Showing posts from 2011

A Poet named Jack

It is mandatory for me today to talk about Jack Hirschman. I have at least two good reasons for doing it. The former is that December 13th is his birthday and so I feel the need to celebrate him, whilst the latter is a lovely find. As I was researching pictures of him early this morning, I stumbled upon a photograph by Charles Brittin dating back to the early Sixties. The website says that it was taken in 1962. Judging from the movie, I believe it may be a couple of years later. The place is outside Cinema Theater, Western Avenue (L.A.). I look at that picture of over forty years ago and I recognize his smile, his wit and his gait. Jack's life has made him tread so many different roads since then, but it is so great to see his spirit come alive from a still shot.

Happy birthday, comrade. Sempre.

Street Poetry Rules

When poetry becomes graffiti and poets feel the urge to read their poetry to the crowds, then we acknowledge that the times are changing. I have never felt so much the importance of being a street poet before. But, I was so angry lately that I wrote some of my poems on small pieces of paper and handed them out to people in the streets. It is a small act. It won't change the world. But, I do feel a better human being. And, you, my fellow poets, I encourage you all to do the same!

When Magritte painted Poetry Personified

I have always been deeply fascinated by Magritte's paintings. "The Empire of Lights" is my absolute favorite. I have stood admiring it "forever" at the Peggy Guggenheim's Collection in Venice. But, there is a canvas in particular that keeps mesmerizing me. It dates back to 1937 and it is known as "The Therapist". The more I soak it in, the more I feel that it is much more than a mere depiction of the subconscious. I wrote a poem that does capture, or so I believe, the inner poetical nature of this work. To me this painting symbolizes the Poet. The wandering spirit with soles of wind, a bright red cloak, a straw hat, a walking cane and a bag full of books. Each Poet has a transparent soul, an exposed rib cage that cannot conceal the Truth where words in form of doves nest and sing.

Patti Smith, the Poet.

Patti is not just a wonderful rocker, an engaged artist, an activist and a rebel, but she is also a talented wordsmith. These are just a few reasons for which I admire her. At her last concert here in Rome, in the Summer of 2010, it was a pleasant surprise to discover how much she loved Pasolini's works and how she had felt compelled to visit the place where he had been murdered. Her autobiographical book "Just Kids" is a great ride. But, her poems--permeated with her love for William Blake and Arthur Rimbaud--blow me away every time I read them. Her words have the power to scratch my soul. I welcome the bleeding.


I did not wish to work
I did not wish to earn
but to curl with my jar
in the sweet sorghum
I laid my mat among the reeds
I could hear the freeman call
oh my life
what does it matter
will the reed cease bending
with the leper turn
I had a horn I did not blow
I had a sake and another
I could hear the freeman
drunk with sky
what matter me cry

Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology

Have you sent your poem, yet? If not, do. Occupy with your words!

Why Ever A Poetry Collection?

This year has been incredibly busy for me. I have started marketing my poems in a serious way, I have been translating poetry like crazy -- two collections, some poems by Jack that are being published as I write and I will soon  translate a dozen or more poems of the members of Rome's Revolutionary Poetry Brigade for the second RPB's international Anthology. Last but not least, I have been involved in poetry readings too. This said, one wonders why I should take the pain of putting together some of my works for a collection. Does the world really need a new poetry collection?  A friend  told me: "Nobody reads poetry anymore!".

Oh well, I guess I know he is right. Not a lot of people do. But, maybe a couple of friends would dare buy my poems -- assuming I got published. And yet, I know this is not the reason behind my writing. If I write my poems it is because I need to let it out. I need to use my words and convey my message. It is my hidden strength. 
"I'll l…

Recalling Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Force of the Past

Today is Pasolini's 36th death anniversary. He was brutally killed on the night of November 2, 1975 in still unclear circumstances and found the following morning by a blue collar on his way to work. Pasolini is possibly Italy's most important poet after Dante. An amazing intellectual who truly loved the lowest classes, which he celebrated in his deeply profound novels and poems. As Jack Hirschman points out, his three initials stand for "Passion, Provocation and Prophecy." This is so true. 

