James Harpur – The Ascetic of Light

JAMES HARPUR: THE ASCETIC OF LIGHT

 By Francesca Diano

Poetry on the Lake Festival. October 2015

Isola San Giulio on the Lake of Orta

Isola San Giulio on the Lake of Orta

 

FOREWORD

This talk was delivered during the Poetry On the Lake International Festival 2015. It was a privilege for me to be there, among great poets and to talk about James Harpur, a poet who means a lot to me.

My special thanks to Gabriel Griffin, wonderful hostess and patron of Poetry, the mind and soul behind this unique festival, for her generous invitation and affection. The spiritual energy of the place and the universal language of poetry make this one of the most perfect poetry festivals in the world, as Carol Ann Duffy said.

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At first you are dazzled, then stunned, then you fall into darkness, then you feel comforted. Finally, that darkness where he let you penetrate, is suddenly brightened, sometimes by a dim, sometimes by a flashing, but always unexpected light. This is at least how I felt when, exactly ten years ago, I came across James Harpur’s Voices of the Book of Kells and his coruscating language.

Harpur certainly needs no introduction to an English speaking public, as you will all be familiar with his name and works. I must confess I was utterly ignorant of this poet. So, to me, he was an epiphany. A sudden revelation.

At that time I was doing some research on the Book of Kells for a novel I was then writing. And, while surfing the net, I discovered Harpur’s long poem. I had seen the illuminated Gospel of Kells in Dublin and that experience had left a very deep mark on me.

So I read this poem and, the more I read, the more I couldn’t believe my feelings. There, under my eyes, a great poet that I didn’t know before had voiced with an almost overwhelming intensity and art all those feelings and emotions I had experienced in Trinity.  And much, much more. That was the work not only of a great and substantial poet. It was the work of a mystic.

In the verses I was reading, the words were conveying every possible secret meaning, the Word itself   was emerging as Lògos and, at the same time, as  the regulating power of the universe. A power that separates, differentiates, names and orders.

What I immediately did then, was exactly what I always do when I find something that captures my mind and heart: I translated the text. Translation, to me, is the most perfect and precise way to understanding and learning. Not even the most attentive  and accurate reading can show you  the very deep and inner structure of a text. Because you need to understand before you translate. And, to understand, you need to analyze. And, in doing so, you see and learn. Not only words and ideas, but the structure itself. To me, translation is the golden path to comprehension.

I have chosen to speak today about Voices of the Book of Kells, because I think that  this masterly poem is – I believe – the sum of Harpur’s poetics and philosophical views about poetry, life, himself and the world. The alchemical quintessence of everything that can be found further developed in his other works.

Today there are not many to whom poetry is a direct connection to the divine, as it was at its origin. Harpur is certainly one of them. In fact Harpur is a poet deeply connected to the original root of poetry. An Urdichter, one may say, for his poetry draws from that indistinct original magma that was at the beginning of the universe and of creation.

The role that poetry has to Harpur emerges in the four parts of  Voices of the Book of Kells, where he explores not only the genesis of this prodigious illuminated manuscript, the feelings of its anonymous illuminators and admirers, but he plunges also into the deep mechanism of creation and art.

The four parts of the poem are linked to four places and characters:  two of them creators of the manuscript, namely an illuminator and a scribe; while the other two are witnesses of the work: Iona is linked with the illuminator, known to scholars as Goldworker –  Kells with a scribe known as Scribe B – Kildare with the Anglo-Norman churchman, Gerald of Wales or Giraldus Cambrensis, and Dublin with a modern witness, whom one might suspect is Harpur himself (Scribbler). The four parts are also linked to four different historical times and to four different illuminated pages of the Book. In this perfect interconnection between places and times, men and things, nature and spirit, heart and mind, lies a perfect  symbolical architecture of what should be seen as One, as a whole:  the created universe.

That is the aim of the Book of Kells. That is the aim of James Harpur’s poetry.

The number 4, as you know, has a strong symbolic meaning  not only in the Judaic Christian tradition, but in almost all religions and esoteric traditions. On the fourth day of his “creation week” God completed the material universe. In numerology the number 4 resonates with the vibrations and energies of practicality, organization and exactitude, service, patience, devotion, application, pragmatism, dignity, trust, worthiness, endurance, loyalty, mastery, building solid foundations, determination, production and hard work. And are not all these virtues and qualities required of a scribe and illuminator? And, of course, of an artist?Four is also the number of the Gospels and of the Living Creatures in the vision of Ezekiel.The number 4 is not something to play around easily with!

