Thursday, February 15, 2018

Send - Domenico Capilongo (Guernica Editions)

Today's book of poetry:
Send.  Domenico Capilongo.  Essential Poets Series 244.  Guernica Editions.  Toronto - Buffalo - Lancaster (U.K.).  2017.

Today's book of poetry knew we'd heard the name Domenico Capilongo before so we sent Milo into the stacks.  As soon as Milo sat Capilongo's first two books down on my desk I remembered.

Domenico Capilongo does plenty in his first book but Today's book of poetry remembered how Capilongo nailed that whole furtive first kiss with his poem "Shera-Lee" from I Thought Elvis Was Italian (Wolsak & Wynn, 2008).  Today's book of poetry remembered thinking that maybe Capilongo was another Len Gasparini character but he soon wrote us out of that illusion.  I Thought Elvis Was Italian was all James Brown hip and e.e. cummings poetic, quoting John Lennon and tipping the old hat to Saint Michael of Ondaatje.  We loved it.

Hold That Note (Quattro Books, 2010) had Louis Armstrong, Theolonious Monk, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane and Tom Waits as angels in the wings.  You just know that Today's book of poetry is going to have a lot of time for that, all the time in the world.

Send is a whole new ball game.  A clean slate.  But Today's book of poetry doesn't own a phone, of any kind.  There is a land-line phone in our office, plugged into the wall.  Today's book of poetry has never sent or received a text.  Domenico Capilongo's Send bursts at the seams with messages that you need to receive.

Contrary to the constantly public display of "texting" by the current POTUS there are texts worth reading, messages worth hearing.  Send is full of them.

Capilongo gives us instant access in his efforts to capture the languages and means we use to communicate. Capilongo catalogues it all from Morse Code to "whistled languages."


all the selfies. all the shame. after all the tex-
ting. all the comments. all the sexting. after
all the nakedness. all the pain. after all the
instagram. all the secret tattoos. after all the
tweeting. all the play-by-play. after all the
facetime. all the snapchat. the skype. after
all the auto-correct email. all the googling
after all.


Marconi and Alexander Graham Bell both put in cameos in Capilongo's efforts to search out every step forward in our haste to communicate faster.  Today's book of poetry suspects that some of these communiques are "found poems" and we can only celebrate Capilongo's keen sense of every methodology.  Domenico Capilongo is an all-in type poet if his first two books are any indication and in Send he invests it all in how we communicate.

Capilongo's sense of humour is abundant in these compellingly readable poems.  Today's book of poetry fears I am out of my depths because I can only think I know what it means when Capilongo titles a poem "Christopher Marlow Pocket Calls William Shakespeare."  The poem itself is hilarious.

kiss me like houdini's wife

straightjacketed and ready to take the plunge
in the dark. his mind racing through steps.
through the math of the weight of water. the
pressure of oxygen in his lungs. the sound
of the eyes of the crowd all around him. the
kiss from his wife. his tongue meets hers.
she slips a key into his mouth. he pushes it
into the corner of his cheek for later. the
crowd takes a breath. kiss me.


Our morning read started a little later than usual today.  It's not snowing in Ottawa for the first time in weeks but there is a misty rain that is falling and coating everything it touches in a lovely coat of ice.  Milo insisted we use all three Capilongo titles for the morning read but agreed we would hammer through Send first. 

Much to Capilongo's credit he happily jumps into concrete poems when he feels the need.  Here Today's book of poetry feels terribly unqualified to comment except to say that in most cases these poems surprised us with the clarity of a particular message, for us they were dead on.  And that is first time Today's book of poetry has ever said that!

During the reading we passed those poems around for everyone to see and then kept on with the rest.

In Capilongo's exhaustive and almost encyclopedic search for examples of how we choose to communicate he never loses sight of the reader, always makes certain they are engaged, Capilongo is communicating in a direct line with us.  The poems in Send got Today's book of poetry on Capilongo's side early.  After that the intriguing entertainment/exploration never let up.

carretto siciliano

in argentina or brazil there are ex-nazi soldiers in their
eighties who still hide in the shadows of trees. who still
wear large hats with sun glasses. they try to speak spanish
or portuguese. they try to walk slowly with knees bent but
you can still see the stiffness in their backs. the harsh ac
cent hanging at the ends of words. these men, in the early
morning, still wonder how the allies managed to take sicily.
     it was one man, a lowly carretto driver, some salvatore
or giuseppe, who came up with the idea. the germans were
everywhere with their checkpoints. no one was safe. they
even looked under hats. it came to him in a dream. the sky
was purple. his carretto flying over palermo like some sicil-
ian santa. his horse turned head back and spoke to him.
     we can send the messages with the horses, he thought
to himself over morning coffee, but how? the germans
even check under the horses' balls. later when he fed his
horse he saw it shove some food in its cheek only to share
it with another horse in the plazza.
     messages were sent in little walnut-sized capsules
from horse-to-horse piazza-to-piazza all across sicily. the
german soldiers often commented about the strange sicil-
ian horses, seltsame kussende pferde. strange kissing horses.
     this sicilian secret is know only to a chosen few. if
you want to know the truth about how this really hap-
pened you will have to go to sicily and ask one of the
horses yourself.


Domenico Capilongo writes solid poetry that you can depend on, every time out.  These are sweet, smart, clever, witty, funny, incisive poems that will re-wire your future communication.  All Today's book of poetry can say to Mr. Capilongo is thank you.

It's usually three strikes and you are out in almost every league.  What does it mean when you hit a homer out of the park your first three times up to the plate?

Capilongo's Send is a book of poetry you can hang your hat on.  This cat can seriously burn.

Image result for Domenico capilongo photo

Domenico Capilongo

Born when rotary telephones came in multiple colours, Domenico Capilongo began writing with pencil and paper, passing poetry notes from the back of the class. He still writes in notebooks, used a typewriter in high school, and his earliest published poems were printed on a dot-matrix printer. His first books of poetry, I thought elvis was Italian (2008) and hold the note (2010), as well as his first book of short fiction, Subtitles (Guernica, 2012), came very close to winning awards and were all mailed in the post. A high school creative writing teacher and karate instructor, he lives with his wife and children in Toronto. Find out more on the information superhighway at

In his latest book, Dom Quixote mounts a new smartphone and tilts away at our digital windmills. His chivalry is analogue: what is lost in our twittering is the seed-bed of his musings. Messages between and underneath communications—tender, sensuous, comically misaligned and/or brutal by turn—are gathered up and offered back to us as rebus: an oracular operating system where what we mean is not always how we speak.
     - Chris D’Iorio, author of Without Blue

Book teaser for
Domenico Capilongo's Send
Video: Capilongo Poetry



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