I wish to celebrate Pasolini posting Orson Welles' reading one of his poems of which I am also including a translation. "I am a Force of the Past" roars Pasolini. No, he is much more than that. He is still today a Force of the Present and of the Future too. 

I am a Force of the Past.
My love lies only in tradition.
I come from the ruins, the churches,
the altarpieces, the villages
abandoned in the Appenines or foothills
of the Alps where my brothers once lived.
I wander lik…

In the Realm of Darkness

There are plenty of reasons to celebrate the arrival of November. I am feasting darkness reading poetry and sipping a glass of red wine. Poets' and writers' darkscapes are a great place to be. Which reminds me that John Claude's short story collection "The Dark is Light Enough for Me" is coming out soon. A perfect companion for the approaching hiemal time.

The Visual Poetry of Georgia O'Keeffe in Rome.


The Blue Flower

I have just finished reading Penelope Fitzgerald's "The Blue Flower". Since Jack suggested me to read it--while he was in Rome just a few weeks ago--I felt the desire to buy myself a copy. And, it has been such an astonishing read. This book on the impetuous student of philosophy and future Romantic poet Georg Friederich von Hardenberg, better known as Novalis, is a precious little jewel. It is a wonderful and lively portrait of an age, of Novalis' family and of his adamantine love for 12-year-old Sophie von Kuhn, his "true Philosophy". But, really, it much more than this: the novel is an interrogation on life, love, courage, purpose, desire, Poetry and, the metaphysical striving for the infinite symbolized by the blue flower.

My poem "Women's Only Asylum" in The Anemone Sidecar

I am very grateful to editor Kathryn Rantala for including this poem in the latest chapter of The Anemone Sidecar. It deals with madness, a theme which has become always more manifest in some of my latest works.

Women’s Only Asylum
(starring Miss Plath, Miss Frame and Miss Dickinson)

A mansion that is more
like a condo, inhabited
by the kindred souls of
those who have lost

their sanity. You will
find them all gathered
here in participating
disruption wearing

their candid straitjackets,
playing cards with
their mouths, acting
scenes like Tomfools.

There is the crazy
stare of Sylvia
writing wailing lines,
on sheets tossed

around her body.
The new so-called
schizophrenia in
the lucid ravings

of Janet. So many
different forms of
lunacy, but you will
end up loving them

all. Even Emily in her
room, blowing glass
panels to smithereens
at last.

Celebrate National Poetry Day

It's National Poetry Day in UK today. Let's celebrate wherever we are around the world. So, pass on a poem. Buy a book of poems. Write a poem. Read a poem. Listen to a poem. Bookcross a book of poems. Host a poetry reading. Be a street poet. Let's all wax poetic. It's Poetry Day!

Harrowing Anne Sexton

Yesterday, October 4th, was Anne Sexton's suicide anniversary. She had long searched for her Mercy Street but could not find it so she chose to gas herself to death in her garage at the age of 45.

I have always admired her strong, painful, masterfully written poems but, I had never yet read more about her life than what I had studied on my anthology books at University. Until, just a few days ago, when I decided to buy a memoir book written by Linda Gray Sexton, her daughter, and I am finally catching up on her tormented and highly dramatic life.

I will confess that I have asked two famous poems what they thought about her poetry and, I was kind of surprised to learn that they dismissed her work as highly narcissistic. But, knowing their mindset, I can well understand their reaction.

Sexton is certainly no poet for the weak of heart. She explores personal themes in an unprecedented manner and in such a stark, brutally honest way that people may end up failing to notice the beauty …

Neglecting Cendrars

I feel I have been neglecting my Cendrars for too long. The iconoclastic poetry of the man with one arm has always fascinated me deeply. He is the first real modernist in a way. No wonder Henry Miller worshipped him. Reading him in translation is always tricky. He masters French in a way that makes my heart rejoice.