So, what Harpur actually explores in all his works, but most of all in Voices, is that mysterious sphere of creation – a constant struggle between matter and spirit – a struggle that can only find its resolution by annihilating the opposition (and the Self) through the visionary power of the creative Word.

Thus, it is not by chance that the invisible, whispering voice that is heard by the protagonist in Goldworker belongs to Johannes Scotus Eriugena, or John of Ireland, the great Irish Neoplatonic philosopher and theologian, a key figure in early Middle Ages thought, in which I think we can recognize Harpur’s own voice, as well as, perhaps, the contemplations of the illuminator, Goldworker, himself.

Recently Harpur sent me a new version of the first two parts of Voices. In his previous version, the Goldworker is described as recalling his abbot’s advice in order to attain perfection in his creative process. All Goldworker’s doubts and  his fear of not succeeding, find their answer in the sage abbott’s out-of-frame voice. But in this later version, Harpur decided to introduce the voice of Johannes Scotus, who was born in AD 810, that is to say just after the Book of Kells was probably written, the Irish philosopher, a man yet to be born.

Scotus’s great work, On Nature, or De Divisione Naturae, has a four-part structure and this, again, is another mirror of the number four in the poem In this four-parted structure, in fact, Harpur recalls, in many ways, the same quadruple structure of Scotus Eriugena’s magnum opus, Περί φύσεων was its original title, later  translated in the 17th century with the title De divisione naturae (The division of Nature), a dialogue between Master and Pupil. As peculiar as the presence/non presence of Scotus may appear, yet it is crucial to understanding what Harpur’s view of art and creation is. A neoplatonic view, one should say. To him, the process of art and creativity is the same as the process of the soul seeking its way to illumination and understanding. Meditation and vision are the tools. But this process is not an easy one. The same exhausting  path, the same convoluted journey, the same search strewn with doubts and uncertainties. The same quest.  As in the following lines, addressed by Scotus to Goldworker, during a sort of trance – what Ted Hughes called, the ‘sacred trance’, a sort of guided daydream, akin to Jung’s ‘active imagination’ –  in which the illuminator appears to have fallen:

True images arrive from meditation:

As the interfering self falls away

Things surface like stars in a lake

Then fix what you see unflinchingly

And pour it molten into temporal moulds. 

 So, it is through meditation, that is through ascesis, discarding the encùmbrances of the self, that it is possible to see with crystalline clearness the truth of hidden reality, to contemplate it and then, and only then, to represent it in a visible, actual, material form. So the process can not happen through intellectual comprehension, but by attaining the void, emptying the mind, annihilating the self. An emptiness to be filled with the contemplation of the truth. A vision then, a truth that has to be fixed unflinchingly.

Be a void – the voice will in fact whisper this injunction further on. And also Let the spirit surge into the emptiness. The spirit, not the mind. But, for many, be they artists or not,  total emptiness is scary. Fear is thus the only real enemy of art and creation. But of ascesis as well. The menace of the unknown, of that void, of that non-being to be transformed into being,  which is there in front of the artist and of the ascetic, is the same. The challenge is the same.

To Johannes Scotus, true philosophy is true religion and vice versa. In reading  Harpur’s Goldworker, we could paraphrase this assertion with true religion  is true art  and vice versa.

 As the scholar Dermot Moran writes in an article on Scotus Eriugena: “Overall, Eriugena develops a Neoplatonic cosmology according to which the infinite, transcendent and ‘unknown’ God, who is beyond being and non-being, through a process of self-articulation, procession, or ‘self-creation’, proceeds from his divine ‘darkness’ or ‘non-being’ into the light of being, speaking the Word who is understood as Christ, and at the same timeless moment bringing forth the Primary Causes of all creation”

So, light is being and darkness is non-being. And, while reading Voices of the Book of Kells, we will see much of Eriugena’s  Neoplatonic cosmology, as Moran defines it, transformed into poetry and superlative beauty.

It is very interesting to observe at this point, that the  word illumination, meaning in English both a painted image on a parchment and the experience of spiritual enlightenment, has its origin in the Latin lumen, light; and the Latin noun illuminatio, comes from the verb illuminare“to throw into light, make bright, light up”. Visible, that is. In Italian instead an illuminated image is called miniatura, from minium, the red pigment used in manuscripts for the first capital letter of a chapter. What I would like to stress, is that illumination, vision, light and ascesis  are constant elements in Harpur’s poetry. There are, for example, the golden comets in the night sky in the poem, A Vision of Comets; the vision of angels moving through a wheat field in the title poem of his latest book, Angels and Harvesters.

