Professor Emerita Frances Mayes: 'When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Limoncello'

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
THE FLORENTINE (FLORENCE, ITALY) -- Frances Mayes usually spends her springs in Cortona, at her famous Bramasole, the villa that is at the center of her bestselling book “Under the Tuscan Sun” and the dream it represents. Due to travel restrictions, of course, this spring is different: she’s at her home in North Carolina, where she says “when life gives you lemons, make limoncello, so I’m trying to reproduce my Cortona vegetable garden out here. But I’m missing Italy every day, and I can't wait to get back.” You used to teach poetry at San Francisco State University. Have you ever thought about writing a book of poems about Italy? “Something weird happened to me when I moved to Italy. I had written seven books of poetry, and my whole teaching career was founded on teaching poetry. But when I got to Italy I started keeping this blue notebook, and I found that I was filling up the pages, and my lines didn't want to break,” Mayes said. “I suddenly realized: ‘I’m writing prose. What’s happening?’ Long story short, I started writing prose and I’ve never gone back to writing poetry. My husband’s a poet; he lives and breathes it. We read poetry all the time; I just don’t know how to write it anymore. Some rhythm in your brain controls your writing, and I don’t think you always have a say in how those rhythms change.”