There goes another year in which I haven’t thought about You
Since I wrote my penultimate poem Easter
My life has changed so much
But I’m the same as ever
I still want to become a painter Here are the pictures that I’ve done displayed here on the walls this evening.
They reveal to me strange perspectives into myself that make me think of You. Christ
See what I’ve unearthed My paintings make me uneasy
I’m too passionate
Everything is tinted orange. I’ve passed a sad day thinking about my friends
And reading my diary
A life crucified in this journal that I hold at arm’s length.
Like a crashing aeroplane
That’s me.
A serial
No ma…

Illuminations and Prose Poetry

I have spent the morning re-reading Rimbaud's Illuminations and I have eventually decided that I need to master prose poetry. I have always been very reluctant to do so, but Arthur and Baudelaire have inspired me to dare write some prose poems today. It took me two hours to complete the first two.

I have just sent "He Smothered Them In Rose Petals" and "Caravaggio In The Wilderness" to a magazine that publishes prose poetry. Wish me luck!

The Lovely Rejection

I am very grateful to Cooper Renner, poetry editor of elimae for having sent me a lovely rejection mail just a few days ago. He took the pain of writing back that the poems I had sent his way weren't right for the magazine, but that they were accomplished work and that he suggested I should send them to the editor of their sister magazine with his best wishes. I promptly did so and well, one of the three has been accepted to be published. I am still a novice, but I am learning a lot about the publishing world out there!  

The Importance Of A Pen Name

It's been a hard choice deciding whether I should have marketed my erotic poetry with a pen name or not. I frankly believe that I have nothing to hide, but I somehow hope that this will increase my opportunities too. As my friend Kate generously pointed out, some of my works have a John Donne feel. So, the surname Marvell pays hommage to one of my favorite metaphysical poems, whereas Sasha is the nickname that Jack (Hirschman) gave me. Ever since he has called me that way. I believe that, what Kate says is particularly true insofar as the two poems that have just been published by Safeword in their July edition is concerned. Sasha Marvell exists at last!

Anne Sexton's "Briar Rose". An Armor of Words.

I have discovered that the poetry that works better for me is the one that--albeit metaphorically--has its deepest roots in life. I was reading this poem by Anne Sexton again a few days ago and I was struck by the cruelty it depicts. It's not about Briar Rose, or Sleeping Beauty, indeed. It's more about girls having to deal and cope with abusive fathers. Anne's strength comes alive within an armor of words. Can words be abusive? Certainly not as acts. But, even if they cannot kill they can perhaps be of help in effacing the past. 

Consider a girl who keeps slipping off, arms limp as old carrots, into the hypnotist's trance, into a spirit world speaking with the gift of tongues. She is stuck in the time machine, suddenly two years old sucking her thumb, as inward as a snail, learning to talk again. She's on a voyage. She is swimming further and further back, up like a salmon, struggling into her mother's pocketbook. Little doll child, come here to Papa. Sit on my…

An Untitled Gem by Angela

I found this poem by Angela Carter on the web today. It struck me with its terse words and apparent simplicity. There is a great writer's wisdom in the use of few words and strikingly compelling images. The cat with the spoon ears is just a brilliant sentence, but the last two lines literally give me goose bumps. I feel I have learnt a whole poetry lesson today. You've got a long way to go, my dear Alessandra!

My cat
Is the snow queen,
This frigid virgin four
Winters old crooks
Her paw to wash a face
As starlight, twice
As cold.
She puts back
her ears like spoons
to listen to the wind
behind her.
She eats
For breakfast, hearts;
For supper, northern lights.


So yesterday evening I was sitting at my table, with a glass of wine and a pad when I started skimming through my Francesca Woodman books. I was captured by her Self-Deception series and the pen started flowing to the rhythm of her black and white pictures and her twisted body. There is a strength in her work that makes it appear almost as solid as a sculpture and yet wraithlike. There is a naked truth hidden in her works that needs to be deciphered. These shots were taken in a cellar, which make them even more intriguing to me. I keep wondering whether Bluebeard was her favorite fairy tale as a kid.