But let’s analyze more closely the object of this talk.

The four characters of Voices of the Book of Kells, namely – Goldworker, Scribe B, Gerald of Wales, and Scribbler –  could be related to the four stages, or phases, both of the creative process and of spiritual evolution. To the eventful struggle of the artist and of the mystic. As Harpur points out, in the lecture he gave at the Loyola Institute  in Dublin, called “The way up and the way down – Two paths to poetry, art and divinity”, (and available on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8PiZY7m-1g) there are two ways through which man can approach the divine, himself and the world: the negative way and the positive way Via negativa and via positiva. And no doubt that Harpur’s way is the positive way. In Voices, Goldworker and the Scribbler follow the via positiva, while Scribe B and Giraldus the via negativa.

If we consider the four parts, we can detect in each of them the fundamental stages that the soul needs to face along its journey to salvation.

1 –  Goldworker:  THE QUESTION OF CREATION

2 – Scribe B: THE QUESTION OF LOSS AND DEATH

3 – Gerald of Wales: THE OVERWHELMING SELF (a self-obsessed and ambitious ego that prevents  comprehension)

4 – The Scribbler: INSPIRATION AND CREATION TROUGH VISION AND WORD

 If we extrapolate Scotus’ words scattered throughout Goldworker  and read them all  in a flow, we will understand what all this means:

Douse your senses, then images will stir (the awakening )

The Spirit must be clothed with line and colour

Haul up from the dark a vision of the whole (all is One. In the One is multiplicity)

Then details will cluster, like bees around clover (cfr Anaximene)

Your painting must shimmer with angels’ skin (sensual reality appears in a multiplicity

Or fish scales, but below the surface                of forms, but its real nature is unity)

Its waters must flow deeper than a well

Let it whirl with Ezekiel’s wheels

Yet be rooted as a reed in a river –        (the deep root is only one)

Let the image reveal its life

As a peacock’s tail staggers apart

And it should be an ark for all creatures

For eagle and lion, salmon and otter

And for the angels, who move unseen among us (See Angels and harvesters)

Nature flows from God, flows back to him – (these are Scotus’ own words)

The pattern will emerge of its own accord

As long as you surrender, let yourself go

You cannot see me because I’m unborn,

My name will be John of Ireland; know this

That creation flows from God, flows back;

Each stone and tree, seed and insect –

If we can see beyond their surface –

Are lanterns to help us find our way home

To where the many melts into one.

 

But ignore the different instances of nature

Shift beyond their various shapes

To the eternal patterns of the universe

And gaze on the original of every object

Then paint it live, in the splendour of its light.

 

Your drawings should be diagrams

That lead us upwards to annihilation

As they wipe out the separation of seer and seen

As iron on the anvil absorbs fire

Or sunlight permeates particles of air

True images arrive from meditation:

As the interfering self falls away

Things surface like stars in a lake

Then fix what you see unflinchingly

And pour it molten into temporal moulds

Be a void! Induct eternal life

Through spirals, twists, loops, entanglements

In which the alpha and omega are everywhere

For there’s no start or end, just seamlessness (the discretion of nature and matter is only

This is your chance to incarnate: Christi

autem generatio sic erat –

Loosen the brush and let it rove

Over the page, place trust in it

Don’t shirk from the suspended space

Just float yourself in and all will flow

First the Chi, followed by the Rho

 

That Voices is the description of a spiritual journey, is very clear when considering its first and last lines:

in Goldworker the poem starts with the voice of the illuminator:

 

I follow the path inland that fades

In rabbit light and leads to the smoke

Of home, past bracken, furze and boulders

A lurching sheep, its face lamp-black

The froth of its wool flamed by the sun.

 

And the concluding lines in Scribbler, at the end of the poem, read:

Then higher up I saw a cliff

Long grass spread-eagled by the wind

A beaten path that wound inland

A path that led me on and on.

 

At the beginning the path inland, in Iona, fades, in a light that is elusive, like the form of a fast running rabbit, leading to a place made hardly visible  by smoke. That is the beginning of a journey whose destination is uncertain.

At the end, that same path inland is clearly visible, beaten, although winding. A path that has to be followed. Thus, beginning and end coincide, the closing of a circle where the non being comes into being in an eternal rotation.

