Poetry Please

There have been poetry competitions from earliest times. Drama and poetry played a major role in the life of classical Athens and in the sixth century BC, the city’s ruler Pisistratus established a festival known as the City Dionysia celebrated during the Greek month Elaphebolion (equivalent to our March-April) for all the Attic states in the sacred precinct of Dionysus, at the foot of the Acropolis, which contains temples, sacrificial altars and the theatre itself. This festival included many types of performance, all of which were also competitions for important civic honour and prizes.

Bagni di Lucca’s National Poetry competition, while not on the ancient Athenian scale, is now in its fourth year and shows every sign of increasing in significance. The entries this year were even more numerous and of a higher quality than those of 2012. I say this with confidence since this year I was asked to be on the jury.

The theme of the competition was “Memory of Water” as it was last year – an appropriate choice since Bagni di Lucca is surrounded by streams, rivers, lakes, torrents and, most importantly, its unique hot curative thermal springs. After an introduction by coordinator poet and journalist Carla Guidi, each winning poet was asked to read out their entry, which was followed by a comment about the poem from the jury.

Rossana Federighi, Renato and Marco Fiorito Onofrio were the winners of the main section. The winners of the competition’s Special Section (“The Valley of the Poets: healing waters”) were, in this order, Alessandra Mannini, Norman Jean Bishop (editor of the Lucca province English-language magazine “Grapevine”) and Simona Verrusio.

A special mention was made of  “the voice of the rain” by Maura Bosso, “a triptych of water” by Norma Jean Bishop, “source of life” by Mara Mucini, “infinite water “by Rita Muscardin,” and “from the deep” by Valter Tarabella.

The competition, which offers prizes in the form of publication of the works and wellness stays at the Terme dei Bagni di Lucca Jean Varraud, aims at rediscovering the Val di Lima, in the context of its thermal waters in particular, and its age-old links with literature and poetry, history, body care and inspiration for the mind to the beauty and memory.

The musical interlude with the Bruno duo (opera singer Maria and pianist Loredana) was both appropriate and charming, in no way swamping the main subjects of the evening – the poems themselves.

The convivial evening was held in the delightful original gaming-room of Bagni di Lucca, in the Terme Antiche and was followed by a dinner at the Antico Albergo delle Terme.

Everyone has a novel within them, it is legendarily stated. (The crueller of us might add “and that’s where it should stay”) Everyone has a poem within them too, and they don’t take as long to read!

Poetry is not just something you had to learn by heart and recite at school (although learning your favourite poems and reciting them out loud can be truly energising). Poetry is feeling crystallised in words.  It is something that can be expressed in no other way. Indeed, many are the artists who also need to write poems (Michelangelo’s sonnets, for example) and many poets are artists, (William Blake famously comes to mind).

Sometimes poets and artists collaborate together as in the collection of poems “Questo è Amore” by Ceccarelli and Bastiani (available at ketybastiani@yahoo.it).

Not only can a poem move – it can heal, as the poetry therapy movement demonstrates. Italy is full of poetic inspiration and healing power in its landscape and artistic treasures and has drawn many poets, past and present, to it. Bagni di Lucca is especially rich in the poets it has attracted; for instance: Heine, Shelley, Browning, Pascoli and Byron.

Put the names to the faces of these part-time resident poets in Bagni di Lucca:

Now’s your chance to add your name to this list. For the fourth year a national poetry competition will be held at Bagni di Lucca and, for the third time, it will include a section for entries written in English so you don’t have to worry about your Italian literacy skills.

Full details and entry forms in English may be obtained by sending me an email at fpettitt@gmail.com.

Here are the main points:

1       There are two themed sections.

  • Reminiscences of water
  • Bagni di Lucca – healing waters.

You can only enter one poem in each section. You can enter one section only if you wish.

2       Entries must be in by April 30th 2014 using the appropriate entry form(s).

3       Each entry must not exceed seventy lines.

4       There is a 10 euro entry fee for each poem submitted – this fee is payable by bank transfer to IBAN IT61T 02008 70090 000101299397. The receipts for the payment should be attached to the entry.

5       Two copies of each entry are required: one with your name and signature, one without your name and signature.

6       An Italian translation is required for each entry

7       A brief biography of the writer must be enclosed

8       Entries should be sent to:


All’attenzione della sig.ra MILA



Piazza San Martino, 11 –

55022 Bagni di Lucca (LU)

9       The competition entries will be judged on 13th July 2014. You should be present although you may delegate if this is not possible. The prize-giving will be followed by a dinner at the Terme hotel for all winners, specially mentioned entrants and their guests.

10    Winning and specially mentioned poems will be published.

We hope you will very much consider entering – the prize-winners will receive a cash prize in three figures and a one night stay with full health care and thermal treatment including mud baths, and massages at the Bagni di Lucca thermal springs and Hotel.

Should you need further encouragement read Stephen Fry’s enjoyable book on writing poems “The Ode Less Travelled: Unlocking the Poet Within”. If you’ve read that book, or if you love writing poems, then you’ll know that the following (which won me a most relaxing stay at the baths of Lucca in 2012) is a villanelle:


This tract of world’s eternal round struck proud:

hurled loose from rock into the forest’s void

relentless waters pounded sheer and loud.

Like giant’s veilèd scarf or ogre’s shroud

they leaped and sprang unbound and overjoyed:

this tract of world’s eternal round struck proud

celebrating descent from haloed cloud.

With shattered pines and dashing rocks destroyed

relentless waters pounded sheer and loud.

Precipitous, the waters fell unbowed

and crashed on stones, all energy deployed.

This tract of the eternal round struck proud,

aslant drowned hills and on the liquid-ploughed

ravines; with consummation fast-enjoyed

relentless waters pounded sheer and loud

while falls rushed past as nature’s force endowed,

their joyful sound not maddened or annoyed;

this tract of world’s eternal round struck proud:

relentless waters pounded sheer and loud.


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