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May 21, 2009

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Daughter’s murder inspires local mom to write best-selling, honored book of poetry

Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno

After earning a rave review in the April 12 issue of the New York Times by critic David Kirby, Chestnut Hill area poet Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno’s recently published book, Slamming Open the Door, shot to number 15 in overall poetry sales in the U.S., according to amazon.com (just below Robert Frost and John Updike, pretty impressive company).

And if that were not enough, the book also won the coveted Beatrice Hawley Award (this poetry contest is open to emerging and established poets residing in the U.S.; requirements for entrants are that the submitted work for the contest be an unpublished, book-length work of poetry), and two of its poems been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. (This is a prestigious American literary prize by Pushcart Press that honors the best “poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot” published in the small presses over the previous year.) The first poem in the book, “Death Barged In,” was selected by the Academy of American Poets as their “poem for the day” on April 15 (which was sent to thousands of readers and poets across the country).

Ordinarily, such acclaim for a relatively unknown writer would be cause for unrestrained celebration and rejoicing, but in this case there were tragically mixed emotions. That’s because Slamming Open the Door would have never been written except for the fact that Bonanno’s beautiful, bright daughter, Leidy (pronounced “Lady”), 21, who had graduated from Jenks Elementary School and Bishop McDevitt High School, was murdered July 7, 2003, by a deranged young man with whom she had broken off a relationship. Virtually every poem in the book deals with some aspect of the murder and its aftermath.



Are misdeeds still part of your ‘Permanent Record?’

Back when small towns had this idyllic look was when the authorities started recording all of Janet Gilmore’s many missteps in her “Permanent Record.” Apparently, Janet’s Permanent Record is still kept in a giant silo somewhere in the Great Plains (which proves the Great Plains are not really all that great).

When I began teaching in 1969, some of the talk in the faculty room concerned the up-coming Moratorium Day — October 15 — to protest the war in Vietnam. The faculty was split in an odd way on the war. Older teachers supported it; younger teachers mostly opposed but quietly. The rumor was that you could be fired for your political views in those days. I had planned to take Moratorium Day off.

“I’m not taking off,” said a young teacher. “I can’t afford to be fired.”

“Yeah, if you take the day off, they can fire you…”said another.

“Fired?” I asked. “For what?”

“For taking the day off.”

“But we’re entitled to two personal leave days a year; right?”


Compelling story by Disney stand-ins in ‘Intangible’

What constitutes creative genius? That’s one of the central questions in Bruce Graham’s Something Intangible, which is getting a fine world premiere production at the Arden Theatre through June 7. Another of the play’s issues is the relationship between creativity and commerce — at what point does it become necessary to say that brilliance simply costs too much?



A Gee-rated fare to remember Girasole: great culinary music at new Symphony House

Owner Franco Iovino and his daughter, Michele, run the one-month-old Girasole at 1410 Pine St., a part of the spectacular new Symphony House Condominium complex. Its $35 prix fixe dinner has been a huge hit with theatergoers. (Photos by Len Lear)

John Mariani of Esquire magazine, one of the nation’s most highly respected food critics, said recently that while Philadelphia is a great restaurant city, the one thing most lacking in our restaurant scene is “more good Italian restaurants.”

My first reaction was, “Sure, just like Beijing needs more Chinese restaurants.” After all, it appears sometimes as if City Council secretly passed a law several years ago requiring every block in South Philly to have at least one Italian restaurant, and for years Italian restaurants have also been opening in center city faster than I can write their names down.

But it turns out what Mariani meant was that we need more good mid-priced Italian restaurants that fit between the expensive icons like Vetri, Osteria, La Buca, La Famiglia and Le Castagne and the downscale staples like Ralph’s, Modo Mio and Vinny T’s.

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