Contributors Issue 12

Spring 2017 Issue 12

Theme: Tongue twister

We asked our contributors: What word has your attention these days?


Artists: Monica Dengo, Marina Sgobbi, Massimo Facci, Kit Sutherland, Petra Casotto, Edi Solivo, Caterina Giannotti, Maria Grazia Colonnello, Deanna Favre, Annalisa Fermo, Eleonora Petrolati, Renata Mengucci, Maria Gabriella Pianizzola, Patricia Silva, Paola Zoffoli, Daria Sorrentino, Sara Veneri, Alessandra Barison, Rosolino Ganci, Riccarda Bianco, Petra Markhauser, Anna Claudia Di Berardino, Anna Brunetti, Maria Pia Montagna, and Paolo Valzania.

Guided by calligrapher/artist Monica Dengo, our group of 24 calligraphers becomes part of Writing the Divine Comedy…in the Languages of the World. Launched by the Italian Cultural Institute of Cairo, this international project envisages a graphic and calligraphic transcription of the first 21 lines of Dante’s Divine Comedy into the world’s myriad languages. At work are master calligraphers from many countries, as well as translators of the Divine Comedy and other Dante enthusiasts.

Each book contains three of Dante’s first 21 lines, chosen because they succinctly furnish the general concept of Dante’s work: illumination after a time of confusion. The legible and “illegible” alphabets symbolize the many accents found in spoken Italian—regional accents as well as those of people who come from different cultures and who have made Italy their home. The work consists of 21 books, executed entirely by hand, designed to be hung side by side.

The project is supported by the network of Italian cultural institutes around the world and similar institutes in other nations. The Italian Cultural Institute of Cairo is assembling the graphic and calligraphic works with an aim to exhibit them locally and, subsequently, in interested venues worldwide.

Le Forme degli Accenti

Monica Dengo



Kevin McFadden is the author of Hardscrabble and has recently published an illustrated cycle of poems, City of Dante, with artist Jeff Pike. Winner of the George Garrett Award for poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers and a New Writers Award from the Great Lakes Colleges Association, his poems appear in journals including American Letters & Commentary, Fence, Kenyon Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. A letterpress printer, he’s currently at work on Speaking in Faces, a collaborative specimen book/artist’s book documenting the largest publicly accessible collection of moveable type in Virginia.



Stephen Morison, Jr believes that the ending never really satisfies, which may be why he’s okay with La La Land. Married to his true love, he has, possibly, the most incredible daughter ever born (?). They have lived in Connecticut, China, Jordan and Italy, which is where Steve is writing this. He is enthralled by the mystery of what happens next.

Stephen Morison

This week, his favorite word is moiety, but he has a longer relationship with susurrus and, no doubt, he will soon return to her.

Jeff Shapiro, a New England native and author of Renato’s Luck, has made the countryside near Siena his home for more than two decades now along with his wife, Italian singer Valeria Indice. He writes, sings, teaches and, on rare occasions, indulges in ludic bits of word-riffing like the one offered in this issue.

The word that’s kept me dreaming lately is illumined, especially as James Joyce used it in his story “Two Gallants”: The streets, shuttered for the repose of Sunday, swarmed with a gaily coloured crowd. Like illumined pearls the lamps shone from the summits of their tall poles upon the living texture below which, changing shape and hue unceasingly, sent up into the warm grey evening air an unchanging unceasing murmur. I’m in awe of Joyce’s choice of illumined over the more common illuminated—the plosive t of which would have blown apart the soft mumbling mood of the neighboring syllables. Who more than Joyce to appreciate the way the music of words matters at least as much as their meaning?


Shelley Martin, Canadian born, grew up in South Florida. She currently attends New York University and is attempting to learn Italian during her junior year in Florence. She enjoys art, film, bad television, and reading.

Contributors Issue 11

Winter 2016 Issue 11

Theme: Has the Befana ever left charcoal in your stocking?

To our contributors: Tell The Sigh Press if you’ve been naughty or nice this year.


Bob Blesse was director of the Black Rock Press at the University of Nevada, Reno, for thirty-three years. He taught book art courses, and designed and produced books and broadsides published by the press. He was also head of the library’s rare books and manuscript department for twenty-five years. He has an M.A. degree in English Literature from California State University, Chico and a Masters of Library and Information Science from UCLA. He and his wife have lived in Florence, Italy since 2014.

