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Tra Livorno e Genova, il poeta delle due città Omaggio a Giorgio Caproni a cura di Patrizia Garofalo e Cinzia Demi

An essay

By Patrizia PoliPublished about a year ago 13 min read

There are literary essays that enlighten, enrich, make people say: “Here, this is exactly what I thought and felt”. There are others dripping academia, for example those read on university days, when you had to waste an hour, not to study the poet or novelist in question, but just to understand what the critic meant with his nebula jumble of words. We students ended up telephoning one another, asking: “But what did you get?” We tried to reconstruct the thread of the discourse, to “translate” the text into an understandable Italian, laboriously linking the subject and the predicate. Often, in the end, once paraphrased and vulgarized, the essay could be summed up in three or four key concepts. We felt, then, the need to move away from a world made up only of people talking to themselves, and immerse ourselves in real life, in concrete things.

This premise is to show you a collection of essays on Giorgio Caproni — a poet more than ever in search of total contact between word and thing — which contains texts from both kinds. Fortunately, those of the first kind are by far prevalent.

“Between Livorno and Genoa, the poet of the two cities”, curated by Patrizia Garofalo and Cinzia Demi, is a tribute to Giorgio Caproni, which is developed in twelve essays, some of which are the result of two conferences organized by one of the curators, in Palermo and Bologna, other works of scholars and connoisseurs and even of Caproni’s own son. Many excite, one in particular bores because it is written in an intellectually self-satisfied language.

The collection opens with an interview that Caproni’s son Attilio Mauro gave to Matteo Bianchi. Caproni son argues that writing verses is a very difficult practice, it is not enough to line up words to be a poet, one must not reflect a specific era, but rather have intuitions that transcend time and remain valid centuries later. The poet reaches artistic maturity around the age of forty, after which creativity diminishes and one retraces one’s steps with mere exercises in style.

The second essay, by Angelo Andreotti, deals with the “Res amissa” collection, published posthumously in 1991 by the philosopher Giorgio Agamben. The res amissa is the thing that is lost, the thing that was there but whose memory is also lost, the thing hidden so well that it has disappeared and that remains only as an absence, as a nostalgia for a now unknowable Gift: perhaps Grace, perhaps Life, perhaps Poetry itself, in any case the Good.

“The last lines of his poetic production, and in particular those of Res amissa, are broken, partly also syncopated, interrupted by dashes and brackets, separated by white spaces and dots (Agamben speaks of “ broken song ”); and with this disharmony — with this labored, anxious breathing — he seems to want to deny the reader the pleasure of reading, or at least impose a rigid rhythm, not at all natural “. (Angelo Andreotti)

The third essay, still by Matteo Bianchi, is indicative of a trend that, lately, is spreading in the criticism, that of being multimedia, of mixing “high and low”. (Vecchioni’s candidacy for the Nobel Prize in literature is an example.) In this essay, Bianchi juxtaposes the text of “Canzone”, by Lucio Dalla and Samuele Bersani, with the poem by Caproni “Prayer”. And, despite the disparity in value, how can we forget that poetry was born precisely with music accompaniment? How can we forget the video in which Caproni himself confesses to having approached poetry as lyricist of his own musical compositions?

Bianchi underlines the refusal of classicism in Caproni, its connection with the popular tradition of Genoa and Livorno, the ease and, at the same time, the extreme wisdom of rhyme, the echo in his verses of Cavalcanti and the primitives.

The fourth essay, by Fabio Canessa, focuses on the themes of farewell and travel, dear to the poet from Livorno: the farewell is from a dear, loved and superior to poetry life, a life that no words can render.

“I have come to calm despair,

without dismay. “

“In the storytelling musicality orchestrated by the enjambements, in the discursive lexicon of the colloquial tone there is all the “calm despair“ of the acceptance of life and death.”

The journey also merges with its opposite, with “the denial of departure and the short circuit between past, present and future touches upon nonsense.”

In the fifth piece, Maurizio Caruso talks about the elements that inspired the Caproni painting reproduced on the cover.

In the sixth, Cinzia Demi deals with the collection “The seed of crying” (1959) and, in particular, with the splendid “Verses from Livorno”. If Genoa is the city of maturity, of being fully on his own, Livorno is the place of the soul, of childhood, of re-encounter with the young mother. The pain is modulated with disenchantment as in “Ad portam inferi ”which we propose here again for its simple beauty.