This path is flooded with light – even when light is absent, as its absence stresses its existence, like in Dante’s Divina Commedia. From darkness to light. Each of Harpur’s four characters is bound to follow this path. Each of them needs to overcome his resistance to change and evolution, but only Gerald of Wales fails. Because his fear to let go of the self is stronger than his wish to see. He desperately tries to fill the immense vastness of his inner emptiness – which it is not the void of the ascetic or of the mystic – with  worldly goods, pleasures and ambition. He’s a vain man, lacking courage and determination. Thus he cannot love. And, without love, there is neither art nor spiritual evolution. He refuses to let himself be captured and merged by the light that the Book, which he has been told, has been painted by the angels, irradiates.  He glimpses it, but is scared. To Gerald, sensation is more valuable than feeling.

What happens instead in the last section, Scribbler, is that the platonic archetype – the Word, or the Verbum of the Gospel of John – comes to life from a spontaneous bit of doodling that Scribbler is indulging in, and enters the  material world, in the form of a beautiful woman, who then begins to speak to him.

Here we are indeed in the realm of the platonic ὑπερουράνιον τόπον, the place of Forms, of Ideas. There every change, every motion is absent, as it was absent in the woman figure scribbled by the poet. But the Word starts moving when she descends into the world of matter. Contemplating and listening to her is what the artist does. But what is of fundamental importance is actually that this Form emerges from within him. It is something that wells up spontaneously in him; it does not come as an act of will, but from his subconscious, after he has seen the Book of Kells. And it is this grace-given vision that triggers the inspiration the poet had lost.

I think it’s important to observe that the apparent remoteness of the medieval world and culture that Harpur writes about, is not so remote and  has a lot to do with us. For, in writing about mystics and prophets, about saints and sinners, about oracles, diviners and philosophers from the past, Harpur is actually writing about us, about our troubled times, when great changes are taking place. And times of change are never painless. It’s like a delivery. They give birth to something new.

Harpur’s Voices, no less than the whole of his poetry, reveals in front of our spiritual eyes fearful abysses and inaccessible heights. Will we ever be able to follow him there?

But why then, don’t we take John of Ireland’s advise to the Goldworker?  Just make the start, the rest will flow….

(C)2015 by Francesca Diano RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA

The Sacro Monte of Orta, where part of the Festival took place

The Sacro Monte of Orta, where part of the Festival took place

 

Annunci

James Harpur – Voci del Libro di Kells – traduzione di Francesca Diano

Libro di Kells, pagina del X Rho

Libro di Kells, pagina del X Rho

                JAMES  HARPUR

 

             Voci del Libro di Kells

 Traduzione di FRANCESCA   DIANO

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Sono da anni, da quando l’ho scoperto in Irlanda, innamorata della poesia di questo grandissimo poeta, e di suo ho tradotto vari testi. Per la Giornata Mondiale della Poesia ho deciso di rendergli omaggio pubblicando la mia traduzione, in anteprima assoluta per l’Italia, dato che nulla di lui è mai stato da noi tradotto, del suo lungo poemetto sul miracolo di sconvolgente bellezza che è il Libro di Kells. Questa è la prima di quattro parti che compongono l’opera.

Harpur è nato nel 1956 da genitori angloirlandesi e da alcuni anni si è trasferito a vivere  nella Contea di Cork a Clonakilty. Ha compiuto studi  classici, approfondendo soprattutto la storia e la letteratura irlandese ma anche latina e greca  dei primi secoli del cristianesimo e ha soggiornato per lunghi periodi sull’isola di Creta, ambiente che ha ispirato molte delle sue opere. La sua è una delle voci più originali, colte e intense della poesia irlandese contemporanea in lingua inglese e, non mi parrebbe eccessivo dire,  della poesia europea, non solo per la cultura vastissima, per  l’originalità della sua voce, ma per  i temi che tratta, che spaziano dall’Irlanda celtica, a quella protocristiana, al declino del mondo classico in occidente, alla contemporaneità. Ha pubblicato  varie raccolte di testi poetici con la prestigiosa Anvil Press e una meravigliosa traduzione di Boezio, che ha intitolato Fortune’s Prisoner. Ma traduzioni ha pubblicato anche da Dante, da Virgilio, da Tagore, da Eschilo, da Plotino  ecc.

Interessantissimo è l’uso della metrica, che spesso è quella classica; trimetro giambico, distico elegiaco ecc.

