Despite the "Book Party" sign on the iron gate outside, this is not a party; this is a literary exchange across time and space. That's what the host of the launch party for The Dragonfly, a translated volume of poems by Italian poet Amelia Rosselli, tells us from a softly lit platform in the basement of the venerable Shafer Baillie Mansion on Capitol Hill.
The "across time" bit has certainly been achieved: Guests are directed through the plushly carpeted lobby and down a dim staircase to the "speakeasy," which is what they call the basement at Shafer Baillie Mansion. Disappointingly, there is no password or secret knock, and there isn't any bootleg liquor, but there is a man behind the bar who offers us a "strange" pinot grigio and some cheesecake. A woman who identifies herself as "The Innkeeper" (a good code name if I ever heard one) welcomes us and implores us to please avoid trampling her hydrangeas in the unlikely event of a fire. Luckily, literary exchanges that transcend time and space aren't usually flammable.
The host, who is one of the book's translators, explains the intricacies of a familiar Italian hand gesture (fingertips of one hand touching and thrust emphatically forward, paired with a distinctive squint and curl of the lip) and reads a few poems in Italian and English. Three other poets read from The Dragonfly and their own work, but the fourth is a no-show and thus considerably less impressive than the others.
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