November 25, 2010

Nanni Cagnone

Nanni Cagnone [Italy]

Born in Carcare, in the province of Liguria, Italy in 1939. His first book of poetry was What’s Hecuba to Him or He to Hecuba? published in English by Out of London Press in 1975. His second book, published in Italian, was Andatura of 1979. Among his other publications are Vaticinio (1984), Armi senza insigne (1988), Anima del vuoto (1993), Il popolo delle cose (1999), and Doveri dell’esilio (2002).

Cagnone has also published several plays and fiction, including Comuni smarrimento (1990).

He was the Senior editor of Marcatré, the managing editor of Design Italia, and, more recently he headed the Italian publishing house Coliseum. He also contributed to numerous literary and cultural journals, Uomini e Idee, Caleidoscopio, Il Verri, and Periodo ipotetico, among them.

Cagnone has also published theoretical essays and aphorismis, including I giovani invalidi (1967) and Sfortuna dell’authoronia (1977), and has edited works of Gerard Manley Hopkins and others.

Of his own poetry, Cagnone writes: “Poetry is an extraneous work, something sleep would teach consciousness. It demands receptive thought and desires learned in response. It does not comprise an act of gathering the world as an encouragement to meaning or a flattery of language but the experience of a faithfulness that would retain the inutterable. Poetry is the action of going beyond what one can think.”


Andatura (Milan: Società de Poesia, 1979); Vaticinato (Naples: SEN, 1984); Notturno sopra il giorno (Milan: Severgnini, 1985); Armi senza insigne (Milan: Coliseum, 1988); Anima del vuto (Bari: Palomar, 1993); Avvento (Bari: Palomar, 1995); Il popolo delle cose (Milan: Jaca Book, 1999); Doveri dell’esilio (Genoa-Pavia: Night Mail, 2002)


What’s Hecuba to Him or He to Hecuba?, trans. by David Verzoni (New York: Out of London Press, 1975); The Book of Giving Back, trans. by Stephen Sartarelli (New York: Edgewise, 1998); Index Vaccus, trans. by Richard Milazzo (New York: Edgewise, 2005)

Undeniable Things
Translated from the Italian by Paul Vangelisti


It won’t be the cloudy sky,
nor the faulty accord,
to neglect one of the two
on the mule tracks of childhood—
it will be us, in an unhurried
moment, delighted
to be deafened and healing.

We were pretenders,
then daring serious-mindedness
not in the least
aware of a glimmering,
only a startling of colors
in false light.

We as we are now,
we who are here
a dream left behind.


From experience,
confusing frost with dew,
knowing in each tear
a musing gladness
and a fearless something
in the disbelieving dusk.

ready senility of these leaves,
and a congress of crumbs
after the bread’s defeat.

Unavoidable questions
as to our abbreviation.


Not imploring,
as ditches of scant rancid waters
swell in the dimness, rushing
toward the mutiny of considered light,
toward sunset, precious pang,
and that great procurer of twilight,
with his invitations, his certainty
that dark the suitable husband.


And now, why
amaze the night meadow
with other sounds? Down there
they know what they must,
without any envy of befalling,
lying down there in many tongues
(no sort of grammar however,
nor discontent over any ties),
next to a rumbling of water
that throughout centuries
affirms the floridness—
the misunderstood.


One day
we can no longer resist the details:
the plaster still cracked,
here, the exclamation
of a book put aside,
that shadows’ insisting
toward dark. And we,
bare trees, unaware
of the bountifulness of design
and minutely enthralled.

Anomalies—between pebbles
and amulets, rejected gifts.


Going on without moving,
and taking measures
when rumpled time
making a hiding place
in a shared world
so pliant to our figures,
that returns to a burlesque
along a dream. Going on
to stop dead at once,
tangled, in a weft
not depending on us,
in the wisdom demanded
of our defeats.


Only to an adolescent
are poets necessary,
dear authors of dizziness.
In the shadows much later,
one knows their inconsistency,
that jealous perhaps
unintentional babbling,
exasperated plaint
or fiercely crying—
eager poverty of words.

I was shipwreck.


I don’t know where Vestfossen is,
and this goes
for the name of every color
as in cloth cloud or pigment
from shadow in shadow a color happens.

Then by returning lost, retreated.
Noisy by now what I might know,
and entangled in the minutes.
Here in the slow clay’s dominion,
a distinct light, quiet swarm.
The season’s dialectal here.


