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Contemporary Italian American Writing

Carlo della Corte: Poems from The Journey Ends Here,
translated by Emanuel di Pasquale

I | II | VI | LII

Della CorteGradiva Publications: P.O. Box 831, Stony Brook, NY 11790

Carlo della Corte is a native and current resident of Venice. For many years, however, he worked for a major Milanese weekly newspaper while publishing two dozen books of poetry, fiction, and essays. He has won two Selezione Campiello for his work and, in l968, was awarded the prestigious Veillon Internazionale, which had previously been won by Emanuelli, Ginzburg, and Pratolini. Among his many admirers were Federico Fellini and Andrea Zanzotto.

X.J. Kennedy wrote: "The arrival on these shores of Carlo della Corte's professedly unfinished masterpiece is a literary event of prime importance. An astonishing book, it gives us a dreamlike tour of Venice, that city perpetually dying and yet immortal, in the company of the shades of the poet's father and mother. Like Ulysses of James Joyce, whom della Corte dismisses as a madman, it tells of communion in a brothel of father and long-lost son. Other ironies abound, also bitter humor and surprise. I can't imagine a better trasnlator for this bookthan Emanuel di Pasquale, sensitive and passionate, with is deft command of both poetic diction and the American vernacular."

From: THE JOURNEY ENDS HERE:
Introduction, by Emanuel di Pasquale

The driving force of The Journey Ends Here is love, human love in all its aspects, love for a place (Venice), and ultimatelylove for all living things, with all their faults and glory: family, prostitutes, starving dogs, copulating birds, whose love-making makes "and embarrasing joke" and a cosmic marvel of "The love that drives the sun and all the other stars." Journey is also about the love for literature. Love for his parents causes della Corte to bring them back from the dead for one more night , for one more stroll around Venice, to reminisce, clarify the past, and evaluate both past and present. In a real way, della Corte, now in his sixties, is trying to cleanse himself of angerover thepremature death of his father. The parents, too, wanting to ssee their child, break out of their hell: "two stowaways breaching the circle/of the concentration camp pens," and journey far to be with him. Here, the book sparks an epiphany and becomes holy as it deals with deepest human love and deepest human insanity, man's inhumanity to man, the hell of human suffering, its epicenter the Second World War's "pens."

Like Dante's Commedia, Journey is rich with characters. Like Dante, della Corte has the genius to make them come to life in a few lines. Clelia De Pasquetti, his wet-nurse/muse:"...small goddess/of the hearth, who'd bring messages from caves,/ravines and hills...twinkling from gnomes and goblins/in winter sunsets when windoes/are shaken by the winds."...Della Corte respects all that is living, with the exception of those who turn against life:"...with the dog hung on a mulberry tree/by the barbaric bully who doesn't/want to feed any mouth other than his own..." Otherwise, his compassion for the family of the living extends even to the god he rages against for having killed his father and for allowing so much misery:"...perhaps even he subdued by a chaotic History."...della Corte writes prose when he deals with the living and great poetry when he deals with dead, ...the world of the imaginatiion...Journey is also a book about Venice...which is a metaphor for life itself, all that water echoing the womb...

....Reading della Corte's The Journey Ends Here is like traveling on a river: steady and calm (prose) wild and cataclysmal (poetry). The writer, a new Virgil with no destination, no 'solid' point, wanders about Venice finding hell, purgatory, and heaven inthe realities of the senses, and in human feeling and intellect. His Beatrice is his own compassion,his love for life, for wine, for art, for Venice, for his own father and mother, for a flawed god and for manking, god's flawed but brillianat progeny. (Sample poems follow here:)

I

Here, from a portico (if the quoin

is still the architectural custom),

perhaps you, nonagenarian,

could quietly look at your aging son.

Birth certificate in hand,

I talk to you as if you were alive,

you, who died when a fissure,

a pit, an abyss of years

kept us away from each other.

And now I am you,

with your mannerisms,

young-old, doubled over,

bundled up and dried up,

while you, with your eyes

of the dead, pierce this fog.

II

Yes, nonagenarian, why could you not,

like a bionic actor, rise,

pearl hearing aid, titanium teeth,

but your eyes your own: green and whole,

for another chat on a Leopardian night

on the balcony suspended over Passeggi.

You ussedto say: "My boy grows sad

under these stars. God help me if a poet is

born in my house." Lord, no, all

is useless, even the name-poet-

verse-making is fruitless, a pagan

spell to transfix unruly things.

In any case, come, one lamp

still lights the field, a flexible

barrier against a mass of

scrawny eels and blues, like

us in the dar: others lacking a soul

that is not a puff of air or a flag

trembling on a shattered pole.

So, we find ourselves at Rialto

and share some laughter.

VI

Counting the cobblestones,

let's go and stay close now,

both new and worn,

and because we're worn, new

in the fine mist that falls

on the city of shining stones.

From a murmur like a flow of blood:

"It's still the same soul

or some other. More like

some other," I assert,

and even I wavear at the shade

that holds me. The luminescence

in his eyes pierces people's

thick armor, and I am shamed for him,

for him (absent for too many years),

who knew the heft of his own absence.

Yet, they call such absence a steadying force,

almost unshakable. Not true.

"My barber?" he asks,distracted.

I pull his hand and drag him

someplace where a pizzamaker

doesn't fry his slop.

LII

Death is recycled, but so is life,

with the genome, the long chain dragged

from year to year, century to century,

eons of galazies, among quasars, black holes,

long rays that like obsidian blades slice the cosmos

to reach your muscle bathed in blood, silly pump

that goes on, goes on, small beetle,

sprightly Volkswagen that retreats to an old poster,

an instrument the poet claims is out of tune

like my tobacco-stained, moth-eaten guitar

in a place where for thirty years

the dead leaves' wind no longer blows.

Translated by Emanuel di Pasquale. Copyright 2000, Gradiva Press. All rights reserved.

Gradiva Publications: P.O. Box 831, Stony Brook, NY 11790

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