Poetry As Consolation

    There is always a good reason to read poetry. Whether feeling happy or sad, I know I will find some solace or comfort turning the pages of a poetry book. I was watching the sunset and recalling the sunrise that saw my son and me awake earlier today. He is traveling alone and a lot of thoughts inhabit my head. It’s a strange feeling, maybe a mixed feeling of restlessness and hopefulness. I wrote some bad lines and then I picked up a book by Wisława Szymborskaand at last found some truly consolatory lines that made me smile. Who does not love happy endings?

Darwin. They say he read novels to relax, But only certain kinds: nothing that ended unhappily. If anything like that turned up, enraged, he flung the book into the fire.   
True or not, I’m ready to believe it.
Scanning in his mind so many times and places, he’d had enough of dying species, the triumphs of the strong over the weak, the endless struggles to survive, all doomed sooner or later. He’d earned the right to happy endings, …

Unpacking Books and Hidden Poetry

What a joy, after a move, to be able to allow one's books to breathe again. Seeing them on the shelves makes me so happy. Sometimes, unexpectantly, I find some hidden treasures. A note that a friend wrote, a postcard, a bookmark, scraps of paper. I was so happy to find in a poetry book some poems I had almost forgotten. They date back to the period in which I was attending University and I was studying American Poetry for my second year exam of American Literature. They are three poems by Robert Creeley that my Professor had translated. Great ones. I'll share one of them with you:


Had they told you, you
were "four or more cells
joined end to end," the Latin
catena, "a chain," the loop,
the running leap to actual
heaven spills at my stunned
feet, pours out the imprison-
ing threads of genesis,
oh light beaded necklace,
chain round my neck, my
inexorably bound birth, the sweet
closed curve of fading life?

Translating Poetry, Creating Fireflies.

I have been busy translating poetry lately and this made me even more aware that the task of a translator is perilous and extremely complicated. What Umberto Eco says about translation is so true. That is, striving to say almost the same thing. Succeeding is an accomplishment that requires sweat and blood. And yet, despite Frost's famous quote that "poetry is what gets lost in translation" I know that not everything is lost. Some of it remains and the sparks of the poets can be captured in the end. Translating poetry is like giving life to a firefly. A dazzle of light remains in between all the darkness.

My disquieting Muse

The naked truth is that I wish my poems could boast the same stark honesty of Francesca Woodman's photographs. There is so much power in them and the clear feeling that she is weaving a story in every single snapshot. Unhinged doors, thresholds leading to everywhere and to nowhere, tightrope walker kind of poses, apparent oddness winking at surrealness, scattered debris, cracked mirrors, objects mingling with bodies and her Self. Francesca--whether naked or not--leaves her mark, her trail of personality throughout the whole scene. All her shots are still yet vibrant means of self-assertion. And yes, she is becoming my disquieting Muse.

The Death Of A Poet.

How very sad to wake up to discover that another poet has passed away. I have always been very fond of Gil-Scott Heron. He was a great revolutionary soul, but most of all he was an amazing writer. I was tempted to post his so famous "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", but I will post his wonderful "Winter in America" instead. Now this is what I call a poem!

Writing Poetry, Or Taking Up The Torch.

Four or five months ago I started rereading my poems because I thought it was high time to send some out to magazines. To my surprise, I remember distinctly being overcome by a sense of discomfort about everything I had written. Some of it was barely acceptable to me. Yes, there was sentiment in my poems, but I realized somehow that I lacked something.
What was I lacking? After pondering over it I concluded that there was no purpose in my lines. No sense of direction. No message. I was mostly writing poetry for poetry's sake. So, I started giving a different shape to my ideas and writing poems with a more distinct edge. Or, so I believe. I felt I had to write about the "hic et nunc", the here and now, the present times.
I'd love my poetry to be like a torch as Jean-Paul Sartre suggested in the following quote: "every age has its own poetry; in every age the circumstances of history choose a nation, a race, a class to take up the torch by creating situations that …

Forging Words

I often compare writing lines to forging. It's a tough work that needs three essential elements: darkness, strength and sparks. If you never read Seamus Heaney's "The Forge", you probably should. That poem does capture the essence of poetry making. Where is my anvil? Where is my hammer? It's time to smite some words...