Early morning,
that arrives without escort
but for his habits,
dreamy lad already charmed
by an afternoon’s uneasiness,
and panting of steps
within many fences, searching
the boundless claims of grass—
tall-worn-out November grass,
its hopes are
nothing but ours.

Man, disciple of shadow,
lower your eyelids.


Before, where in time
the antagonist of distances
tamed the void,
how many things cared for
that are not, exiled to hothouses
having no season.

That which sprouts here,
never undone—
by the indolence of flowering.


Winter, smile.
Granting gardens in this ditch,
when with quiet brevity
morning sinks not transfigured
into nightfall, there is no time,
and the wait is a dazzled instant
night grew in itself
if it wouldn’t know
the all bitter flowing.

Enwrapped, consumed.


From a cliff, now,
and not among the gallant roses
I recall dozing
on others’ pangs, when—
it must have been when we,
as little invertebrates,
with equal nimbleness,
bent on squandering the hours
dreaming them one by one,
not leaving them unheeded
in a reticent universe.

We—each not separated


This slow coming to the truth isn’t mine,
for I’d know how to bring down the world
like an disastrous commander,
at least encountering things
instead of looking ahead
at whether surviving their weariness—
undeniable things, unsealed exordium
whose fulfillment requires a you,
this reckless ornament of the I.


Today a falcon, I tell you,
hovering above 13th century towers
like an aging history student.
One may look after the dust the ash,
move soundlessly toward the ruins, until
(a moment that might commonly
be confused in others)
something grieves shouts.

It is an undeserved world.
Gratitude is needed.


An awakening, those planes inclined
sharply toward the apex
oblivious to the fjord,
long awaiting completion
until that sky
won’t crumble over Bjørvika.

Having their music, the seagulls
will not be quiet before us
who hold the world’s scores—
we of the mindful coat of arms,
we too like refugees,
in search of a chord.


Instead of roots, as a boy,
I prefer the tips of cedars,
which, as we say, loom
and more readily sway
when a western wind
comes to stir them.
That deepening green
which at night becomes
unfinished black
is the badge of the few
who do not return,
if ever they left a land
that’s bleeding kinship.


On what absent-minded stage
can the unrelenting correct itself,
like a plough that gives up
before the woods
to return to the careful surface
forced to split into clods,
having on the horizon
emptied granaries
ransacked storerooms,
another winter, you know—
torment or farewell.

We ought to dread
a ready place.


The lunaria perennis leaves what,
empty resonant pages,
not so different
than an old unfailing poet
who goes around chapping
the day’s cloudy importance
with the tyranny of his appearance.
Blindly going on, what to say,
as that face brightens
in the peevish light of November.
It’s for itself—not a means,
that face, to crumple
into a metaphor.

What sense is there
in desalinating salt?


Barefoot toward the furnaces,
and the sheen of the ground
where, taken root, crumbs of glass.
Going back there slowly enough,
already written story for rewriting,
as without us time erased,
that greedy servant of quantity
who still conceals the blame,
the persuaded maladies, the too revered
intolerances, and especially
we who lacked compassion.

The earthenware in shards
was not in the accords,
it wasn’t time she return,
extraneous, to her raw earth.


The same tongue—
here, almost trickery—
then the other by itself.
Glimmer without shape,
quiet not-knowing
or this childhood of saying
at the verge of a woods
likewise dark.

Oh irredeemable stranger,
now as just one man
in the gleaming who knows,
in the friendliness of time.


Nothing in the private
winter light of the garden
that is worth a persimmon,
convinced chrome orange
hesitating at the branch.

What will be the edge
between cracked and smooth? I can’t tell,
it’s like going toward something
that you can’t learn by remembering.


where nods and smiles
are losing us,
over there knowing rooms
of loose things,
and in the open
a ramified airiness
while it rains.
Steady and mutual,

Then, next to sleep,
the lonely threshold.


He turns
toward the inward appearance,
laments the scant shadow on the face,
while the world says it’s unfinished.
A hand put out profitably
is complementary to withdrawing
the unused entirety, as
in its demand confusing it.

And we—here and there,
clamoring along walls,
and not wherever
without precaution.


To have thought, here’s something
for which outcome my accountant
would shakes his head. Why blame him?
I see with an aversion to looking,
while a surface stirs ahead
light didn’t wish to flatter
and darkness not to still.

I pass by here like a bestower.
Then the day vexes me.
You are the branch’s end
that air would take to caressing.