Who would have thought then

of having to meet her

at dawn (so alone

and weak, and without

the support of a word)

sitting in that station,

hand on the cold coffee table,

to wait

the last connection

for the last station?

The bundle

put down

on the ground, with a nock

of the handkerchief (of fog

and it is full of vapors

the hall, and they wear themselves out

the trains that come and go

without stopping) she dries

stealthily — quickly

as the servant does

when chased away,

who of the service

again ignores the master

and vice — the only one

tear that gushes

hot, and it burns her throat.

In front of the cappuccino

cooling down, Annina

again without a ring, she thinks

to write to her child

at least one postcard:

“Dear, I’m here: I’m writing to you

to tell you … “But she tries in vain

to remember: she does not know

neither does she, she does not remember

if he’s dead or if he’s still alive,

and she gets confused (the head

turns empty) and in the meantime,

while her crying grows

in the chest, she seeks

confused in her purse

the pencil, forgotten

(she notices with a squeeze

to her heart) with the house keys.

She would also like

to write two lines to her husband, quickly.

Tell him, how she did it

when in clearer days

she went to Colle Salvetti,

“Attilio dear, I left

the coffee on the gas and the butter

in the cupboard: buy

just a little spaghetti,

and see not to work

too much (don’t get tired

as usual) and smoke

a little less, without,

please taking advantage

still of my departure,

closing the meter,

if you go out, even for a few hours. “

But then she notices that on the finger

she no longer has ring, and the brain

again gets confused

lost; and while

she tries in vain to drink

the cappuccino by now is cold

(her hand trembles: she fails,

with so many people that go out

and enter, to raise her glass)

she comes back with her thoughts

(looking at the waiter

meanwhile clearing up, serious,

leaving on the coffee table

the rest) to her child.

At least it occurred to her

that that child is gone!

He grew up, he cheated,

runs away now chased

for the world of error

and from sin, and bitten

by the dog of his remorse

useless, alone

he stayed to feed,

thin as a nightingale,

his thin family

(the boy, Rina, his daughter)

with never ending faults.

But she, even if she tears

her heart, how can she remember,

with all those hunters

all around, all that grappa,

the dogs that with bowed snouts

smell her little miserable

bundle and then from a corner

they wag their tails and watch her

with eyes that immediately cry?

Not even she can distinguish well,

now between husband and son.

She would like to cry, she looks for

on the marble the napkin

already removed, and on the ground

(vaguely war

comes back to her mind, and whistle

long in the dawn she hears

a military train)

she looks through a lot of smoke

and lots of orange peels

(among so much smell of ration

and rain) the only one

and only treasure

that she was able to save

and that (she can’t understand)

between the feet of so many people

the dogs are sniffing.

“Lord what should I do,”

she almost wants to scream,

like the day that the bed

full of her, tight

she felt her heart fade

in such a long dying.

She looks at her watch: it is still.

She would like to ask

to the conductor. She would like

to know if she has to wait

still a lot. But how,

how can she feel

while it stays in her throat

(there is a smoke) the word,

which is right in the eyes of dogs

the fog of tomorrow?

Demi brings Caproni closer to Saba, who is also against the tide for his humble style.

Annina is a female archetype, a Cavalcantian and stilnovist leading figure, who accompanies the soul of the now old poet through a popular, joyful, early morning and not yet bombed Livorno. His mother becomes engaged to her son but not in an incestuous relationship, but rather an atemporal one, which reunites and fuses their souls; as well as the poem “To my son Attilio Mauro who has the name of my father”, contained in “The wall of the earth” (75), creates an ahistorical bond between father and son, where the father becomes the son of his son (almost an echo, once again, of Dante’s paradise and of the Virgin Mary) and is transported into that future that will not belong to him.

Take me far away with you

… distant …

in your future.