Poetry, Or My Daily Bread

I have been unable to write much poetry lately. It looks like my Muse is in quescient mode. But I keep reading poetry at least, being faithful to my motto that states: poetry is my daily bread. Reading Jack's translations, I could not help falling in love with Roque Dalton's work. The simple strength of the revolutionary Salvadoran poet does move me deeply. His "Like You" I have just learnt by heart.

Like you I
love love, life, the sweet smell
of things, the sky-
blue landscape of January days.
And my blood boils up
and I laugh through eyes
that have known the buds of tears.
I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone. And that my veins don’t end in me
but in the unanimous blood
of those who struggle for life,
little things,
landscape and bread,
the poetry of everyone.

Shit Matters...Excuse My French!

Life can be pretty unbearable at times. I am going through so much lately that I honestly feel a victim of the greed. Other people's greed naturally. I came to the conclusion that it would be much better not to own anything at all, except oneself and one's feelings. This is all I need, this is all that matters. The rest is just...shit! Ferruccio Brugnaro's poem "Buy, Always Consume" translated by Jack Hirschman is a perfect one for my mood today.
Buy, buy more than you can consume. Consume. Fuck over
any relationship.
Step on everything and always
buy everything up. Carry home
as much as you can.
Stuff, stuff yourself with greed.
Don’t look anybody in
the eyes.
Surround yourself with high walls
so neither grass nor human
voices can reach you;
sink, sink into the shit as deep
as you can go.
You must be on your guard;
buy away, carry it home
always consume.
Look around, make sure
they’re not robbing you;
any flower
any plant.
Buy, always buy
carry home
more …

Cardboard Lines

I am moving next Saturday. I have had very little time to write poetry, not to mention read lately. But today, being surrounded by almost a hundred boxes, I could not resist the temptation of writing a line on each of them. I plan to write a poem using all my cardboard lines when I will be at my new place. I am ready to bet that unpacking will be great fun this time!

The Flesh In The Inkpot

Tolstoy could not have described the process of writing in a better way. Personally, I believe that writing poetry is all a matter of flesh and blood. This is why Paul Engle's quote is a favorite: "poetry is ordinary language raised to the nth power.  Poetry is boned with ideas, nerved and blooded with emotions, all held together by the delicate, tough skin of words." Hand me a quill and the inkpot, please. I think it's time to pour some flesh in it!

The Poet Is A Thief

I wrote a poem last night and, despite it being so concise, it took me a lot of effort to complete it. Words most of the time just flow out naturally, but this time I could not find the right word I needed. It was at that point that I decided to stop writing and start reading. I was flipping through the pages of a book of poems by  Marina Tsvetayeva when I stumbled on the right word. I smiled thinking about T.S. Eliot's quote: "one of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal." Maybe I am not really mature, but I will call myself a thief. I won't tell you which word I stole, but you can read the poem I stole it from! 

Every verse is a child of love,
A destitute bastard slip,
A firstling -- the winds above--
Left by the road asleep.
Heart has a gulf, and a bridge,
Heart has a bless, and a grief.
Who is his father? A liege?
Maybe a liege, or a thief.

You Will Hear Thunder

After having heard Jack Hirschman read his poetry so passionately and with such a thundering force, I am reminded that this is exactly what poetry should do. I was rereading Anna Akhmatova's poems last night which do express this very thought beautifully. So you will hear one of her poems now or, in her own words, you will hear thunder.  

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
when, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you. 

48 Hours Of Pure Poetry

So I am back in Rome and I wish I could share with you the bewildering phantasmagory of these few, intense hours. Edoardo and I will cherish in our hearts this incredible experience, starting from the breathtaking reading up to the heartfelt generosity of four extraordinary poets--Jack Hirschman and his wife Agneta Falk, Paul Polansky and Alberto Masala--who have shared with us their daily life, their stories, their humor and their passion. Naturally, I owe a special thanks to Jack for having devoted me over four hours of his time and memories. Trust me, he is not just a spectacular poet but he is, above all, a wonderful man!

