When Ferrari asked Hannah Lowe if she would like to write a poem about the rearing horse brand, she confessed that she was, at first, somewhat taken aback. “To be honest, I don’t really know much about cars. Being published by a car brand was something I didn’t expect at all,” says the 43-year-old English poetess. She was at home in North London, in the middle of lockdown, when the call came in.
Hannah, who has been writing poetry since the age of twenty-eight, admits to feeling a certain anxiety at first. “I accepted the mission, yet I have to admit that I then wondered what I knew about Italy,” she recalls with modesty. “Then I thought about it more deeply, looked back on my life experiences and finally accepted the idea. I realized that Italy has never really been so far away from me. »
Vacations spent in Sicily and Sardinia helped to forge her “Italian education”, but it was when she participated in a writing course in Turin in 2012 that the Bel paese really seeped into her poetic consciousness. The work created for TOFM, In Italy, in Love, is prefaced by a tercet by one of the greatest Italian poets of the 20th century, Salvatore Quasimodo.
“I am a fervent admirer of Quasimodo,” says Hannah. “I also chose to write a three-line stanza in homage to Dante Alighieri, famous for using the terzina in his works. “Following this first success in The Official Ferrari Magazine, Hannah was awarded one of Britain’s most important literary prizes, the Cholmondeley Awards.
She is in very good company. The Cholmondeley Award, given by the Society of Authors to poets for the body of their work rather than for a single poem, has in the past crowned such eminent artists as Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Vernon Scannell, Kingsley Amis, Ian Crichton-Smith and Roger McGough. Carol Ann Duffy, UK Poet Laureate until 2019, is also a former laureate.
“This has given me the opportunity to reflect on the many positive experiences I have had in the country and with Italians here. Hannah recalls a university friend, Fabiano, and a longtime roommate, Daniela, and her trips to London’s Little Italy to sip coffee at the famous Bar Italia in Old Compton Street in Soho.
“When I think of Italy, I think of fashion and glamour, but most of all, I associate the country with the quintessence of style,” she says. “Of course, Ferrari is one of them. Her description of Italy was meant to be “light and humorous. But,” she insists, “I tried to avoid falling into clichés and include a multitude of details I knew about the country. For example, the scene of the people gathered around the restaurant table is a souvenir of my stay in Turin. That’s the way it happened. Indeed, In Italy, In Love undoubtedly succeeds in capturing the joie de vivre, emotions and passion that are at the heart of Italian culture. Elements that are also Ferrari’s trademark.
In Italy, In Love
by Hannah Lowe
In Italy, I decide to fall in love. It’s April,
a man writes me love letters, soft entreaties
that drift into my inbox like rose petals
and from my fifth-floor room of the Pensione Orizzonte
I watch the river flow steady and passionate
as my waiting heart. Each day I cross the city
to the airy white classroom where we sit
and learn to tell stories – which details matter,
how to deepen character, what to keep, to cut?
At lunch, I drink espresso with my teacher
in the smoky blue-tiled bar next door
where an old man tells a long garrulous saga
I think he’s told a hundred times before.
Back in my room, my love sends poems by Eugenio
Montale: portami il girasole. He wants me, he is so sure.
I re-watch clips from Cinema Paradiso,
fire, film, desire, love’s comfort, love’s pain –
I want a man, any man, below my window,
waiting in all weathers, in torrential rain
that makes his shirt transparent so I can see
the shining ruby of his heart below his skin.
At night, my class eat dinner at the Café Giovanni –
we’re strangers, but at the long table, the flow
of Sangiovese has us laughing and weepy
while the waiter shaves parmigiano as though
conducting an orchestra. I eat ribollita,
arancini, a spring green risotto –
so rousing, squisito, the taste, the texture,
I hide the bliss on my face behind a tissue.
Later, naked on the bedcovers, I wonder
what I am in love with, the man with his honeydew
of words, or this city, this country?
I watch the scene from A Room with a View
where the English girl is finally kissed
on a thundery hillside in Tuscany.
Where else could a kiss like that exist?
It needs wild flowers, Tuscan light, Puccini.
Oh I want to be kissed like that, to be kissed and kissed –
*Illustration of the Ferrari Roma by Michael Frith