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Poem: "Prezzemolina" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Prezzemolina"

This poem came out of the May 3, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from eseme and sponsored by marina_bonomi.  A search for "Italian folk tales" turned up the story of Prezzemolina, a variation of Rapunzel.  Of course, adding Fiorenza to the mix entails some creative problem-solving!  This poem is a terza rima, a flexible Italian form with any number of interlocking triads concluded by a couplet.  You can read the other poems about Fiorenza on the "Serial Poetry" page of my website.


Prezzemolina


When Annalisa's belly grew full round,
She craved the prezzemolo  sweet and green,
So tore it from the fairies' sacred ground.

She bore a daughter fair as had been seen,
With rosebud lips and silky raven curls,
But word was taken to the fairy queen.

Two fate  came in gowns of satin swirls
To hound fair Annalisa for her crime
And claim for their lost crop this best of girls.

Then Annalisa ran through fields of thyme
To ask the herbalist what she should do,
So Fiorenza sighed, and made the climb.

She gave the fate  parsley bales and rue,
With starts of fine French lavender and dill,
And baskets full of bread and pastries too.

The fate  all sat down and ate their fill,
Then carried off the plants and went their way,
Agreeing that the payment fit the bill.

"Next time, come to my garden, if you may,"
said Fiorenza, "for there's less to pay!"



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Comments
tuftears From: tuftears Date: May 4th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Poor Fiora, so put upon! };) Every time someone shows up at her door, it's because they've got a problem.

*looks* Apparently, prezzemola is the Italian for 'parsley', I was wondering!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 4th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

It's the flat Italian parsley, which is a leafy vegetable, rather different from the curly garnish variety. Heh ... you never know what bits of local color will pop up in my poems.
tuftears From: tuftears Date: May 4th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 4th, 2011 10:52 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Yay! I love it when I can introduce people to new things. I should probably have included a link to that herb to begin with.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: May 4th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Flat parsley is so much better to grow than the curly sort, and it just takes off in a garden! Smells so goooood, too.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 4th, 2011 10:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I like both kinds. For an ingredient, the flat parsley is more flexible and tasty. Curled parsley has such a sharp flavor that it only goes with a few things. But for some reason the caterpillars seem to prefer the curled parsley, so I try to spare some for them when I can.
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: May 5th, 2011 02:14 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

My Uncle Ray makes a vegetable dish with curly parsley -- rough chopped and sauteed in olive oil with tons of finely chopped garlic and slivered almonds.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 02:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Yeah, curled parsley as an ingredient rather than a garnish needs other strong flavors or it overpowers everything. Garlic and fresh-ground green peppercorns are good.
siege From: siege Date: May 5th, 2011 01:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I'd suggest fresh curled parsley in a sage-sausage lasagne.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: May 6th, 2011 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Aah. I use turnip greens for that
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: May 5th, 2011 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

I wanted to thank you for helping me realize how many little things that are very commonplace and 'everyday' for me, just like the parsley, are interesting or exotic seen from your side of the ocean.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

*grin* That's one of the things I love the most about writing, and about the Internet. Everyone's local color is familiar to them; people may or may not notice the things about it that are particularly nifty. But you can connect with other people who live far away, and then each person's "everyday" things are new and fascinating to someone else.

I happen to have an eye for detail, and an unusual way of looking at the world, so even the local can be exotic to me. When I write, I make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. I love writing about my local area in ways that make people see it in a new way. But I also love writing about distant places, looking for the same kind of tiny details that will really put the reader's boots on the ground there.

When I'm writing Fiorenza, I often start with what I know about Italy, then look for a way to push that a step or two farther. The herbs keep coming up, not just because she's an herbalist, but also because the plants that dominate European cuisine are mostly Mediterranean ones. Italy and Greece started with a big share of those, and put a lot of energy into trading them over the centuries, gradually expanding the variety as they found new plants in distant lands. So Fiorenza has a mix of the ubiquitous local herbs, such as parsley, and the exciting imports such as French lavender. In this case, I knew that flat parsley was Italian and widely used in that area -- but I didn't know all the extra cultural tidbits that you've added. I usually get to learn something new when I'm out culture-crawling like this, and that's always fun.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: May 4th, 2011 10:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
The fairies in this poem were certainly more agreeable than most. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 4th, 2011 10:40 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well...

Actually, one of the humans was smarter than most. The original complaint was theft, for which they wanted repayment. Fairies being fairies, they made a bid for the child. But they'd settle for replacement of the parsley, plus some other stuff for interest.

Most humans, once they've put their foot in it, don't think to bargain. Or apologize. A skilled problem-solver makes for very different stories.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: May 5th, 2011 04:19 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

I'm not so sure if most faeries from European folklore would settle for a compromise, but, yes, a much different story. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 04:32 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

One common thread I've found in faerie lore -- around the world, even -- is that if you're polite to them, they tend to treat you in a more civil manner. Acting like a jerk is detrimental to your bodily integrity and chance of survival. There's always an element of risk when dealing with high-powered beings ... but people do talk, and Fiorenza has a tendency to come out on top.

