Today's book of poetry:
THEME OF FAREWELL AND AFTER - POEMS
Milo De Angelis. Edited and translated by Susan Stewart & Patrizio Ceccagnoli. The University of Chicago Press. Chicago & London. 2013.
These tight translations reveal Milo De Angelis, one of Italy's most important living poets, in splendid and somewhat sadly melancholy splendor. Susan Stewart and Patrizio Ceccagnoli, the translators, have found that elegant space between languages where syntax and sensibility are shared. There is nothing foreign about this voice.
V. Hotel Artaud
You greet me, you put your bra back on, you feel
you can lose the terrestrial code, demolish
the nucleus, collapse into darkness. You go toward the shower.
You remind me of a top score in a gymnastics exercise,
the skin's Spring, a perfect diagonal.
You take a hairpin out of the nightmare, you fix
your hair, put on the shower cap, you ask only
to be spared.
Here we stand, separated by our gestures. You block
the flow of seconds with a groan. We compose
the old rhyme and right away we fall down. The walls
stay there, stained with mascara.
Dawn's angel looks at you, naked and taciturn.
The key flickers in the breath. Every door,
every lightbulb, every splash of the shower they say
that the alliance has split apart.
You stand up and dive, you want to swallow life
and you summon the moon's flower, the great
obscure hosanna that gives every pleasure
to lovers. You summon the unison of bodies
and the spark, reawakened, the blood in turmoil,
the shoulders in the absolute. Outside signs of diesel oil,
suspension cables, pieces of requiem. You feel the menace
until the screeching of the sheets. You ask me
if they will come here, if we still will be able to save ourselves.
In the final feats of strength, in the tender lips
in the impulse that doesn't turn into speech, you look for yourself
and you devour yourself, you rise to the surface, scratch, cling
crying that this is the eternal good, that the stars
catch fire on the forehead, that we'll remain
here forever. I answer that every dwelling
recedes from those who live in it, that this is our
Divine and absent-minded, carried along by a soft breeze,
you lie down, fiddle with the sheets, you pretend,
whisper, pull faces, repeat that the night
is enchanting in Brera. Every silence is dispelled,
everything speaks a language of lace and melodrama,
a cunning spell, a solo that ends
at the hot pants' hem.
We took one another down, breathless and circumspect faces,
above a floor tile, measuring the breath,
checking the fingerprints, kissing
the surrendering throat, the kneepads
of a judo match, the kimono, the defeated shoulders, the sound
of the forgotten moment, the certainty of having
made a mistake in the translation.
When on a beloved face you catch a glimpse of the sign
of too many seasons and a vein, much too dark,
stretches out into the room, when life's
cuts well up, a host of them, and the blood slows
inside the wrists that we've held tight until dawn,
it's not only there that the swelling current
stops, then it is night, it is night on every face
we have loved.
These poems are sad business as De Angelis writes through the loss of his wife, writer Giovanna Sicari, with insight and tenderness.
How does one fight an unvanquishable foe? How to face loss, live with it. Milo De Angelis takes us swimming in this deep, turbulent water.
II. The Siege's Ending
This was how it started, between the ruins
and the wheel of fortune.
Love was silent as a conspiracy
no one could tell if life was immense
or nothing, if time was flooding
beyond the hills or if a revered
god blocked the growth of any gesture or blocked
the blackberries' sweetness at the lips.
Night leaves the hands,
the irresistible space spreads like wildfire, the space
that seemed to surround
this sheet of paper. The piazza shifts.
There is no circle showing where to stop, no full
name to be chanted on the lips. The apple
gets mixed up with time. Every sentence
turns into a lost line, sign of a time.
precisely. Life, with its
lost pivot, floats vaguely
along the streets, thinking
of all the love that's been promised.
What does it expect from me? Where
is the heartbeat of the forsaken? Is this
the mysterious destination of all
Home turns away
from the house, everything
is surrendered to the obvious
end, everything has fled...
