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Between September 28-30th, Miriam will be joining poets from all over the world in this celebration of poetry at Orta San Giulio in the north of Italy. She will sharing her poetry during the itinerant reading in the woods and chapels of Sacro Monte.

For centuries, poets and writers have come together to share and discuss, to connect and learn from each other, to translate and transpose words, and of course to network and enjoy their time with like-minded people. With a name like ‘Poetry on the Lake’ one can’t help but anticipate beautiful surroundings, as well as magical moments of connection and inspiration.

Other poets participating include Dorothy Yamamoto, Elisabeth Rowe, Derek Sellen, Maggie Butt, Mary Anne Smith. Stephanie Green, Scott Elder, Susi Clare, Anne Stewart, Peter Duff, Anne Ballard, Barry Tempest, Jane Burn, Philip Morre, Natalie Whittaker, Sarah Barr, Sean Martin, and Christopher North.

Lake Orta in Orta San Giulio

Images from


Dawn comes slowly at Orta San Giulio. It is rung in by the bells at the monastery on Isola San Giulio at an oddly early hour. The bells ring and echo across the lake in an eerie fashion; everyone stirs in their beds but there are still some hours until they need to get out. It’s still dark and the mist has inhabited the dank corners.

Later, the apartment below starts releasing scents of the next meal. Giovanna is always ready for an extra guest. She never relies on leftovers. She bakes her own bread and dips it in the best olive oil that her son Massimiliano brings her a couple of times a year. He checks in on her twice a week to see to her needs and help tourists check into the apartment above.

Once a year the tourists are poets, here for the festival Poetry on the Lake. They are good guests, quiet, they slip in and out at decent hours. Giovanna doesn’t complain. It’s nice to have company of sorts, even though she never sees their faces, she hears voices in the distance through the shaft.

Lying in bed in that apartment above Giovanna’s I craned my neck every couple of minutes to enjoy the view. I’d been here a few days already, and I still couldn’t get enough of the beautiful, mesmerizing view of Isola. It was surreal, seemingly floating on the smooth lake, houses at the very edge of the land and the monastery’s steeple overseeing it all.


After 3 days at the festival Poetry on the Lake, I feel that I’ve arrived to my people. I’m greeted by smiles and nods, we all listen to each other intently. We pat each other on the back when there are strong emotions; we catch each other’s gaze as if to say ‘I know’. Because what is a poem, if not that? 

Most poets return to this festival time and time again. It feels difficult to leave, so I understand the pull. I hope to attend again.

At POTL you need to be prepared to read out your poetry at any time – and I read 4 times in all. Here’s a recording of my official slot, and some pictures from the festival.

with Jane Burn (winner of the Poetry on the Lake 2018 competition)

The 16th century Palazzotto in Piazza Motta in which most of the festival activities and readings were held

The itinerant readings at Sacro Monte on the last day of the festival

With Zara Preston and Maggie Butt

View of Lake Orta and Isola San Giulio


My collection Pomegranate Heart among the other poets’ books for sale during the festival

Miriam Calleja

Author Miriam Calleja

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