An Aleppo pine
high on the rocky cliff, alone
and not in the sentence-making woods.
Then, along the tired lane,
a streetlight. Bearing in mind
how the sea behaves below,
look close at the stretch harshly lighted
that spells earth’s primitive redness.

You pass by without knowing
among varied things that even up,
looking carefully not to ask questions.


With the nights’ reluctance
toward dawn,
impersonal honor,
believing in having to intertwine,
follow things
dry in a cavity like my throat,
which are only a glaze
of names, syntactical habits.
You know, ‘world’ is a word
without owners,
though one may
reasonably doubt.

Among its angles its edges
does each thing stillrejoice in itself?


If ever an Ezra Pound
slowly alive
lingers at an incurable distance
from the buried James Joyce
(all this in Zurich,
Friedhof Fluntern), we will think
it’s a photo, after all. Otherwise,
we must consider possible that
a minute resumes the novel of regret
as we recall ourselves dying,
we again look ahead at a promised
or already finished land,
so wearily cultivated.


Fathersmothers children,
exhausted mutual presence
of deceased and living
in the opaque material
to which not resigned, we
who go on with disdain
towards the inevitable, avoiding
wrens much too still
among muddy leaves;
while winter pretends we’re his,
this stubborn season
that doesn’t promise else
in its dead light.


Daydreaming one sees them,
scanty figures,
ashen as a crime
or amorously spellbound.

Envy of a life
without my vertebra,
a not prideful flowing
making a habit of smiling—
as in some out-of-the-way inn,
you know, when you miss a turn
and who knows what to hope
from the mistake.


Hollow of lost sound,
drop diverted from the brook
dried up in sand,
and in the silence
holding the clocks still
one of us in the seed of a sigh,
then the dusky conch—
another sound.


To wake alongside the furrows
where unsleeping seeds ripen
without sound, without dreaming of
being a grain of wheat, then leaving,
tracks surviving the upturned clods,
like the winter farmer,
earth’s orphan, that moves
useless toward a house
as the hail would.


Shadow, harsh sentence
for whom
beneath the blows of too many words
learns that the book
can be entire
and silence concave, but
cannot put to sleep thoughts
that in others don’t find
even a makeshift bed.

The light today has grown tired.
Who knows if tomorrow’s been picked.


Which nails,
or comb capable of tangles,
in the ravaged house
sinks deep within us?
The mourning is unburied,
and you don’t know the thorn’s demand.
Incoherent, surviving emptiness,
if soaked by events
we keep watching the unripe sickle,
the startled murky glimmer.

Festive falsehood of resurrection
and wrath’s decayed urgency.
My heedless memories
standing in the road, broken down.
Conversations enlarged by silence.

You know, fleeing we don’t catch up
with what’s to come.


It isn’t raining, and the ruined parched
we an unused ditch.
Surely the unforgettable
listless millennium empties
in vain, complaining perhaps,
like a blackbird banished among crows.

Don’t write words
for which you’ll be sorry waking up,
or in the bitter gathering of dying.


Disappearing, like a wave
that forgets itself in waves,
and we mustn’t call senseless
the alternating sorrows,
as the proverbs of the poor teach us,
the only philosophers not to fail,
resisting the satiety of western thought.

But the wave that comes true last
holds no experience, stirs anxiousness
along the rocky bottom
until it takes us up entirely.


in the gleam of day.

But then they become figures,
the world’s naming,
idle women
in painters’ studios
and distantly
the hand wears out in rust.

Fellow men,
wheezing all around you
is everything.


Shameless light plays with the glass,
stops the glance that would want
the same declivity, salty grasses
toward the Renaissance of gardens.

In the meanwhile,
spores of the possible keep watch
where my window’s world
proves itself most green—
oh those spores keep busy,
they push me away
from the ultimate library.


Sixth day of September:
her tongue’s murmur
and my thoughts’
deformed canon.

The forgetful needle
in a corner of the room
can finally sew—
comes and goes
binding the scattered and dazed,
before the port has frozen
and a bold farewell
calls the day’s
briefness wasted.

Sewing, sensible again.


Who sowed the seed
from which this great ease—
may remain apart without yielding,
like some cloudy actor.
Together humbly
we look to where,
not knowing
of which where we are talking,
though certainly it may be here.

I will never
a single voice.