You've got a grievance. You're talking with someone who has a reputation for being both sensible and formidable. She's offering a deal. Would you pick an unnecessary fight under those circumstances? I usually wouldn't.

*chuckle* Fiorenza may wind up being Speaker-to-Idiots for her territory, though, if she keeps intervening to straighten out human/fey relations.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: May 5th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Ah, but would a fairy necessarily believe a mortal could be formidable, especially if you're acting on direct order of a fairy queen? Faeries are not necessarily known for their hubris. :P

Edit: And, yes, I'm speaking in generalities. :)

Edited at 2011-05-05 04:50 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

If they'd heard about her other accomplishments -- I'm particularly thinking of "Can She Bake a Scary Pie?" "Fair Maiden Meets Fierce Villain," and "The Daughters of Befana" -- they'd already have evidence that she's not an ordinary country girl. Fairies do listen to that kind of news.

Then too, the order itself is not specified: whether the queen said, "We've lost our parsley crop; go get something to make up for that," or "We've lost our parsley crop; go get the thief's baby." Nor is it specified whether the queen is reasonable or arbitrary. Since the matter is resolved in a relatively sane manner, that implies that the queen is inclined toward reason and/or there is some flexibility in the command. Another occasion with other fey might turn into more of a hassle.

This is, by the way, a typical worldbuilding cycle for me: Look at the original. Ask, "How could this have gone differently? What would Character X do in this situation? Okay, then what happens?" And once I know what happens, I can look at it and ask, "Why did that happen this way? What would have to be true in order for those events to make sense?" So that tells me where to look for more detail later.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: May 5th, 2011 06:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

Okay, fair enough. :)
eseme From: eseme Date: May 5th, 2011 01:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Ah! Lovely. Just the sort of thing I was looking for. I do enjoy Flora and her ingenuity.

And yes, when you want nice herbs, go see your local herbalist!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Ah! Lovely. Just the sort of thing I was looking for. I do enjoy Flora and her ingenuity. <<

Yay! I'm happy to hear that.

>>And yes, when you want nice herbs, go see your local herbalist!<<

Annalisa has, shall we say, an overdeveloped sense of entitlement and a tendency to think that a pretty face will get her whatever she wants. If she'd gone to Fiorenza when she first realized she was pregnant, she could've gotten a packet of tea and some good advice and probably avoided the worst of the cravings up front. But no, the villagers are still getting the hang of "It will be less trouble to visit the herbalist first even if she is young and kind of mouthy."

I'll bet most people don't make that mistake a second time, though.
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: May 5th, 2011 12:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes! One of the beloved tales of my childhood, that one :).
Love how Fiorenza, as usual, solves the problem with her usual practical, no-nonsense approach. I also wonder who would respond the day Fiorenza herself needs help, would Don Candido mobilize the village? Would those she has helped turn a deaf ear?

Re: prezzemola ('prezzemolo' in standard modern italian) it is, I believe, the most commonly used herb in Italian cooking from North to South (others include garlic, sage, rosmary and basil), so much so that a common saying goes 'essere come il prezzemolo' (to be like the parsley) for someone or something that comes up everywhere.
siege From: siege Date: May 5th, 2011 01:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
They say he is like the parsley,
Come up everywhere, talked of world-wide:
A fame contagious, a joyful celebrity.

The rum looks from every hungry heart,
The greedy grasp of every rule-bender,
These are darker lights in fame.

Jealousy alone could start a war,
But where were all these liars birthed?
Under the parsley's leaves?

He sighs, stays focused on the work.
When the pot boils over, he is there
And fame burns on the stove.

It is relief, and the oven is ready.
In the casserole goes,
Dinner at seven tonight!
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: May 5th, 2011 02:03 pm (UTC) (Link)
Good take! Thank you for posting this. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

I love this poem! Thanks for sharing it.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 5th, 2011 07:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>> Oh yes! One of the beloved tales of my childhood, that one :). <<

Yay! I'm glad I came across this version, then.

>> Love how Fiorenza, as usual, solves the problem with her usual practical, no-nonsense approach.<<

Sooth. That will often work, and even if it doesn't, will take things in a different direction than the usual.

>> I also wonder who would respond the day Fiorenza herself needs help, would Don Candido mobilize the village? Would those she has helped turn a deaf ear? <<

I think it would depend on the type of challenge, who noticed it, and the timing. The earlier in chronology, the less established she is and the fewer people owe her favors. The farther the storyline goes, the more respect she builds up. I'm starting to keep an eye out for cases where people ignore her input or things otherwise go wrong. I wouldn't be surprised to see a mishap or two early on, when she has a hard time getting support; and then later it's easier to round up help when she needs it. A lot of the plot arc here really concerns finding your role in community and convincing everyone around you that yes, you really do know what you're doing and they should be working with you not against you.

>>Re: prezzemola ('prezzemolo' in standard modern italian) it is, I believe, the most commonly used herb in Italian cooking from North to South (others include garlic, sage, rosmary and basil),<<

That is so cool! Thanks for sharing.