I am fascinated by the natural beauty of our world and try to show this through my landscape images. I view my photography as artistic creative interpretation, rather than the recreation of static visual elements. I present nature as seen through my eyes, offering my vision as a creative composition, which I hope elicits a positive emotional response from the viewer. I also create monochrome images, which I believe are thought provoking, with positive energy and visual tension.

Naughty or Nice? I’ve never been a big fan of the word “nice,” but I always tried to be pleasant, kind, friendly, and polite with friends and everyone I met this past year. I don’t believe I’ve been particularly “naughty.” Keep a steady keel and avoid naughty, bad behavior is my motto. However, if naughty behavior reflects self-indulgence, then perhaps I’m a rather naughty eater at times. But I do watch what I eat—at least until it’s gone.

[ ]

Gary Rogowski is the nom de plume of the fictional writer, Giga Roodski. Giga, as he is known only in Paris, has taken to haunting the streets near his favorite restaurant, the little known Pizza de Venise on Rue Montreuil to catch a glimpse of the past. It eludes him as he sits in the copious smells from the oven.

Charcoal? I have found in my stocking old orange rinds, scraps of newspaper clippings, a small plastic rhinoceros, and a password to a forgotten door. No, no charcoal. The dust of years has settled in there comfortably but no charcoal. I must have been nice or forgetful.


Paula McGrath lives in Dublin. Her first novel, Generation, was published in 2015. Her second, A History of Running Away, is forthcoming in 2017. She has a background in English Literature and is currently a doctoral student at the University of Limerick. In another life she was a yoga teacher.

Paula McGrath

My husband says nice, which is nice. Feedback from my kids was more mixed, however, but when I reminded them that I’m in charge of their Santa lists, they revised upwards.


JJ PIglet & John Gerard Sapodilla: This year I haven’t had any time for burlesque and one of the heels on my shoe is loose. I can’t possibly walk in it, let alone tango or climb steps. If I tried to put washing outside it would blow away and end up in the North Sea. Maybe the North is ok for good girls, and I was always brought up to be good. I always wanted to sunbathe on the bridge of a yacht, so long as it isn’t too hot. (I have freckles and burn too quickly, besides I don’t like caviar.) I am always good. I know you are always naughty, John Gerard. That is quite a good combination. The Yin and Yan of the Florence writing club.

Enter Befana and her Agent BX.

“So, Agent  BX, what about J G Sapodilla? has he been good or naughty during the year?”

“Ma’am, people are complicated.”

Contributors Issue 10

Theme: When what you fall back on doesn’t work anymore.

To our contributors: Tell The Sigh Press what habit you would like to give up, and what new skill would go in its place.



Francesco Duffy-Boscagli hails from the seaside town of Santa Barbara, California. What he enjoys most in life: laughter, incredibly fine tip pens, and the quiet relief found in the rare moments in which there is nothing to do. With his pens he creates daily drawings that he shares with the world.

It is leniency with myself that is my worst habit. I always allow myself more time than allotted, it is not something I can fall back on. Ever. And you’d think this would be easily learned and then fixed. It is not. It is something that sticks by you, as if the procrastination itself has begun to procrastinate.


Luke Whitington left Australia (and a career in diplomacy) to learn Italian at the University for Stranieri in Perugia. He spent 19 years living in Italy restoring old ruined buildings, then did the same in Ireland for nine years while launching a multi-media centre (Pleasant Factory) in Dublin in the 90s. His work has appeared in publications in Ireland and Australia such as Post, Five Bells, Quadrant, Overland and Contrappasso, and has been anthologized in Henry Kendall Prize Anthologies, Australian Love Poems 2013, and Canberra Poets Anthology 2015. He participates in public readings of his work, including in Florence, one of the places where he divides his time.

Rather than habits, let things evolve. Habits are for drudgery.

Volodymyr Kuzma is a Ukranian-born violinist who has lived and worked in Florence since 2002. Currently he is a Professor at the Scuola di Musica di Fiesole and also gives many concerts in Italy and abroad. His hobbies include composing music and writing, which is usually done during his travels.



It’s a tricky question because in my opinion we all change, adapt and evolve constantly so, week to week, I always try to improve myself, shed some bad habits and learn something new.

