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From Dust and Dissolution to Domestic Harmony: Three New Poetic Voices.

From Dust and Dissolution to Domestic Harmony: Three New Poetic Voices

Luca Benassi. L'onore della polvere. Novi Ligure: puntoacapo, 2009. Stelvio Di Spigno. La nudita, con postfazione di Fernando Marchiori. Puglia: peQuod, 2010.

Rossella Tempesta. Libro domestico. Formia: Ghenomena, 2011.

Luca Benassi (1975-) and Stelvio Di Spigno (1976-) belong to a promising new generation of poets born during the 1970's. Both are prolific critics. Di Spigno, whose previous books of poetry include Nei margini della storia (Joker, 2000) and I fasti del grigio (Lepisma, 2005), has a doctorate from the Universita orientale of Naples and has written a book on Giacomo Leopardi (Le "Memorie della mia vita" di Giacomo Leopardi-Analisi psicologica cognitivo-comportamentale, L'Orientale Editrice, 2007). Benassi, whose first two books of poetry are titled Mattinale (1st edition, Sometti, 2001, 2nd edition, Caramanica, 2006) and Formazione del bianco (Manni, 2007), is a correspondant for Noidonne, the historical feminist review and he has also written a book (Rivi strozzati, poeti italiani negli anni Duemila, Edizioni Lepisma, 2010, pp. 294) on contemporary Italian poets. Although each has his own distinct style, their poetry often focuses on the disintegration of contemporary urban existence and concepts of self and family.

Benassi's L'onore della polvere (recipient of the Civetta di Minerva Prize, 2011) is poised between cautious hope of new life (Ecografia del 12 maggio 2005) and the dissolution of an urban landscape (Le nostre citta sono rovine). It hovers between visions of contemporary wastelands (Poi la macchina si fermo in un cosmo d'asfalto), evocations of mythological contests (Marsia), and spiritual doubts (Di certo, mio Signore, dubitai [...]). It alternates between a long almost prosaic versification: "e nel cielo un globo liquefatto di innocenza azzurra ed infantile" and a more classic, rhythmic line: "salmoni ignari verso la mattanza." The numerous ichthyological references evoke entrapment, early Christianity ("Bisogna aspettarli al varco i salmoni" or "a te che imbocchi come un pesce la metro") bur also pregnancy and birth. His book is divided into tive sections, Il nome e il battito, La trattativa, Il bacio, Marsia, Poeti. Thematically we move from hope to the realities and disappointments of life. A recurring image is that of the monitor and the needle, the hospital is often in the background, especially in the first tive poems all titled Ecografia (Ultrasound) with their respective dates.

The poems of the other sections are quite effective at conveying the sensations and flavors of a vast contemporary metroplex: a multicultural conglomeration with its parcheggi and metros haunted by ethnic and racial tensions yet fueled by dynamic energy. This is the story of many cities today. They could verge on a sort of mass anonymity were the poet not capable of depicting their characteristic and somewhat alienating atmosphere: "Seguendo i tetti e le strade brulicant i / i vestiboli con i kebab, gli androni verdi, scritti/in lingue remote, si comprende/il verdetto, la sentenza in versetti lineari." These admirable lines come from one of the most noteworthy poems of the collection whose final line gives the book its title: "a te, poeta, si concede l'onore della polvere." We note the clever inversion of Mario Luzi's well known title Onore del vero (1957). It would seem to be a sign of the marginal place poets now occupy. No longer those who could convey or attain truth they know the "honor of dust" instead.

What do books like Onore della polvere and La nudita have in common? They both devote many poems to family themes: childbirth in Benassi's case, and family relations and memories in Di Spigno's book. The titles, however, suggest other affinities. Paradoxically, we could also say they tend toward dissolution and thus we would agree with Fernando Marchiori's postface to Stelvio Di Spigno's book entitled Una strategia di dissolvimento. Marchiori's impressive essay is an in depth analysis of Di Spigno's work from a rhetorical and thematic point of view. Di Spigno's poetry has a distinct voice even though the theme is the absence of self or its dissolution, or put differently the Pirandellian drama of identity: "perche da piu me stessi se ne formi almeno uno" (Identificazione) or "Bella la parola identita, ma chi ne ha colto il frutto / povero figlio di te stesso, se lo tiene per se," (Animazione). It would seem that there is no barrier between the inner and outer worlds for Di Spigno. His self resides in the persons and objects that surround him: "io divento / la madre nel parco, l'uomo che va in barca" (Animazione). The frontiers and values most of us take for granted are questioned in these poems which are written in back of God, alle spalle di Dio. Doubts on everything, including a Leopardian/ Mallarmean preoccupation with emptiness and lack of inspiration, are frequently expressed. Despite these metaphysical and existential torments, Di Spigno has written many unique and haunting poems such as the Fine settembre, L'innocenza, or Canone fraterno among others. An excerpt from Pietra focaia will give the reader an excellent sampling of this intense new poetic voice: "Ci siamo entrati in questo buco nero / e quiche torna lo sterno del passato / con quello stesso odore di quando moriremo / tra i ghiacci polari e le bocche del deserto."