I truly left a speck of my heart in Bologna!

April is Not The Cruellest Month

Yes, April is not the cruellest month simply because it is Poetry Month. Celebrate it as best as you can. Be a poet. Write poetry. Read poetry. Buy books of poetry. Support poets and poetry as best as you can. Dare disturb the universe!

The Albatross

Baudelaire's poem is a perfect one for my son Edoardo who, being 11 years old,  feels that he is growing up too fast. Adolescence is indeed the lovely and terrible age of clumsiness. But, I am confident that this is just a step because, like a poet, he will soon learn to spread his wings and fly. Soar, my boy!

Often our sailors, for an hour of fun,
Catch albatrosses on the after breeze
Through which these trail the ship from sun to sun
As it skims down the deep and briny seas.
Scarce have these birds been set upon the poop,
Than, awkward now, they, the sky's emperors,
Piteous and shamed, let their great white wings droop
Beside them like a pair of idle oars.
These wingèd voyagers, how gauche their gait!
Once noble, now how ludicrous to view!
One sailor bums them with his pipe, his mate
Limps, mimicking these cripples who once flew.
Poets are like these lords of sky and cloud,
Who ride the storm and mock the bow's taut strings,
Exiled on earth amid a jeering crowd,
Prisoned and…

Traveling with Walt

I have traveled with uncle Walt this morning during my coffee break. And, as usual, the journey has been an enriching experience. There is a depth in his work and yet a comradesque appeal that is perhaps what I like most. Reading "Leaves of Grass" makes you feel part of a Whole, because Whitman is the largest poet. He doescontain multitudesindeed.
Here is an excerpt I truly adore from "Song of an Open Road". And yes, you bet, I will give him myself. I will stick with Walt as long as I live!

From this hour I ordain myself loosed of limits and imaginary lines,
Going where I list, my own master total and absolute,
Listening to others, considering well what they say,
Pausing, searching, receiving, contemplating,
Gently, but with undeniable will, divesting myself of the holds that would hold me.
I inhale great draughts of space,
The east and the west are mine, the north and the south are mine.
I am larger, better than I thought, I did not know I held so much goodness.


Revolutionary Mayakovsky

I have been reading Mayakovsky's poems extensively in the past weeks. I deeply love them and I tend to agree with most of his revolutionary ideas. He does sound prophetic at times: the poet must hurry time forward. And he was almost too faithful to his idea considering the fact that he committed suicide when aged 36. His definition of a proleterian as someone in love with the future is quite amazing. His ideas on literature so powerful: Why should literature occupy its own special little corner? Either it should appear in every newspaper, every day on every page, or else it's so totally useless. The kind of literature that's dished out as dessert can go to hell.

I am so touched by the verses that follow. They could well be my poetical manifesto.

For you
I will tear out my soul
and trample on it till it spreads out
and I'll give it to you,
a bloody banner.

On Hedgehogs And Poetry (à la Wallace Stevens)

I was driving along a country road this morning when the smallest hedgehog ever crossed my path. It was such an unexpected surprise that I pulled over not only in order to enjoy the wildlife epiphany but because the event reminded me of a quote by Wallace Stevens: "Poetry is a pheasant disappearing in the brush". Well, maybe poetry is a hedgehog  disappearing in the darkest greenery. I want to write a haiku in honor of my small, lovely fellow!  And let him reappear in my pen!

A Phone Call From Poet Jack

I can think of no better way to begin a Saturday morning than receiving a phone call from a poet! And if the said poet is Jack Hirschman--that is my poetical guru--than the experience is almost blissful. Jack arrived in Bologna yesterday. His wife and him are hosted by a friend-poet, from whose cell phone Jack was calling me. We have talked for ten solid minutes in the most friendly and cordial way. We have agreed to see each other on the day in which I will arrive in Bologna for his reading performance and on the following day as well. He asked me what exactly I am planning to write. At my answer: "The story of your life", he exclaimed laughing "Oh boy!". Gotta love the young man!