Isabella Ronchetti is an artist-writer/misanthrope/sesquipedalianist who intentionally wears mix-matched socks and taught herself to raise one eyebrow. She finds inspiration in dreams, stories, shapes in the cumuli, and peculiar happenings from everyday life. Her award-winning work has appeared in numerous publications such as Diverse Voices Quarterly, Canvas Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, GREYstone, Glass Kite Anthology, Bluefire Journal, The Claremont Review, Celebrating Art, and Poetic Power Anthology.

Isabella Ronchetti

Often when I feel alone, I climb eight flights of stairs to the roof of a parking lot. I watch people walk by, I watch them go through the boring motions of their day, completely unaware of me up there. I realize, from watching these herds of people who are all the same, unquestioning, that I am stagnant and boring like everyone else. I am trying to change little things throughout my day, trying to make my life a little less predictable. I owe this to my throne on the roof and to all the oblivious passers-by who are living their lives without questioning why they do what they do, but once they figure that out it will probably be too late.


Anonymous has had a relationship with Florence since 1992, often enjoying the secret that she is intimate with the place and culture despite her anonymity in the weighty terra cotta city swarming with tourists.

Anonymous would like to stop mixing Italian and French whenever she tries to speak French, a language she once knew well. This unfortunate habit would be replaced with neat language compartments in her brain where the French are having their croque monsieurs and the Italians are gesturing over espresso (as only espresso should be made), and never the two shall meet.

Contributors Issue 9

Summer 2016 Issue 9

Theme: The heat is on.

To our contributors, we asked: Tell The Sigh Press about a situation when the heat was on but you kept your cool.


Elena Secci was born in Florence where she attended the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno. She currently lives in the countryside between Pisa and Livorno. Her paintings can be found in many private collections in Italy, Germany, and United States.


The heat was on when The Sigh Press asked this very question. Presently, I am in the middle of grading papers, writing student reports, and holding parent-teacher conferences, but I have to keep my cool and grin.


Ann Lettick is from Connecticut but has spent most of her life in Italy with stints in France and Mexico. She is a long-time lecturer of English language and American culture at the University of Florence. A writer of short stories and poetry, Lettick’s poems are largely based on her autistic brother. Her work appeared in the US in Exquisite Corpse.

The heat was on years back when I walked into a classroom of about 50 immigrants in a Los Angeles night school to teach them English as a second language. Had never taught such a big group before, felt like I was up on stage… Turned out to be my best job, with dedicated, grateful students. A point of pride was that I learned all their names.


Richard James Allen’s ten books of poetry, fiction and performance texts include Fixing the Broken Nightingale (Flying Island Books), The Kamikaze Mind (Brandl & Schlesinger) and Thursday’s Fictions (Five Islands Press), shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry. Australian-born Allen won the Chancellor’s Award for most outstanding PhD thesis at the University of Technology, Sydney. Widely published in anthologies, journals and online for over thirty years, Allen has been the recipient of numerous awards, nominations, and grants, and has enjoyed unique opportunities during his international career as an acclaimed writer, director, choreographer, and performer.

Physical TV
Fixing the Broken Nightingale
Richard James Allen

The “heat is on” for anyone trying to live the life of an artist in the 21st century.  Competing claims argue for your time and attention, challenge your sense of value and the worthwhileness of what you have dedicated your life to, fight to pull the development of your work off its coherent trajectory.  I keep my “cool” through the practice of yoga, which clears the pathways of the mind and body and allows the chaos of the world’s demands for attention to become a pattern, a dance of being, from which I write.

KB Ballentine’s work appears in River of Earth and Sky: Poems for the Twenty-first Century (2015), Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume VI:  Tennessee (2013) and Southern Light: Twelve Contemporary Southern Poets (2011). Her third collection, What Comes of Waiting, won the 2013 Blue Light Press Book Award.

KB Ballentine

I teach high school theatre and we had our first dress rehearsal for Peter Pan. I run it just like the show, without interrupting or helping. During the set changes, it was taking them too long to move. I sat (im)patiently during the first two scenes, sweating them out, and finally helped move set pieces without saying anything. It was not a good rehearsal, but it was an excellent production (finally).


Jennifer Rieger is a writer and teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She holds a BA in English, an MA in Literature, and is currently finishing her MFA with a concentration in poetry and creative nonfiction. When not revising, grading, or chaperoning high school events, Jennifer enjoys loving the hell out of the beautiful people in her life.

