Ricordando Vincenzo Ancona

Joey Skee (February 23, 2010)
Poet, visual artist, raconteur, singer, immigrant laborer, friend.

Today is the tenth anniversary of Vincenzo Ancona’s death and I miss him tremendously. He was a man I met in 1979 as the “subject” of my nascent research on Italian-American folklore and folklife, but who became more than just an “ethnographic informant.” 

We collaborated in the documentation and presentation of his Sicilian-language poetry and his wire tableaux in a published article, a book, and several exhibitions. The links below lead to various representations of his work. (His self-professed masterpiece, “St. George and the Dragon” is now in the permanent collection of the Fenimore Art Museum, Cooperstown, New York.) He helped my fledgling career more than I impacted his life.

That he shared parts of his life and his artistry with me is a gift I will always treasure. I visited him frequently in the basement kitchen of his Gravesend, Brooklyn home. I knew his late wife, Virginia, his children, his grandchildren, and even his great-grand children. My wife and I stayed with him in Castellammare del Golfo (Trapani province) during our 1985 trip and he showed us Scopello where he set off for the tonnara, or tuna fishing. I still have the olive branch basket he wove during our stay in Sicily.  

On the tenth anniversary of his death, Arba Sicula is republishing Vincenzo’s bilingual collection, Malidittu la lingua/Damned Language (1990), that Anna L. Chairetakis (now Anna Lomax Wood) and I edited. The book will contain a CD of Vincenzo reciting his poetry. In addition, my article “Locating Memory: Longing, Place, and Autobiography in Vincenzo Ancona’s Sicilian Poetry” will appear this year in the book Italian Folk: Vernacular Culture in Italian-American Lives (Fordham University Press). Vincenzo Ancona lives on through the many gifts he left us.