Three Stills In the Frame
Selected Poems 1986-2014
Translated by Steven Grieco
Bilingual Italian & English
Paperback, 317 pages
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GIORGIO LINGUAGLOSSA, born in Istanbul in 1949, is an innovative and philosophical poet living in Rome. In addition to seven collections of poetry, all well represented in the present bilingual publication, he has translated English, French and German poets, including Nelly Sachs and Georg Trakl, into Italian. In 1993 he founded the literary quarterly Poiesis, and two years later published in issue No. 7 a much-discussed "Manifesto of the New Metaphysical Poetry." From 1997 to 2000 he was editor-in-chief of the journal, and from 2002 to 2013 produced a half-dozen critical studies on twentieth-century poetry. He has two novels, Ventiquattro tamponamenti prima di andare in ufficio / Twenty-four Pile-ups Before Getting to the Office (2005) and Ponzio Pilato / Pontius Pilate (2010).
The title poem of the Chelsea edition, Tre fotogrammi dentro la cornice / Three Stills in a Frame, was composed over a period of twenty years, from 1992-2013. The seven-page poetic narrative begins in the 1930s with the rise of Mussolini, before the poet's birth, and jumps to a photo of the poet's mother in the 1950s; the description of her room and the snowy world outside her window expands to encompass the decade, then other photos open up frames in his mind, mixing events, historic figures and his life in the twentieth century, leading to his mock Hamletish funeral in the new century.
Hamlet inspires much of the poetry in Linguaglossa's first collection of 1988, Atirev (L'Anagramma della Verità) / Atirev (The Anagram of Verità). The second collection from 1989, Blumenbilder (Natura morta con fiori), has much to do with faces, portraits, classic art. The third, Uccelli / Birds, published in 1992, not only speaks of birds, but also of the wings of angels and the dust of kings of the past. The fourth, Paradiso / Paradise (2000) introduces the conversations of dark angels brooding over nihilistic doctrines of ancient Greek philosophers. These obscure Greek philosophers debate haughtily in the fifth volume: La Belligeranza del Tramont / The Belligerence of Sunset (2006); while in the next, Girone dei Morti Assiderati / The Circle of the Frozen Dead (2013), gondoliers sing as they transport souls and shadows of living dead on the Styx. The last volume, Riposta al Signor Cogito di Zbigniew Herbert / Reply to Zbigniew Herbert's Mister Cogito (2014), places the morally certain Mr. Cogito in an ambiguous surrealist setting with different times, historical figures and secret police searching for a little black notebook with all the answers.
In a short but trenchant preface to the book Andrej Silkin indicates Linguaglossa's art and purpose. The poet, observes Silkin, writes in an age when all the great poetic effects, lyric emotions and inspiring messages have already been expressed, and therefore Linguaglossa employs a plain-talk approach, shunning metaphors, pathos and grand conclusions, yet often rises to a high style with mythic breadth, uncommon imagery and weighty concepts. He does not try to save the failed and decadent world deprived of meaning, writes Silkin, but rather "opts for a poetry that turns the present into a launchpad to the future: a Dantesque poetry, constructed out of fragments of images and metaphors, absolutely felicitous in terms of expression. To heal the fragmented, this is Linguaglossa's intention." The overall meaning, the final summa, Silkin continues, is not stated, but peeks out from the detail: "the reader is expected to seek it out for himself and recognize it for what it is."
Three Stills In the Frame
Poet Giorgio Linguaglossa
L'ANGELO DAI QUATTRO VOLTI
Vidi l' Angelo dai quattro volti che guardava
in quattro specchi il mio sembiante riflesso,
quadruplice barbaglio della luce incidente il profilo araldico.
L'abbaglio di otto occhi celesti assorti nell'oscurità.
Tetragrafico, tetracriptico profilo.
Gli angeli parlano nel sonno e abitano il paradiso,
luogo del pneuma. Privi sono
di carne, non passioni manifestano né iracondia.
Inferiori, bramano la carne, la nostra sanguinosa
dimensione. Vorrebbero disertare
ma non possono dall' esilio.
THE FOUR-FACED ANGEL
I saw the four-faced Angel who was gazing
at my semblance reflected in four mirrors
fourfold flash of light carving the profile on a coat of arms.
The mirage of eight sky-blue eyes, absorbed in the darkness.
A tetragraphic, tetracryptic profile.
The angels speak in their sleep and inhabit paradise,
the place of pneuma. Fleshless are
they, nor passion nor wrath do they display.
Inferior beings, they lust after flesh, after our blood-drenched
dimension. They would desert their exile -
V'è un dèmone astuto e ingannatore
che discetta sul computo del cosmo,
suI motore universaIe. La ruggine,
regina del metallo, rode ogni certezza,
devasta la materia il dubbio, principio
del Male. Ma voi sapete approfittare
di ogni incompletezza come cosa manifesta,
per luce naturale. Allora, rompere
gli indugi, spezzare l'incertezza,
l'indecisione. Nemici dell'irresolutezza
sappiamo che la malaria è l'ordine
La casa che vedi salda sulle quattro colonne crollerà.
Sbrigati, è un passaggio obbligato la via della realtà.
La verità è nella polvere della superficie.
Avere la forma trilobate del giglio,
l'arco acuto delIa lince, lo stilobate
d'un tempio dorico, la lussuria della lonza.
Possedere la spina dorsale del rettile
e la bifide lingua della vipera,
vestirsi del piumaggio dell'aquila,
avere l'occhio sincipitale della lucertola.
Dare il colpo di coda.
Forse in un'altra vita foste uccelli.
There is a cunning and deceitful demon
who holds forth on the calculation of the cosmos
and the universal machine. Rust,
queen of metals, corrodes all certainties.
Doubt, the principle of Evil, lays waste
to matter. But you know how to turn incompleteness
into a manifested thing,
in virtue of its natural light.
Thus, take action, banish uncertainty,
hesitation. We, the enemies of irresoluteness,
know that malaria orders
The house you see resting on four columns will collapse.
Make haste, the path of reality is the only path.
Truth is in the dust on the surface.
To possess the lily's trilobate shape,
the lynx's acute angle, a Doric temple's
stilobate, the lust of a snow leopard.
To possess the reptile's backbone
and the viper's forked tongue,
to don the plumage of an eagle,
to have the lizard's sincipital eye.
To lash out.
Perhaps in another life you were birds.
PARIA IL POETA:
Ho una grande fantasmagorica voliera
che riempio d'ogni sorta di uccelli.
Là esiste il giallo canarino, il merlo sagace,
il pavido passero, il pappagallo filosofo,
l'ibis regale, il cuculo notturno.
La insiste la mia esistenza.
THE POET SPEAKS:
I have a great big phantasmagorical bird cage
which I fill with all sorts of birds.
The yellow canary is there, the shrewd blackbird,
the craven sparrow, the parrot philosopher,
the regal ibis, the night cuckoo.
That's where my existence insists.
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