A blank page is daunting. It’s the writer’s crux of hope and anxiety. We analyze, we ponder, we stare at blank walls, and open countless bottles of wine—anything to invoke the muse that saves us from ourselves. But in the end, my advanced degree in procrastination pulls through, and I’m whole again.


Cary Tennis, prior to his role as advice columnist for’s “Since You Asked,” was a journalist, spoken-word performer, and musician. He studied English Literature at the University of Miami and Creative Writing at San Francisco State. With his wife, Norma, he now lives 90 kilometers south of Florence in Castiglion Fiorentino where he writes, in addition to holding writing workshops around the world. Tennis’ book, Finishing School: The Happy Ending to that Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done, co-written with Danelle Morton, will be published later this year by Penguin/Tarcher.


Cary Tennis

When I was a longhaired hippie in Florida, I was driving across the state in my Volkswagen bug. I had some marijuana in the pocket of a jacket in the back seat. When a Highway Patrol dude pulled me over and asked if he could search the car, I said OK, as I knew he would anyway. As he leaned in to the back seat, I casually picked up my jacket, as if to reveal what was underneath, when the real prize was in the pocket. Escaped getting busted. Kept my cool. Stayed out of jail.

Christobel Kent – The Loving Husband. 

Former contributor Christobel Kent (Issue 3 Winter 2014) is currently finishing edits on her new novel, a psychological thriller, The Loving Husband, which will be out in spring 2016.

The novel is set in the bleak Fenland landscape north-east of Cambridge: place of black soil, drainage ditches, and a wide empty horizon where Fran Hall, the mother of small children and living in a remote farmhouse on the edge of the Fens, wakes in the night to find the bed beside her empty and her husband Nathan gone. When she leaves the house to search for him, she makes a terrible discovery, and as the narrative progresses we begin to understand not only that Nathan may not have been the loving husband Fran needed him to be, but that there is also a great deal we do not know about Fran either.

Next up from Christobel: the 6th thrilling installment (possibly the final one) of her series set in Florence with detective Sandro Cellini on the case…

Contributor News – Elizabeth Logan Harris

Past Sigh Press contributor, Elizabeth Logan Harris (Summer 2014, Issue 1), is announcing a double-feature benefit at BAM of the documentary films about New York’s Rockaway Bungalows:

The Bungalows of Rockaway chronicles the rise of Rockaway as a working-class resort from the early 20th Century through post WWII.

Everything is Different Now tells the compelling story of Rockaway’s continuing recovery from Superstorm Sandy.

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The Return by Katie Rashid

The posters continued every 100 meters. They were Hezbollah fighters. Each pair of sharp, rounded eyes held the conflict of Lebanon’s south.

The barricade. The portal. A handsome twenty-something guard joking with the driver in front of us. A quick tap of his hand on their car and it sped off. He then turned toward our driver, still grinning. The car fell silent. The dark circles and his gray complexion proved he lacked both sleep and sunshine. A blink of his eye, a quick turn of his head from the front seat to the back, and my stomach was in my throat. His smile, already fleeting, evaporated.Our driver shifted nervously and, voice slightly shaking, muttered something hastily in Arabic. But the guard just stared through the back window at my brother. I wasn’t intimidating to him but my brother was. We needed a Lebanese passport or a permit, we had neither. The guard stood fast.

Our driver continued blabbering. I understood only a word—an important one—my family name, “Rashid.” At this, the guard seemed willing to hear him out. He gave us all one last doubtful glance-over, stepped back from the car, and motioned us through.

We were in.

The Never-Before-Mentioned-Problem By Emily Byrd

Something odd: when Zoloft expires, it starts to smell like lunchmeat.

I noticed this when it forcefully shot into my left nostril.

It was forcefully shot into my left nostril when the man standing next to me pressed his hand on a bench, revealing a loose board which flew up unexpectedly in my direction, causing the bicep of my right arm to gracelessly contract in surprise, sending the aforementioned pill from hand into nostril.

This caused me to take a step backward as my face recoiled from the assault. Said step caused me to plant my pair of stilettos into the soft turf on the edge of the sidewalk. This sudden stop made me wave my arms in an attempt to regain balance. Balance was not regained. Said shoe parted ways with its heel, which continued to puncture the ground.

I stumbled onto aforementioned catalyst-of-this-problem bench, wrenching the board free from the other side, which slapped the hand of real-catalyst-of-this-problem man.

The Zoloft tumbled free.

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