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laura brylawski miller

Laura Brylawski-Miller

medusas-smile1Laura Brylawski-Miller, who was born and grew up in Italy, holds an undergraduate degree in medicine and received an MFA in Creative Writing from American University. She has worked as medusas-smilea Surgical Physician’s Assistant, and has published several essays and medical articles. Her work, notable for its elegance and psychological acuity, includes two poetry collections published by WWPH, The Snow on Lake Como and The Square at Vigevano. Miller lives in Arlington, VA and travels frequently between the United States and Italy.

Summary of Medusa’s Smile

Marina Renier Anderson on the collapse of her marriage, returns to Venice, her native city, to try to come to terms with something that happened there when she was seventeen. On a vacation at the Venice Lido, she was befriended by two adolescents, brother and sister, and through them introduced to a glamorous world of wealth and movie stars. It is a seduction of the mind more than of the senses, that would bring her to misjudge everything around her and make her the unwitting catalyst to a tragedy. The story moves between the present winter in Venice and that distant summer. And behind the story is Venice, the city of masks and illusions, in all her misery and glory. In the end, Marina will come to realize that the past cannot be amended or forgotten, but simply accepted.

Excerpt from Medusa’s Smile

ALL NIGHT, under my window, I can hear the gondoliers talk. I don’t distinguish words, only a soft murmur, the seductive, liquid sound of Venetian dialect, that glides over consonants, smooths or elides them, half caress, half mockery of the original Italian. How appropriate, I find myself thinking, that Venice’s mask should be Harlequin. Harlequin, the beguiling rogue, charmer and thief, with his rainbow suit-glamorized tatters, really-and his black mask. A man of many colors, elusive and faceless.


Poem from The Snow on Lake Como

September Morning at the Lido

One thinks of course of Thomas Mann
and the boy, not so much the dated
one of the book (that sailor’s suit,
the poor teeth) but rather the epicene
ephebus of the movie as he stood here
scuffing the sand, glancing back
at ruined middle age with calm
unfeeling eyes, in a September morning
such as this, where sand, water and sky
become one clarity, as if the sinking city,
washed by the sea , were re-emerging here
in pale primordial light, a new
third day, but scaled down, human.


Summary of The Square at Vigevano

Against the background of northern Italy, a long-standing friendship between an American scholar and an Italian aristocrat is tested by the presence of an elusive, fascinating girl and her violent past. In the span of a hunting weekend in the fog of rice-field country, the shadow of terrorism, old and new, brings the characters to question the limits of love and friendship, and reveal the human capacity for self-deception.

Review of The Square at Vigevano

The Square at Vigevano is a splendidly crafted novel. Suspense hangs in the northern Italian torrents of autumn rain and mud, in the fog over the rice fields of Lombardy; something will surely happen.

Andrew Fielding, a distinguished professor at Georgetown, comes to Milan on sabbatical, to research his next book, on Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first duke of Milan. lie goes to a party in the Sismondi Palace, the Visconti family home of a favorite student in Washington long ago, count Torre Visconti: fun loving, hell raising, serious and brilliant.

How smoothly the story rolls with the invitation to hunt in the atmo­spheric Visconti country, the cold, the fires, the wonderful old house, the trip to buy truffles, and the day in the 15th-century Vigevano Square. Political disturbances, assassins past and present, are central to the story, played out by Torre, the strangely disturbing Ala, 19 years old and very beautiful, who is Torre’s “ward,“ and Andrew, dealing with the pain of finding himself a Dante ignavi, fence sitter to the drama.

What keeps the novel from overboarding into gothic melodrama is the authenticity of voice and place, and control of the plot and its outcome. ltalian raised, Brylawski-Miller is, like Ritchie, a fine poet whose mastery of language lends beauty to her descriptions of landscape, and personality to all of her characters, including Beppo and Giulia who run the household—even Argo, the dog, and Annibale, the cat, have distinct personas. You are, in short, introduced to a world you will never inhabit, but find fascinating.
-The Potomac Reader


eviews of Medusa’s Smile

A masterful novel, with a telling sense of place woven into a story of emotional depth. The tale takes hold at the start and moves readily through past and present to keep up its pace throughout. Bravo. The Medusa’s Smile deserves wide readership.
—Eli Flam, cultural arts reviewer, Editor Emeritus, Potomac Review

Reviews of The Snow on Lake Como

For several years I have looked forward to a collection of Laura Brylawski-Miller’s wonderful poems. Her vision— both inner and outer—is exact, and she renders what she sees with a fine precision and a fine avoidance of fixity. Her world moves, in ‘words like water in the sun.’
—Henry S. Taylor

Laura Brylawski-Miller’s poems evoke a world of privilege and continental beaches, a world which is strange to me. What I admire most is the startling invention, coming from a great solid richness, strangely got. What I like next is a function of that invention: brilliant images and a hard, formal elegance bristling with passion just checked. Everywhere there is evidence of a large, scary intelligence.
—Roland Flint, And Morning; Easy;Maryland Poet Laureate

Review of The Square at Vigevano

The interplay between Andrew, Torre and Ala is very good, very real. All three main characters are full and alive. I felt as if I were in the landscape with them, smelling the mud and leaves, hearing the birds. The story moves well and the end is satisfying, leaving me wanting more, longing to see how things will turn out in the future, which is a good thing for a story to do.
-Kevin West, judge of contest which selected manuscript for publication.

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