>> so much so that a common saying goes 'essere come il prezzemolo' (to be like the parsley) for someone or something that comes up everywhere.<<

*laugh* This certainly describes Fiorenza. She always seems to be around when there's trouble brewing.

Edited at 2011-05-05 07:12 pm (UTC)
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: May 5th, 2011 07:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I'm definitely looking forward to more of Fiorenza's adventures and I'm really curious about the whole community, even new, just-glimpsed characters like Annalisa have a definite personality, you are building a strong cast of characters here.

>>That is so cool! Thanks for sharing.>>

My pleasure! :), anytime you have questions about everyday Italian things (or not so everyday ones) feel free to ask, I'll be happy to answer and/or do a bit of research or translation for you.

>>*laugh* This certainly describes Fiorenza. She always seems to be around when there's trouble brewing.>>
Yes, that sounds like her :)


Edited at 2011-05-05 07:57 pm (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 6th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>> I'm definitely looking forward to more of Fiorenza's adventures <<

Yay!

>> and I'm really curious about the whole community, even new, just-glimpsed characters like Annalisa have a definite personality, you are building a strong cast of characters here.<<

Yeah, I've noticed that these characters often come with a kind of personality tag that suggests what kind of person they are. It gives a lot of flexibility for offshoots or repeat appearances.

>> My pleasure! :), anytime you have questions about everyday Italian things (or not so everyday ones) feel free to ask, I'll be happy to answer and/or do a bit of research or translation for you.<<

I've been looking into the history of herbs, trying to figure out which ones are native to Italy, plus which were imported and roughly when. Similarly I'm watching for information about garden flowers, especially useful ones like roses. When I need stuff to put in her garden, it would be helpful to know what might reasonably be there. I have lots of references on herbs in general, and herbalism, cooking, history of herbal medicine, etc. But it's hard to pin down a chronology for a particular region. If you know of any resources that list native Italian herbs and other useful plants, that would be nifty. Particularly since, by the time this series matures, it's going to have a longish list of "Fiorenza's garden" species much the way one can design a "Shakespeare's garden."


marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: May 6th, 2011 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>>If you know of any resources that list native Italian herbs and other useful plants, that would be nifty. Particularly since, by the time this series matures, it's going to have a longish list of "Fiorenza's garden" species much the way one can design a "Shakespeare's garden."<<

A 'Fiorenza's Garden' would be wonderful! I have a few resources on herbal and kitchen gardens and native plants (I'm interested in the topic myself) but they are in Italian, I could post a few lists of plants and sites (tagged 'Fiorenza')on my LJ, if that could work for you.

Pinpointing a time-frame would be useful, we know that in Fiorenza's time tomatoes are known and used in cooking, tomatoes (sing. pomodoro, plural pomidoro /pomodori 'goldenapples') arrived in Italy in 1596 and were cultivated and used widely in Southern Italy in the second half of the 17th century, at the same time the 'pizza al pomodoro' (tomato pizza) was born.Fiorenza could have got some tomatoes and the pizza recipe from a Neapolitan merchant at the Fermo fair...

Herbalists/hedge witches were present, and influencial, in an understated way, until not so long ago (and in some places, specifically in the Southern countryside still are). I'm talking about the old traditions of folk medicine transmitted through direct apprenticeship. In 1950 my mother injured her ankle and was taken to the 'striòs' (the 'male-witch' or 'the witch-son')a man who had learned herbal medicine and folk remedies from his mother (she was also known for reading either hands or cards, my mother doesn't remember which).That was in a largish and relatively cosmopolitan country town.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 18th, 2011 01:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

>>I have a few resources on herbal and kitchen gardens and native plants (I'm interested in the topic myself) but they are in Italian, I could post a few lists of plants and sites (tagged 'Fiorenza')on my LJ, if that could work for you.<<

Lists would help, yes, if you let me know when you post those. I can save them to my notes for Fiorenza.

>>Pinpointing a time-frame would be useful, we know that in Fiorenza's time tomatoes are known and used in cooking, tomatoes (sing. pomodoro, plural pomidoro /pomodori 'goldenapples') arrived in Italy in 1596 and were cultivated and used widely in Southern Italy in the second half of the 17th century, at the same time the 'pizza al pomodoro' (tomato pizza) was born.Fiorenza could have got some tomatoes and the pizza recipe from a Neapolitan merchant at the Fermo fair...<<

I don't have an exact date pinned down, but that sounds about right ... 1600s maybe. Events in a historic fantasy may not unfold on exactly the same timeline, but should be close enough to sound reasonable rather than jarring.

>> Herbalists/hedge witches were present, and influencial, in an understated way, until not so long ago (and in some places, specifically in the Southern countryside still are). I'm talking about the old traditions of folk medicine transmitted through direct apprenticeship. In 1950 my mother injured her ankle and was taken to the 'striòs' (the 'male-witch' or 'the witch-son')a man who had learned herbal medicine and folk remedies from his mother <<

This sounds so cool!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 8th, 2011 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Oops...

It was supposed to say "prezzemolo" and not "prezzamola" in the poem. Typo fixed now. Thanks for catching this.
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