Adam Vaccaro

Seeds

Selected, edited, translated &
introduced by Sean Mark

 

 

Paperback, 165 pages
ISBN 978-0-9884787-8-7
$20

 

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As poet, prosaist and literary critic, ADAM VACCARO is a prominent figure in the Italian cultural landscape. Born 1940 in Bonefro, a small town in Molise, he has lived and worked in Milan for the past forty years. There he founded the cultural association Milanocosa, which can be visited online at www.milanocosa.it. His notable collections include La vita nonostante / Life in Despite (Studio d'autore, 1978), Strappi e frazioni / Strips and Fractions (Libroitaliano, 1997) and La casa sospesa / The House Suspended (Joker, 2003). These three titles provided the material for a fourth collection, La piuma e l'artiglio / Feather and Claw (Editoria e Spettacolo, 2006).

In Semi / Seeds, Vaccaro gives voice to a longing for home in a changed environment, a resurgence of memory after people are gone, an assertion of meaning in a world become void. The central images in his verses are Ulysses, Penelope and the house both familiar and unfamiliar. In his pathos Vaccaro combines a classical austerity with a vernacular verve, a nostalgic tone with a tough irony.


Translator Sean Mark writes in his Introduction:

"Never sentimentally nostalgic or stubbornly elegiac, Vaccaro's poetry sings the timeworn trace that has endured through the years, [the trace] in the 'dead rubble' that has resisted the corruption and grossness: the trace, or memory, that has survived a gone world...

"Vaccaro's work is populated by a host of personae: Ulysses, the wearied, home-bound traveller; Pino, the village simpleton; Sentenzio, the fearless cyclist, Peppino, the migrant everyman; Marylou, the ageing housewife; the despotic town mayor, spinning arachnoid webs to paralyse political dissent; the electrician and the stonecutter. In bringing blood to these local ghosts, Seeds is somewhat reminiscent of a modern-day Spoon River; like Edgar Lee Masters, Adam Vaccaro sets out to bring out the epic in the everyday."

Translator SEAN MARK, who holds degrees in literature from both University College London and the Università degli studi di Milano, translates both to and from Italian and English. He is presently studying for a Ph.D. in 20th-century comparative literature from the universities of Tübingen, Bergamo and Brown concurrently.


 

 

 

 

Selections

from Semi / Seeds

 


Poet Adam Vaccaro

 

SEMI, PARTE I / SEEDS, PART I

(filari in settembre)

Filari inondati di sole e vespe
al tempo che sapeva nel ciclo
sprire parentesi di acini persi

nelle crep secche della terra
arresa a orde e fanti e denti duri
che strenui mordevano gocce

di sudore da ciglia a picco su
nasi e lingue tra riflessi d'oro
accecanti e ansimi di formiche

affannate che poi calando I canti
I canti della sera cercavano sempre
l'attimo di oblio – il chicco più dolce

e riemerse così nel sogno la pace
del nonno che facendo – mondo
chino – cure al suo orto faceva
in quel modo rifiorire l'attesa
il progetto, la gioia

Rows of Vine in September

Rows of vine awash in sunlight
and wasps, when grape-like
gaps upset the cycle of time

in the parched slits of earth –
prey to hordes of knaves
and jaws clenching beads

of sweat that fall glaring gold
from brows down to tongues
and noses; as the ants pant

resolute, the songs of the night
sweep in for a moment's
oblivion – the sweetist fruit.

And so in the dream Grandpa's peace
was regained, and as he dug his garden –
bowed to the world – plans, hopes and joy
all blossomed again.


(l'ortogiardino)

curava mio nonno un luogo un
giardino per me d'incanti e fatica.
Il mio braccio – mi disse – si sposa
qui con questa terra e polla d'acqua

e ne fa bellezza e frutti che nessuno
può sapere fuori da quel cancello
là in fondo se non sale quest'erta
di sassi e spine e non sa che qui

brillano rose fiori di zucca e pomi
doro che al riparo di siepi di un orto
giardino appeso al mio dito con ali
di foglie gira gira intorno al mondo

sognando l'infinito

seguirono visioni di cose e volti
sepolti - ognuno dicendo di sé e
dell'immenso - sconosciuto eppure
vivo nel vento chiaroscuro della sera

risentì di nuovo nel ventre
della bottega colma di trucioli e
pialle affilate la voce del padre
quasi sfidando dire il tempo è mio
e riandò ancora più oltre fino a
campi che nessuno poteva ormai
più sapere - fino alla fonte oscura
rimasta sua carne ignota e perduta

The Garden

Grandpa had a garden: a place
for me of wonder and fatigue.
"Here," he'd say, "my arm is one
with this land and spring of water

generating beauty and fruits
unknown to those outside the gate
who never scale the steep slope
of stone and thorn, and ignore the

pumpkin flowers, roses and apples
golden, which shine here sheltered
by hedges that sit on my finger
with leaf-wings that twist
and turn around the world

dreaming of the infinite.

After this came visions of buried
things and faces – each one telling
of itself and the immense – unknown
but alive in the winds of the night

and once again he heard his father's voice
ring out in defiance from deep inside
his workshop stocked full of woodchip
and sharpened tools: "Time is mine"

and he wandered on further, back across
fields where no man could ever step forth –
until he came upon the obscure source
embodied in his flesh, unknown and lost.


(Il posto)

C'era una volta un posto una cosa un paese
tanti sassi e mille case accoste
tante cose e persone piene di fame e di sogni
una voglia di vita con una collana dura intorno
uno splendore di luce in mano a tante mani scure


The Place

Somewhere once was a place a thing a town
rife with stones and a thousand houses stacked,
heaps of matter, hungry people wracked with dreams,
a drive for life bound by hard pearls,
a bright light clasped by a dozen dark hands.

Come una guerra

Come una guerra che frantuma il ventre
si attarda negli occhi e sui volti
un liquore che sa di sale mentre
le transenne alle case quasi mute
e la chiesa piena di ferite e calcinacci
vibrano al vento come pezzi di cuore e
I capelli si drizzano come serpenti
impazziti mentre tremano ancora
I vetri con voci di anime tornate
tra pareti che vorrebbero
quasi scoppiare senza un grido

mentre l'aria shrivida ancora
e la piazza si riempie come a festa
tra clacson da dopoparrita
mentre marialuigia dice no
chiude porte e finestre e piano urla
allo specchio: voglio morire qui da sola
in braccio a Dio e contro
tutte le coliche del mondo
dentro casa mia

Like a War

Like a war that bursts stomachs and lingers
on faces, in eyes, like salty liquor
the barricades round semi-silent houses
and the church full of hurt and rubble
quiver in the wind like pieces of heart
hairs stand straight like crazed snakes and
windows still shake with the voices of souls
flocked back between walls they would almost
wordlessly love to explode

while the air still shudders
and the streets are as packed
as a holiday, horns as loud
as after a march –
Marylou shakes her head
shuts windows and doors
and cries gently at the mirror:
I want to die here – alone
spared all this world's colics
in God's arms, in my home.

More about Adam Vaccaro at:
www.milanocosa.it

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