My father at home,
the last days,
sitting with his weight
in the inclement emptiness
that never healed his certainties,
sitting bewildered
at not understanding
why children without lingering
nor shelter, never did their embrace
shake him. Children that
in his indisputable universe
diminished him.

Here, fugitive identities
in the dead tangle.


This light
is like a siege,
a flitting inside a beehive,
and no shelter for us
who will be stormed
before dusk.

So you rethink winter,
the dark’s invention
that endangered
our feelings,
restrained their breathing
but promised them to March—
March that bursts
like a thug
into the ailing we.


Dead you roam
within that circle, no more
in time’s resignation
but in its unknown persistence.

There are things to say,
lately, as
the leaf is double,
smooth on one side,
and that door again
you leave ajar,
and above everything
the sea’s discontent
not yet avoiding the shore.
It landed at high tide,
and this is irrefutable.


The quivering force—then
resonant to speak,
among deafened sounds
a stunted word
with its unknown spur—
insinuating itself
into the convulsive phonation of weeping,
most hostile of our summonses,
that won’t end with these tears
won’t come to an understanding
but constantly follows spies on us
like an adolescent in heat
hangs behind women on the boulevard,
waiting for them to want him.


At last, writing the history
of minute things—
the event of a comb in the hair
or the worship of mother-of-pearl chips.

It’s time to wake up, consistent
in the baffling wholeness of fragments:
it’s here we will be won—
a fogged glass,
an appointment with dust.


In the great fires
in empty prayers,
where for a clear inability
our words must swoon,
the despair of centuries grows.
There are too many accomplices
too few helpers, and clashing
the heart hastens
to wild simpler sorrows,
that one may
slowly answer.


In sleep’s delicate articulations,
for blurred obstinate dreams
we obey childhood—sitting here
and talking of boundless subjects,
while the gravel crunches late.

Followers or pursuers, they have
my same name—they push me,
vanish in a wave of earth.


A look without motion:
missing the living stalk,
the dedicated branch, and goodbye
fatherland of the five senses,
surrendered to the folly of knowing
while the world shows itself
in the hare among the grasses
grasses around the hare,
in the bright-tattered
skin of sky, in the late hour
making the day steep.


Support in keeping quiet,
airy forgetfulness of speaking
as one glances through
the previous deprivation,
when feverish breathing
and lapping earth,
like a lickerish sea
must return to itself, each time
simply darker.

That wasn’t a wedding—
it was the inclemency
of an empty passing.


The ink spot is suited
to the written page,
tells of things happening outside,
more peculiar than we might believe,
and the kindness of an eraser,
its remedy, is another
daily servitude.

How many things are needed
to make of us
something simple?


A fern from the wall’s rough vase.
Learned in the anatomy of gardens,
you’ll say, it was just a fern:
Athyrium filix-foemina.

In the past’s impatient provinces
he lies down crooked
where the grasses rise,
he keeps to springtime’s umbilical—
but his hearing is faulty,
he doesn’t know if, agreeing,
down there they call him son.


Leaving unwatched
the indolent progress of dust,
or reclaiming the present—
rubbing the silver
until it doesn’t raise its voice.

You know, the size of cigarettes
is no longer the same, and you in vain
from door to door, nearbything
not mine, slid from the decades.
Goodbye—time knows it, shuts you in.


Regretful, the day after—
our busy unhappiness,
palms out of place
in the climate’s malevolence
and roses stripped bare
in a tedium of glances.

It’s winter, after all,
no impulsive now,
nothing but a then
for the surrendered foliage for us,
not a call, and this
the unhurt day,
whatever night above the day.


what’s the use of answering you?

I delve where generations tremble
with desultory teaching.

In the growth’s uprising,
in the last scared harvest,
I ought to contemplate
the wild sleepy border.  

Ruinous comparison
measuring old against young,
anxiousness and sighs.
How nimble we were, another time,
and happy if the harbor lights
among ships in the dark
like ancient continents, and we
with considered frenzy
in the atrium of gardens to come.

All stays, the bow and the slingshot,
the sudden gem
and the sword’s acumen—
it all stays with us.


Scissoring the myrtle hedge
carefully, sheltered by
the half-shut gate.
The clandestine we
go out at night,
run from the frozen valley
to the sea’s other
promised promised again dimness,
which confined us to the earth
but seemed to have left a passage
in the palm of the hand.

You see him, a porcupine
murmuring his steps—
but where were you going, lofty
in your deciduous light?


Convulsive style
of atoms in a gale
and their ordained fall,
drops that shriek like migrating
birds on window glass.