Da A Vision of Comets, a The Monk’s Dream, da The Dark Age a Oracle Bones a Voices of the Book of Kells, le sue raccolte  poetiche gli hanno guadagnato moltissimi riconoscimenti e premi. Nel 1995 ha ricevuto the British National Poetry Prize, borse dalla Cork Arts, dall’Arts Council, dall’Eric Gregory Trust e dalla Society of Authors. Nel 2009 ha vinto il Michael Hartnett Award. E’ direttore della sezione poesia  di Southword, uno dei più importanti e autorevoli  periodici letterari irlandesi e del Temenos Academy Review.  È stato poeta residente per il Munster Literary Centre e la Cattedrale di Exeter.

La sua è una poesia dalla voce forte e potente, che getta una luce del tutto nuova su un’epoca poco frequentata e sui santi irlandesi dei primi secoli dell’era cristiana, su figure di primi asceti cristiani o di aruspici di Siria e d’Egitto, su figure pagane dell’Irlanda che sta per divenire cristiana, su personaggi, temi e aspetti di diverse tradizioni e culture, ma che tutte appartengono a quei secoli insomma critici e di passaggio dal mondo antico al primo Medio Evo. Ma non mancano temi più personali e intimi, che lo vedono muoversi nell’Irlanda contemporanea. È una poesia fortemente impregnata di misticismo, dunque molto irlandese, ma un misticismo che ha una profondissima connessione con la modernità. Il travaglio del passaggio da un’epoca a un’altra infatti è l’eco del nostro, le domande  che torturano i suoi asceti, cristiani e pagani, i dubbi che attanagliano suoi uomini, i suoi indovini, i suoi monaci, sospesi tra un mondo e un altro, sono i nostri, la fine drammatica  di un’epoca che si avvia incerta verso l’ignoto è la nostra.

Ho da anni l’onore di un rapporto epistolare con James Harpur, che presento in anteprima assoluta per l’Italia per la Giornata Mondiale della Poesia e ho avuto da lui il consenso a tradurre e far conoscere la sua opera in Italia. Presento dunque oggi la prima parte del lungo poemetto Voices of the Book of Kells . Mi piacerebbe che questo grandissimo poeta irlandese, molto noto e giustamente celebrato, ma da noi sconosciuto, potesse trovare un editore.

Francesca Diano

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Storia del Libro di Kells (di James Harpur)

 Il Libro di Kells è stato associato almeno a tre luoghi: Iona, Kells e Dublino. Alcuni ritengono che fosse proprio il Libro di Kells che  Giraldus Cambrensis  vide a Kildare alla fine del 12° secolo. Ma chi  creò il libro e dove, rimane tuttora un mistero. Ora molti studiosi pensano che sia stato iniziato, se non condotto a termine, nel monastero irlandese di Iona, prima di essere portato nel monastero fratello di Kells  dopo l’incursione vichinga dell’806. Rimase probabilmente a Kells negli otto secoli successivi e infine, a metà del 17° secolo,  venne trasferito al Trinity College di Dublino, dove è ora esposto.

Il Libro di Kells è un luogo di poesia divina, scritta e visiva e, soprattutto, da una moderna prospettiva, l’archetipo, o il santo patrono di ogni libro. In ogni pagina vi si dispiega un senso di devozione amorevole, di concentrazione e maestria – è chiaro che il libro fu fatto per durare. È anche un libro di sorprendente tensione; il gusto visionario per la totalità si unisce all’ossessione per il dettaglio; il grandioso formalismo statico delle miniature a tutta pagina è bilanciato da spirali vorticose, intrecci nastriformi e fogliame, gatti birichini e topi, lontre e pesci che saltellano in angoli nascosti. Questo  libro suscita in ogni scrittore delle domande fondamentali sull’arte; il suo rapporto con l’ispirazione; la moderna preoccupazione per l’ originalità e la voce individuale; lo scopo dell’arte sacra e il suo rapporto con la  funzione dell’arte laica o con l’arte in un’epoca laica; la natura dell’immaginazione; la possibilità o meno di rappresentare in forma visibile la verità ultima, ecc.

Premessa di James Harpur  

Il poemetto è diviso in quattro parti. Ciascuna è costituita da un monologo pronunciato da un personaggio storico associato a un luogo specifico: L’Orafo (un miniatore), è associato all’isola di Iona; Scriba B (un amanuense), a Kells;   Giraldo di Cumbria a Kildare; Lo Scribacchino (uno scrittore moderno) a Dublino. Oltre ad essere imperniata su una ‘voce’ e un luogo specifico, ogni sezione si concentra su di una particolare miniatura del Libro di Kells, sulla sua immagine e sui suoi riferimenti, il tutto intessuto nella trama della narrazione. I metri e i ritmi dei versi riflettono, in certa misura, il carattere dei diversi personaggi. Ad esempio, la voce tagliente dello Scriba B è resa con un trimetro giambico ridotto e leggermente spezzettato (scazonte), mentre il raffinato ed esuberante Giraldo si esprime in pentametri pieni ed estesi.

