One House Down
by Gianna Russo
978-1-948692-20-5 paper 16.95
978-1-948692-21-2 ebook 9.99
6×9, 72 pp.
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Available as an ebook at Kobo.
The candid poems in Gianna Russo’s One House Down are grounded in experiences of ambivalence and oneness, not unlike those we sometimes find in true love. Russo ruminates on the past and scrutinizes the present in her hometown of Tampa with honest affection, concern, anger and delight. She asks an essential question: How can we treasure a place whose history and values have sometimes supported injustice? And if those wrongs are still evident today—then what? With family roots in Tampa that go back over a century, Russo skillfully pursues an answer in these inventive, surprising poems.
“…happiness is a snow globe, our house glued inside…: This is what I feel when reading One House Down, this fantasy in verse, this beauty contained in sprawling lines and stanzas. Each poem, a song. Each song, a swoon. Russo’s newest collection is both a love song and an indictment of a place she knows so well, a Florida without palms and sun, a Florida that is grit, a Florida that represents our world-one which breaks the heart and heals it in the same beat.
—Ira Sukrungruang, author of In Thailand It Is Night
One House Down is filled with story-poems from the unsung American South, where natural beauty butts up against strip malls and human ugliness. Tracing her family’s history in Tampa, a city many readers will be surprised to visit, Russo documents with terrific detail a diverse and fascinating culture in this original exploration of a very particular place.
—Heather Sellers, author of You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know:
a True Story of Family, Face-Blindness and Forgiveness
Get ready. You’ve read the tour-de-force of an opening sentence, a poem hurdling you into the world of One House Down. Now watch Gianna Russo illuminate histories so electric and elegiac, and shadows of shame so persistent, they’re writ in our bones. Yes, this is a book very much about place; but, more importantly, this wonderful collection examines the emotional spaces we occupy as we strive for satisfaction, safety, and meaning. As Russo writes, “Flash at sunset like the luck I never spied.”
—Erica Dawson, author of When Rap Spoke Straight to God
From front porches to the places where we live, work, and love, to the highways that lead us both out of the city and back home again, One House Down takes us on a precise and lovingly rendered tour of the rhythms, movements, and loves of a city and its people. Gianna Russo’s poems, expansive yet intimate, make a case that perhaps poetry, rather than the evening news, is the true first draft of our collective history.
—Steve Kistulentz, author of Panorama and Little Black Daydream
When it comes to one’s place of origin, the tides are strong—the pull to hold on, and the push to let go. In this luminous, thoughtful collection, Gianna Russo explores the bittersweet legacies of old Florida. One House Down is rooted rooted deeply in place, whether Nebraska Avenue and Central Avenue, cultural seats such as the Fun-Lan Drive-In and the Sanwa market, or the ripe specificity of “Faedo’s Bakery [as] men roll loaves / of Cuban bread, turnovers of guava paste.” I appreciate Russo’s musicality and her formal agility, as she experiments with ekphrasis, ghazal, pantoum, and pecha kucha. Whether the stubborn advice of the Methodist Women’s Society Cookbook, or the dark chuckle of a plaster cat on a funeral home’s roof, these are poems we need.
—Sandra Beasley, author of Count the Waves
Gianna Russo’s poetry captures life in her Tampa neighborhood, and perhaps neighborhoods everywhere, in all its glory and horror—it’s where good people and bad people love and hate, eat bacon and eggs, die by gunshot, listen to the rattle of swaying palms and the cries of night birds. Folks sweat and bleed, cry and laugh. I don’t think a story of a neighborhood has ever been told so well. I am grateful for this wonderful work.
—Jeff Klinkenberg, author of Son of Real Florida: Stories from my Life
and recipient of the Florida Humanities Council Lifetime Achievement
Award for Writing
Gianna Russo’s One House Down shows a poet of true lyricism and storytelling gifts and remarkable range. A Tampa, Florida native, Russo explores being Southern and Italian. She digs out the “other” side of Tampa, the part once chic and that then took a fall to the tawdry. She combines a pastoral “[lying]down into daisy light” with the urban realism of “Pay-Day loans and pawnshops.” With elegance, Russo smashes up days past when “Tampa was a 45 record” against “the new interstate” which carved up the old neighborhoods. She reminisces about streets where on one end was “white trash” and on the other end Italians. A childhood presses up against sexuality, racism, hurricanes, and the sumptuous imagery of an almost lost Florida west coast. She embraces all of it with grief, grit, guile and tenderness.
—Mary Jane Ryals, Poet Laureate of the Big Bend of Florida
and author of Cookie and Me
Gianna Russo creates a feast for the senses in her gorgeously rich collection, One House Down. The book begins with a neighborhood’s midnight peace shattered by a lovers’ quarrel, then careens thrillingly though the jasmine and magnolia-scented streets of Tampa, Florida with dissonant echoes of cigar rollers and Jim Crow, Gasparilla queens and school shooter training. It’s all here: the cool terrazzo floors and cherry martinis alongside okra and banana blossom, motel roach powder, and cops folding women like burritos into their squad cars. Russo lures us into a world both lush and concrete, her truths as insistent as the thudding bass in a passing car.
—Susan Lilley, First Poet Laureate of Orlando, Florida
and author of Venus in Retrograde.
Waltzing alone on one page, doing the cha-cha with a partner on another, Gianna Russo tangoes from corner to corner, crossing the unreachable-reach, a darkened ballroom. Twisting and turning, this poet’s words turn the lightson, casting honest daylight upon the nightmares of our times. One House Down tells a her-story in compelling rhythms, dramatic compression, but also accommodates the necessary distillation, jazz.
—Earl Sherman Braggs, author of Negro Side of the Moon
Gianna Russo’s poems in One House Down remind me of searchlights casting about the sordid and beautiful in equal measure. With a keen eye and clear narrative, the voice behind these poems hangs tight to everyday experience, the shadowy spaces reminding us we’re always at “. . . the intersection of heartbreak and wanting more.” There are “hipsters and hookers” in these pages, “grace notes of cicadas” and sudden violence—everywhere the nuance of a question: “What does it take to do good in this world?” These poems are too honest to try to answer this question for us. Instead, looking straight at our human flaws, with warmth and generosity Gianna challenges us to “wake and drive our lives into the answer,” and I’m guessing with all our windows down.
—Helen Wallace, Poet Laureate of Saint Petersburg, Florida and author of Shimming the Glass House’s
Gianna Russo is a Tampa native and third generation Floridian. She is the author of Moonflower, winner of the Florida Book Award Bronze and Florida Publishers Association Silver awards. A Pushcart Prize nominee, she has had publications in Green Mountains Review, The Sun, Poet Lore, The MacGuffin, Tampa Review, Valparaiso, Ekphrasis, Crab Orchard Review, Florida Review, Florida Humanities Council Forum, Water Stone, Karamu, The Bloomsbury Review, and Calyx, among others. She is founding editor of the Florida poetry chapbook publisher YellowJacket Press (www.yellowjacketpress.org). She holds an MFA in Poetry from The University of Tampa. She is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at Saint Leo University where she directs the Sandhill Writers Retreat.