A blade of grass in the crowd
or a petal among others
in springtime. Although
he turns to this to that,
how can he say ‘you’?


That advancing—
banally I mean
her nipples
when forward,
like spontaneous flowers
in youthful season.

The old metaphors
won’t let us be,
for the value
of commonplaces
(‘lonely as a dog’
and not so much dog).


That smart unruly boy
of the seeds of light, passing
among things grows dim
(when do things ever
align, not having
the undaunted faith of dreams?),
and dimly wishes to value
those remaining shivers of light,
in his mind
making torrential actual
puddles, and from the decisive dark
a shadowy gradation, a
sorry uncertainty of time.


Roses with manure
and some things with words,
shrewd precautions
keeping alive
the lovely illusion—making happen
or miraculously breathing
giving life without labor,
without weeping’s nourishment,
then gazing at those lines
that one upon the other,
florid as roses,
and the graceful rhetoric
will make them wither.


Wintry years, by whose
distorting light
we don’t see the threshold.
One of us, dandled
and already lamented
by plaintive shrill words,
notices his shoes
are muddy.


Das Gerede der Leute,
lieber Hölderlin—hearsay
that avoided you indeed.
The devotees who study you
do worse, they grant you
editorial pardon
(so madness was esteemed).

In short, nothing was owed you—
it was just like you
to venture the heart,
and still today
there isn’t a climbing rose
joining at the window
through which you saw entire
the Neckar of miserliness.

* Das Gerede der Leute, lieber Hölderlin [“People’s chatter, dear Hölderlin”]


Finite space, rim of a drum.
It would help to incarnate while you can,
to glean light even after nightfall,
take a stroll in the mist
and never leave the moment
alone, or it stings everything.

At the end, at the end of the surging
sunset, in the insecure maturing
burning without a grieving scheme,
the solemn episode of the leaves—
rustling and that’s all. Rustling.


Things thrown away
will be renowned
in another life, a steep-furious life
without theologies without preambles,
nothing but getting wet staying awake
being involved,
and seeing reluctance dazzled.
Losing yourself, just once,
in the old background noise of radio
back when
distance wasn’t scarce.


Ah the soft delicate airy,
sweet uproar of an early morning
far from weariness,
and never satisfied wonder
that things one by one,
for the world’s constant turning to.

Understand, usurpers:
if moths eat the wool,
the wool doesn’t eat anyone.


It wasn’t for me the etched
and frosted glass, which blown
in that tall earth with ashen skin,
slowly rattling
me off through the years
to push me into the open
toward the ailing,
the resigned questions, the wheels;
so I didn’t come back
before having forgotten,
before my appearance
become equal to the sleepless
certainly more opaque glass,
which I had in mind, then.


Almost seventy years—then,
time bending, you again see the way,
if not the house, of origin.
A way without infant’s cries, silent.
Many will have died there
in the meantime, to lessen
your pretense, recalling
there is no proportion
between being born and dying,
and you don’t make friends
with the intervening emptiness.


Thunder-lightening without effect,
it’s not raining—and I in the interlude,
having this lukewarm habit
of pulling every plug, look
from the dark at the Southern magnolia
that isn’t here, rooted in another
bitterness, and still alive, I know,
though surrounded by tears.


You wouldn’t want
the insipid chronicle,
or what the art of physiognomy
tells me with no purpose…
Better like this, keeping in mind
the apex, the baroque pinnacle
on my roof, if not distracted
by the unexpected wren
that looks all around
or pokes in the millet, and far off
sees every one of our affairs
yield confusingly.


The look of country newlyweds
in front of the town hall.
The surface intensity
on the one day that shakes them,
steady in the resolute smile
of mended clothes
improvised makeup
reconciled loneliness.

A photograph
to frame abstractly,
while awaiting them is poor soil
that doesn’t give discounts, soil blacker
than the bride’s dress.


Stranger everywhere,
if without purpose
you move in the skimming way
of the breeze, my intangible
more scattered people,
for whom it’s not given to live
among orderly, allotted things
that have lost
the ancient bearing of living beings.

Your misunderstood empty greed
that in the end lifts you up


In the look
of who stops
without hello to here,
becoming is tired.

Then, in the time among years,
uproar of subterranean rivers
and earth’s footprints on thoughts,
and all these books to look through
not to read, because
the heart’s corroded contour.

English language translation copyright (c) 2010 by Paul Vangelisti

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