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Review by -- CINDY WAXER


Poet and singer-songwriter Joseph Maviglia's collection of poems will make you scratch your head in contemplation of men who are stereotypically known for their street machismo. A God Hangs Upside Down, Maviglia's first full-length collection, dignifies the immigrant Italian construction worker and renders his catcalls "cantos". Maviglia, drawing from his own experiences as a construction worker, poeticizes the passion, determination and struggle experienced by the men who built North America's cities and contributed greatly to its cultural mosaic.


Discarding the overalls of Stompin' Tom Connors and Rita MacNeil, Maviglia's poetry encompasses more than the blue-collar, working-class mythology found in university courses on socialism and union anthems. His reflective narrative paints a portrait of a Calabrian family torn between preserving its Italian heritage and fostering a Canadian identity. Maviglia's poetry illustrates how the tension between these two poles permeates the relationship between husband and wife, father and son, employer and employee, and individual and community.


Yet what makes A God Hangs Upside Down distinctly Italian is its historical references to Mussolini and Salvatore Giuliano (a 20th-century brigand), its literary references to poet Cesare Pavese, who was detained by Fascists, and its cultural references to Calabrian oral poetry and tarantellas. Yet Maviglia's aim is not to alienate non-Italian readers, but to integrate readers from various backgrounds in the common human experience of struggle, alienation and pursuit of identity. Similarly, Maviglia's new album Memory To Steel, with its blend of Calabrian rhythm, TexMex, bluegrass and Cajun, is a hybrid of musical influences all complementing lyrics sung in a distinctly Calabrian dialect.


As a poet, Maviglia has taken on the challenging task of depicting the immigrant Italian experience for English speakers without forsaking the authenticity of Italian culture, history and language. In turn, Maviglia's poetry challenges the reader to acknowledge the sacrifices that all our ancestors made to pave the paths upon which we now journey freely. 

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