XII: Sicilian School

Finally got off my lazy arse & left Marettimo – tho’ not before catching my first (& only) calamari. I am now a killer, a taker of life, & a place has been reserved for me in Hell. Saying all that, it was pretty damn tasty. I shared it with Glenda & half her family, including her dad, who had turned up in Sicily for the week. It’s been great fun & Jock (her dad) hired a car to sweep us across Sicily. But before I met them, choppy seas had forced them to spend a night on Favignana. Back in Marettimo I had completely ran out of funds & my shoes were proper fucked. The boats weren’t running the next morning either, & panic began to ensue. However, in the afternoon, I climbed a hill, looked out across the waters & saw the familiar shape of the hydrofoil streaking through the mist towards us. Me & Frodo met them at the harbour & we had great fun showing them all the cool spots my two month meanderings had discovered. A couple of days later, after an emotional farewell to my Frodo at the harbour, we left Marettimo & drove along the gorgeous coast.

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Dining at delightful Cefalu, I could see the ghostly heaps that are the Aeolian Islands – a very inviting archipelago & one for my next visit to Sicily. We had a meal in Cefalu, washed by the waves, with the mountains of Palermo in the misty distance & a huge outcrop of castle-cropped rock above us. Back on the road we began to rise & rise, up many a twisting road, with the sun setting all the time. Suddenly, with the last vestiges of the dusk, Glenda’s sister pointed out a shape – it was difficult to tell at first, but suddenly I said – that’s not a cloud, its snow – & Aetna was glowering before us. We took rooms in a town called Linguaglossa & next day attempted the ascent. This was helped thoroughly by the car which drove us through a series of lava flows – one as recent as 2002 – which are amazing to see; dark rocky rivers punctuated by the odd sapling.

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It was far too cold & snowy to attempt a climb to the smoking crater at the top, so we contented ourselves with a walk around the Sartorian hills, seven cinder-cones which formed the crater of a nineteenth century eruption. From there we took a drive to see one of the oldest trees in the world, a Horse Chestnut that seem’d more like a number of different trees all in a circle; but amazingly they share the same root system. This tree apparently gave a hundred horses shelter in a storm – hence its name, the Chestnut of a Hundred Horses! Back in Linguaglossa I found myself having my fourth night in a row very drunk indeed – this was my first holiday with the Scots & I was struggling to keep pace.

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The next morning was very lovely & we drove around the volcano, then through lush hinterland to Enna, perched 1000m on a hill. This is the geographical centre of Sicily & the views are stunning, including the still gargantuan Etna peeping out of the clouds. In Enna is the Castello Lombardo, dominating the town & the strategic centre-piece of Sicily, It was built by Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor & Stupor Mundi (Wonder of the World) at whose court the Sonnet form first flourished. This Sicilian School went on to inspire Dante & his Tuscan School, who would continue the work done by poets such as De Lentini & perfect the sonnet, reaching its early peak with the love sonnets of Petrarch to his Laura. This form consists of an octave, then an invisible turn where the poem shifts angle, followed by a concluding sestet. From the Italians the sonnet form came to England through poets such as the Earl of Surrey, where the English form developed. This consisted of three quatrains & a concluding couplet – the Shakespearian quatrains rhyming abab & the Spenserian quatrains abba. These forms have remained the staple until recent years, when myself & other poets have push’d the sonnet forward to encapsulate many other poetic forms. I told all this to Jock & co. as we shared our last tasty meal together a few hours ago, & now we have just dropped off them all off back at the airport. Since then we have driven the hire car into the mayhem of Palermo traffic in order to spend the night here in a very ornate hotel, the sensations of city-life once again filling our senses. Beep-beep-fuckin-beep!

Palermo

26 / 01 / 16

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