Friday 25 December 2009

Glimpses of Italy

I'd planned to do some writing on my holiday just before Xmas. The plane journey started well in that regard. On the train that I took from Turin to Bardonecchia I saw this notice. At first I thought it was a warning but it's a publisher asking for manuscripts from emerging writers. By then I'd stopped writing. I was reading a book I'd bought in Turin - "Almanacco dello specchio 2007", published by Mondadori. It has selected poems, essays on the year's trends and main publications, interviews, and bilingual sections on Paul Vangelist and Jamie McKendrick. There are also several retrospectives provoked by publication of "collected works" though Caproni (died 1990) is the most common point of reference (some essays of his were published in 2006). I find such books useful, but the Italian titles and publishers change, making them hard to track down - I also have "Annuario di Poesia 2000" (Crocetti Editore) and "Poesia 2005 Annuario" (Castelvecchi).

The Italians like their manifestos, their movements. John Picchione covered "Gruppo 63" and "Gruppo 70" in his "The New Avant-Garde in Italy: Theoretical Debate and Poetic Practices" (Univ of Toronto Press, 2004), mentioning their diversity of methods (e.g. Giuliani's work is studied in relation to Dylan Thomas, John Cage and Wittgenstein!) and intent (revolution vs normalisation, etc). It seems to me that discussion of Avant-Garde is less avoidable in Italy than in England, that there's more fluidity between theory and practise. "Almanacco dello specchio 2007" confirms these impressions. I've read the essays - there's nothing about the state of poetry, or the publishing world, or even the web, but their theoretical concerns are similar to ours. Anna Maria Carpi's work is described as "confessional poetry di taglio neocrepuscolare" (neo-Twilight - the Italian Twilight poets wrote in the early 20th century about the sadness and disappointment). They put Larkin's poetry into that category. Carpi uses autobiographical immediacy/authenticity combined with metrical forms. At the other extreme, "Fuoriformato" is a collection whose forward says that it involves "una poesia che non evada da se stessi soltanto verso la prosa ma che magari estremizzi le proprie componenti liriche, sino ad annichilirle" (a poetry that escapes from itself not only towards prose, but even taking its own lyrical components to the extreme, as far as their annihilation"). Then there's Pagliarani, whose poetry is "piu performance che narrativa, piu prose kinema che realta, piu montaggio che ritmo".

They mention reactions to the domination of lyrical poetry. Interestingly there's a "movement disseminated in various parts of Italy that sparsely and without apparent connections returns to closed metrics, practised for very different motives ... the radical experimentation of the sonnets of Patrizia Valduga ... the transparent narratives of Airaghi".

I've only browsed through the poetry selections so far - they cover a range of poetry types, though here's less dialect poetry and ragged-left poetry than I expected. There aren't many non-rhyming box-shaped stanzas, or poems where all the stanzas are the same shape.

Bardonecchia has less than 4000 inhabitants but manages to have a bookshop and 2 newsagents selling literary novels (though Dan Brown dominated the window displays). We were all but snowed in at times, which should have helped with the writing. Opposite us, on the baker's doorstep, was an inflated Santa Claus. Below our window on the last night was a little snowplough. We managed to get away on Christmas Eve, past heaps of snow 2 meters high, so I missed the forthcoming cultural events- a "Tribute to Michael Jackson" on Dec 29th and a book-launch on Dec 30th, the 3rd "Incontri Letterari" of the month. I read my 2 new Flash pieces on the way back. They weren't as good as I'd hoped.

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