...but the syllable
that gripped the throat
The motif of the great awakening tolls
in the voice of the taxi driver trolling the avenues
of Milan, judgment's circle,
all the work of front doors that seemed so lost, all
the blood's collapsing; you were alone
in the forsaken bodies' confusion
I was where you were not looking,
in the secret clamor where they return.
The barrette is still here,
near the temples. Everything has been
what it has been,
the silence on the pillow
echoes this. We ask for
a year of complete light, a flight
that traces on high
the same earthly scene. But nothing
is nothing and the thorns are always
pricking into us more deeply.
Thus they return and feel
a long lightless kiss, a muteness
that follows a pulse,
they escape from that room
into the streets' terror
with an invisible face, and a torn one,
they leave no trace as they go back
into this bar in Affori, where I wait for them
with one foot in the void.
I couldn't get it
I still don't
if the goal posts' highest corner
is wood or legend
if kisses are cold
in my poetry or in the first glimpse
of the sealed lips,
if love passes soundless
among naked bodies
that no shade is protecting.
But then that blocked anxiety
found her lips. Everything
was inside the words
carried one at a time.
Carried to those who wait,
Only to them, in the bottleneck
of the scream. It was the bread that
stirs itself in the blood. It was the same
syllable that calls us
from the subways, lost
of big eyes without eyelashes.
The infinite appears in the little,
like the last note of a cry
as it fades away. The moment chases us.
What did I love? Maybe that air,
two centimeters, between the vaulting body and
the high bar that illuminates every applause. Or that
invisible breath over the mast
where it smiles girlishly and has no limit.
And those injured in an ancient race
who found in this bar
an inner music. Then it was enough. Then
a word that presents itself,
the interminable word, passed.
That's how it is. The memory
of a man was only this
handful of syllables. Only they
come back fr
om the wine cellars
where they live rent-free
and well-timed, they are
thrown beyond the rocks, they whisper
astonished words, they are a flapping
of wings, reaching forward, faithful
to a secret order. Now you
must do the translation.
Milo De Angelis' Theme of Farewell and After - Poems is an elegy, an eulogy and an elegant love letter. Milan has never been so beautifully sad.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Born in 1951, Milo De Angelis is the author of eight collections of poetry and two volumes of essays and is the translator of numerous works of European philosophy and criticism.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATORS
Susan Stewart is a poet and the Avalon Foundation University Professor in the Humanities at Princeton University. Her most recent books are Red Rover and The Poet's Freedom, both published by the University of Chicago Press.
Patrizio Ceccagnoli teaches Italian at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
"Milo De Angelis is surely among the most important Italian poets of our day, and this supple and subtle translation of his two most recent books is a gratifying event. These are poems of dense abstraction and rugged lyricism, and they come to life in grief, amid the asphalt of the poet's native city, Milan. Susan Stewart and Patrizio Ceccagnoli have done a terrific job of bringing them to America."
Geoffrey Brock, Editor of The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry
"This careful work by Susan Stewart and Patrizio Ceccagnoli is the most capacious English rendering so far of this major contemporary Italian poet. One is able to follow the poetic and spiritual journey of Milo De Angelis as revealed in his passage from a gently eloquent tone to a more urgent language (perhaps precipitated by a lacerating personal loss). To be sure, the poet remains faithful to his distinguished elaboration of the post-symbolist heritage, such as the phrase repetitions with an emotional tinge, certain softly surreal images ('And you will fly across the courtyard / while someone you don't know leans / from the balcony with asphalt in his hands'), and well-rounded, quotable lines placed at strategic points ('in the secret clamor where they return'). But in the poetic development documented by this important volume, the Milanese poet—exploring his particular city-within-the-city-enters more and more deeply into a courageous exploration of self and past, resulting in a new opening to the world."
Paolo Valesio, Columbia University
Un Nome Della Via/A Street Name - Milo De Angelis
(video by Dedaluspoem)