Rossella Tempesta, whose previous books of poetry include Alia tua porta (Walter Raffaelli Editore, 2000), Passaggi di Amore (Edizioni della meridiana, 2007), and L'impaziente (Boopen, 2009), does not share the vision of disintegration and dissolution which strongly characterizes the poetry of Benassi and Di Spigno. As the title suggests, Libro domestico reflects a vision which does the very opposite. It unifies and preserves by concretely focusing on the concepts and contrasts between house and home, family and place. Her book consists of twenty-six poems in Italian and tive Spanish versions. Although eight poems (as in the works of Benassi and Di Spigno) consist of very long lines, at times going beyond the margin, the majority (the other eighteen) tend to have a more concise and cadenced verse. For the most part texts revolve around the notion of home as a physical place, the casa, and a state of mind, a sort of omniscient maternity ("e in questa casa tutti sono io"), domestic bliss ("Molto bella, l'estate / per questo suo camminare a piedi nudi nella casa"), and familiar objects. The most successful compositions are precisely those that evoke these objects without sentimentality or excess as in the poem in which the author identifies with a jug and hopes "to be used at least once" ("e m'intorpidisco / come una brocca vuota nell'attesa / di essere usata una volta almeno"). Another characteristic example may be appreciated in the admirable piece on a pair of shoes, unremarkable in themselves and completely banal, yet a crucial sign of the domestic interior's well being, a sort of objective correlative of happiness:
   Al risveglio c'era penombra estiva
   e sotto la sedia dei nostri vestiti alla rinfusa
   le tue scarpe, le mie preferite, quelle da ragazzo.
   Vuote di te, non scelte per l'uscita.
   Lasciate al mio primo sguardo per regalo.

These lines give a very good idea of Rossella Tempesta's promising capacity of transforming everyday objects and places into fine poems that resonate with the reader long after we have closed the door of her distinct and warm poetic house.

These three books all devote many poems to the same theme: the family and the home (casa). As we have seen, Benassi writes of expecting a child (ecografie). Although the word casa appears less frequently in L'onore della polvere, it is not entirely absent. More often it is used to refer to other people's houses (i fiumi delle case). In one instance the house is equaled to a shield and guilt at the same time. The alliteration and semi assonance between "colpa" and "casa" are striking:
   Hai deciso di andare via
   nasconderti dietro una colpa
   che fa scudo e casa insieme
          L'onore della polvere

In La nudita Di Spigno evokes childhood memories that include Diego Maradona (Pibe de oro), his aunts (L'innocenza) or the notable poem dedicated to his father (Dissolvimento). The word casa occurs frequently. At times he writes about other people's houses (Aspettative, Casa di Mille, Vindicio), at others, the word is associated with self and the dilemma of identity.
   Schiarisciti la mente perche se guardi la mia casa
   ci trovi solo uccelli che schivano l'aria dali'interno
   e senza pib ragnatele e radio d'anteguerra
   sembra proprio una casa qualunque e indolore
      La nudita

Clearly for Rossella Tempesta this theme is the binding metaphor of her book. Her treatment of the concept of casa is, as we might expect, multifaceted. It is hearth, maternity, and future, but it is also fragile as a body, witness to all that shapes our existence: dream, loss, death, pain, and joy.
   La casa e tornata in sogno.
   Era quella che era, ma vista da lontano.
   La casa che resta irragiungibile.
   La casa
   resta quella con la nostra essenza e il dolore,
   dove la morte e la nascita sono incise nei muri.
      Libro domestico

Each of these poets possesses a strong and distinct voice. Each offers his or her own particular vision. For Benassi and Di Spigno disintegration seems stronger than creation. For Rossella Tempesta, casa becomes the key to being; the poet must resist between its ephemeral walls.


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Author:Carle, Barbara
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2012
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