like to imagine their lives back then, where their descendants are now, if they ever stood in this very spot.

I ask Jacopo how much the small Pinocchio painting is. It’s 30 euro, he tells me. Ah. Ok, I say. It’s wonderful. I will think about it. I begin to put the painting back. With serious looks on their faces,Carmellino and Jacopo talk in fast dialect. I can’t catch everything.

‘Ok … For you, 20 euro.’

‘Why?’

‘The economy here in Italy is very bad, as you know. So we need to try to sell our pictures. And we want you to have it.’

I give him 30 euro, and refuse the change.