August 4, 2022

Nanni Cagnone (Italy) 1939

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); L’oro guarda l’argento (Verona, 2003); Undeniable Things (Modena, 2010); Penombra della lingua (Rome, 2012); Perduta comodità del mondo (Rome 2013); Tacere fra gli alberi (Turin, 2014); Tornare altrove (Lavis, 2016); Ingenuitas (Lavis, 2017); Le cose innegabili (Rome, 2018); La genitiva terra (Lavis, 2019); Mestizia dopo gli ultimi racconti (Lavis, 2020); Accoglimento (Lavis, 2020); Ex Animo (Lavis, 2020); Sterpi e fioriture (Lavìs, 2021) 




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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