Become my father, take me

by the hand

where it is headed safely

your step of Ireland

the harp of your profile

blond, tall

already more of me than I incline

already towards the grass.


this vain memory of me

that I write while the hand



with me in my eyes off shore

of your future, while I hear

(not hate) tanned the deaf

drum beat

that rolls — like my heart: in the name

of nothing —

The seventh essay, written by Flora di Legami, is the most difficult, indigestible and self indulgent. It talks about the collections “Il Franco Cacciatore” (1982) and “Il conte di Kevenhüller (1986), already difficult in themselves due to the crushed language and the arduous stylistic research.

“Il Franco Cacciatore” is inspired by a work by Weber, on a libretto by Kind, but it fits in in a tradition which, as di Legami says, “from Dante to Boccaccio, from Petrarch to Poliziano, from Marino to Bruno, reaches modernity with Valery and Melville”. The hunting and mythological metaphors and the reason for the journey are the trace for a descent into the self in search of universal values. “Beauty and horror, waiting and emptiness, vitality and death, word and silence, are the nuclei of a story, arranged on the meter of the mythical hunt.” (Flora of Legami)

The hunt is towards God, the death of the hunter is the sacrifice of the word to silence. The continuous suspension points, the brackets, the broken sentences indicate an investigation that twists on itself aspiring to an unattainable essentiality.

“Actaeon is a sign of uninterrupted work to say the unspeakable.” “Due to continuous slips, inversions and anti-phrasing games, the poet composes original arabesques of logical subversion, with which to render the disharmonious differences of existence and thought.”

The Count of Kevenhüller (1986) is a sort of “moral operetta” based on the hunt for a ferocious Beast that is none other than the word itself.

“If the word is the envelope in which anguish, tremors, questions and doubts of an existential search take shape and consistency, no wonder that it becomes the mythical prey of the hunter poet.”

In the end there is an infinite and oxymoronic coincidence of opposites, a myse en abyme between life and death, hunter and prey.

The eighth essay, by Rosa Elisa Giangoia, refers to the poem “Ballo a Fontanigorda” (1938), highlighting the link between Caproni and the Trebbia valley, its woods, its villages and the state road 45. Here Caproni was an elementary and partisan teacher. Here his poetry, based more “on removing words than adding them”, reaches the definitive overcoming of the romantic and decadent conception of landscape as a mirror of the mood and a portrait of a pleasant and picturesque place. The landscape does not communicate emotions, it is a rarefied, simplified space, it is a place from which everyone leaves, leaving us alone with the forest and the river, while, little by little, the certainties vanish and the answers become questions again.

The ninth essay, by Gianfranco Lauretano, starts from the collection “Congedo del viaggiatore cerimonioso e altre prosopopee” (1965) to show us how from ’65 to ’90 Caproni did nothing but take leave of everything, from life, from family, from friends, from that which he called mézigue, that is “myself”. Already in his fifties he began to greet, while his poetry tapers more and more, while history disappoints him, while the concept of God, for him atheist, becomes more and more elusive and, at the same time, paradoxically desirable.

The tenth essay, by linguist Fabio Marri, shows us in detail how the poet Caproni works, how his easy, almost elementary language — if subjected to technical analysis — reveals all his wisdom and artifice.

The language is simple but also composed of rare and noble terms, of unusual adjectives, the literal meaning of the words is transformed and enriched by their phonic form, by the harmony within the sentence, by the position in the poetic speech, by the syntactic arrangement. The verse is agile, extends into enjambement, unfolds in kissed rhymes, first clear, then, with the intensification of inner torment and research, increasingly darker. The rhyme serves to juxtapose words that can merge or clash, as in Cavalcanti, Carducci, Pascoli, first, and Ungaretti, Montale, Saba, Luzi, then. The brackets, instead of isolating, highlight fundamental, epiphanic concepts, the sentences become exclamatory and interrogative, to underline painful reflections.

All this, according to Caproni himself, without forced formalisms, without anachronistic returns to outdated avant-gardes, without forced unconventionality, but also without any consoling musicality.

The eleventh essay, by Paolo Ruffilli, connects Caproni’s poetry with eighteenth-century opera and Enlightenment culture.

Finally, the last, by Massimo Scrignoli, highlights the recurring image in Caproni of the “black star”, a light off but still light, linked to the memory of the lost younger sister, Marcella.

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About the Creator

Patrizia Poli

Patrizia Poli was born in Livorno in 1961. Writer of fiction and blogger, she published seven novels.

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