Fontanella: Poems from The Transparent Life
Translated into English by Michael Palma.
TRANSPARENT LIFE | TO A GIRL IN A
SPEEDWASH | NEDELIA | SONG
FOR PAOLO CONTE
Fontanella, born in Salerno, Italy, in 1943, studied at the University
of Rome and at Harvard, where he earned a Ph.D. in Romance Languages
and Literatures. He has served as a Fulbright Fellow (Princeton
University, 1976-1978), and has taught at Columbia, Princeton,
and Wellesley. He is currently professor of Italian at the State
University of New York, Stony Brook. Founder and President of
the Italian Poetry Society of America, Fontanella is the editor
of Gradiva, [P.O. Box 831, Stony Brook, NY 11790] an international
journal of Italian poetry. He has published ten books of poetry,
two books of fiction, and six books of criticism. His forthcoming
book of poetry is Angels of Youth, translated from the
Italian by Carol Lettieri and Irene Marchegiani Jones (Riverside:
Xenos Books, 2000).
scroll down to read sample poems from The Transparent Life.
translated by Michael Palma, Gradiva Publications:
P.O. Box 831, Stony Brook, NY 11790
Review excerpts of Luigi Fontanella's work:
poetic language has a quality of disenchanted transparency, always
containing a sort of suspended bitterness toward the elusive signs
of our existence, signs that question themselves, that show themselves
lovingly and visibly, but that, at the same time, slip away. I
find this to be a particularly seductive element of his poetry."--GIULIO
Fontanella is the single poet who has made in the last two decades
the most sustained contribution to the organization and diffusion
of Italian poetry in the United States. His poetic battle speaks
directly to the concern of all of us who write Italian poetry
in the New World."--PAOLO VALESIO
Fontanella appeared at Poets House in New York City on November
2nd as distinguished commissioned translator of the winner
of the 2000 Bordighera Poetry Prize, Luisa Rossina Villani.
Here the translator is pictured with the winning poet at
a bilingual reading of her work from Running Away from
"In these times of fashionable pessimism and
of a cynical refusal to sing the basic themes of lived life -
the love of origins, of parents, of companions and children; the
pain of lost youth, of distance, of unreachable dreams - Fontanella
dares to remain true to the sources and goals of his poetic making.
He is a deracinated Italian, and he writes of the betweenness
of his existence, often with recourse to the theme of travel,
of leavetaking and returning. He is a son who now recognizes himself
in his father, being himself a father. He is a child again because
of his little daughter whose innocence reminds him "qual
era" that boy now gone forever."--REBECCA
city opens its streets,
pass without riders,
woman's face appears
the window and vanishes,
slim graceful couple dances
the deserted square,
running of man's race,
the forest foliage stirs
tracks of hardened mud,
A GIRL IN A SPEEDWASH
before me with eyes and hands through so many days circles
cycles air heat voices movements crunch crunch in the mouth
a little black boy one after another
nothing sadder that these laundries on the edge of town
ones with no counterwoman to chat with about the weather
you find a kind of girl who's already a woman
don't mean a babydoll covergirl
plasticized merchandised up-for-sale
release valve for halfnumbed Americans
mean another kind of course like this one who takes the trouble
fold the four dresses she's washed and dried
faded napkins the socks with the holes
be mended later the frayed T-shirts
grease stain that hasn't come out
sheet patched a hundred times she'll fold with the help
the little one she's brought along with her (her sister?
daughter already? or another girl-woman like her?).
que j'irai la'-bas,
dodo z'avec elle.
mon coeur qui bat,
- Jules Laforgue
for my mother (17 may 1925 - 28 November 1982 )
I gather one for you
a thorn. You will smile for me
smile Nedelia ginestra
this infant's window:
disappear in an instant
in ethereal green brilliance
living dead disappearing season,
a dream I saw
of your sunlight. A small
gift. But from this turmoil
this halfclosed window,
see you once again,
little sad, mother,
when you called to me:
turn I answer you I call I run
thousands of corollas and coronas.
peacefully I sleep
have colored all the flowers
my enchanted greenhouse:
else is left of my song. Tomorrow
will be gathered
FOR PAOLO CONTE
tonight is a tired dancer
masker whistling on a deserted pier
a tune obsessively repeated
love's last look is fading in the mist
thoughts evicted, and my memories...
and murky shapes, reefs in the distance.
spirit, there won't be another dawn,
outline of this window
to the night tells of exhausted joys
visions stilled lakes
the windows, seasons
by the wind...
long-ago smiles of the women behind the doors
a little boy
running rolling his hoop around the bend...
tonight is a tired dancer.
Copyright © 2000 by Michael Palma. Poems © 2000 by Luigi
Fontanella. All rights reserved.
from: Gradiva Publications: P.O. Box 831, Stony Brook, NY 11790]