Giovanna Riccio was born in a picturesque village in Calabria, Italy, and immigrated to Canada with her mother, Vittoria, and two siblings when she was six years old. They were part of the post-war transatlantic migration undertaken to seek otherwise non-existent opportunity for their children. Giovanna was renamed “Joan” by Toronto’s educational system, grew up in an Anglo-Saxon neighbourhood and attended schools where her ethnicity and class underscored difference, but where she also shared the spotlight of academic and creative success. Her earliest associations with poetry, artful language, storytelling, and audience were gifts from her father, Vito, who embodied the power and prestige a golden tongue can bestow on a person. An artist manqué inspired by innate intelligence and curiosity, he opted to be an autodidact, basement sculptor, and headstrong poet.
“Joan” lived for decades as a self-rejecting Italian. But literature led her to un-name this imposed (un)self and reclaim Giovanna, so every introduction and signature would declare her Mediterranean roots. Now, Giovanna wonders if she may be living her father’s unlived life. A graduate in philosophy from the University of Toronto, she is the author of the chapbook Vittorio (Lyricalmyrical, 2010) and Strong Bread (Quattro Books, 2011) which was shortlisted for The Relit Award and selected for the Canadian Poetry syllabus at the University of Toronto. Her poems and other writings have appeared in numerous anthologies, the most recent being Heartwood: For the Love of Trees (League of Canadian Poets, 2018) and A Filo Doppio, (Donzelli editore, Rome, 2017) which includes Italian translations of her work. Her poems have appeared in magazines, newspapers and journals, including Soglie (University of Pisa), CV2, Descant, The Puritan, The Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Voices in Italian-Americana (U.S.) and The Ocean State Review (U.S.). Giovanna continues to lecture, offer writing workshops and collaborate on poetry translations. Her poems have been translated into Italian, French, Spanish and Romanian. She has done readings at national and international events including Blue Met, Slovenia’s Days of Poetry and Wine Festival, The Edinburgh Fringe, Seamus Heaney Homeplace and the University of Calabria at Cosenza.