Prima Parte. L’Orafo (Iona, AD 806)

 Nella prima parte compare un miniatore anonimo che lo studioso francese del Libro di Kells, Françoise Henry ha soprannominato l’Orafo, per la sua predilezione per l’orpimento, il pigmento minerale usato per rappresentare l’oro. L’azione si svolge a Iona, poco prima di una devastante incursione vichinga. L’Orafo racconta di come sia arrivato a Iona nel tentativo di salvare la propria vita spirituale dal lassismo di un monastero irlandese e dell’onere di creare ciò che poi diverrà (nella realtà) la famosa pagina del Chi Rho. La sua è la tensione di ogni artista; la pagina o la tela bianca rimane l’eccitante regno del possibile, dell’infinito, fino all’istante in cui il primo segno di inchiostro o di colore riducono l’astrazione del pensiero e del sentire entro i confini del mondo materiale finito. Ed in questo sta il paradosso: la spinta a creare e tuttavia la delusione di non essere in grado di rappresentare la vastità e la ricchezza del sogno. Allo stesso tempo, l’Orafo si strugge sul ruolo che ha come miniatore: è l’opera della sua vita, dedicata a Dio…ma che accadrà una volta che avrà completato il suo ultimo dipinto? Che ruolo avrà allora agli occhi di Dio? Questa  parte esplora queste tensioni, che giungono al culmine quando infine l’Orafo si impegna nella sua opera più grande: la pagina del Chi Rho.

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Pagina del X Rho, particolare

Pagina del X Rho, particolare

“Per dipingerti, o Vergine, più stelle che colori
 si dovrebbero usare, così che tu, o Porta della Luce
fossi dipinta nel tuo sfolgorare. E tuttavia le stelle
non obbediscono a voce mortale. Dunque noi ti tracciamo
 e  dipingiamo con ciò che ci può offrire la natura
e secondo le regole che chiede  la pittura.”

Costantino di Rodi, 9° sec.

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1

L’orafo

 

 

Iona 806

 

Il grado in cui la bellezza è effusa  nel penetrare  all’interno della materia,
 è tanto più debole di quanto  sia concentrata nell’Uno.

Plotino

Ecco come avvenne la nascita di Gesù Cristo

Matteo 1. 18

Pesto il sentiero sonoro che si piega

Verso l’interno ed il fumo di casa

Lungo rocce affioranti e  felci e il giallo ginestrone,

Accanto alle incostanti pecore aurocrepuscolari

Dal muso nero come angeli caduti,

E poi giù per il colle del nostro benedetto Colombano

Finché raggiungo il vallo che m’accoglie,

Solido accanto alla riva spumosa,

Il ronzio delle celle

E solitudine fin dentro il midollo.

Nella cappella dorme la campana

Pronta a suonare  il terrore, la preghiera;

Ed oltre il suono  i monti fanno crescere

Color di primavera dai ghiacci che s’arretrano,

Gioisce il mare ruggendo di luce

E venti di ponente ci addolciscono i nervi.

Striscio dentro la mia capanna oscura

E cerco di pregare e di covare

La pace di Dio che so non si può imporre

Ma  soltanto riesco ad osservare

Il mio respiro fatto nuvolette e  ancora sento

L’abate che riprende:

<<Parti da una visione. Ricolmati i polmoni

Fino a scoppiar del vento della gioia

Lascia affiorare immagini.

Ogni cosa dipingi e poi avvertila

Come  sole da cui esploda un orizzonte nuovo,

Un’ancora che sia d’oro o d’argento

Tratta da un mare di luce sepolta,

In note di cristallo pizzicate su un’arpa

O il canto di un uccello che ammalii l’alba,

Una cometa che spazzi con la coda la notte

Come  piume di un cigno,

Una croce che sfolgori nel cielo –

Nel suo segno tu pure vincerai.

<<E falla scintillare e vorticare

Come fanno le ruote di Ezechiele

E pure aver la solida saldezza di una pianta.

Fa’ che risplenda come pelle d’angelo

O le scaglie d’un pesce, e poi profonda

Nel pozzo della propria sobrietà.

Dovrebbe rivelare i suoi segreti

Come s’apre la coda di un pavone

E sia allo stesso tempo un’arca santa

Per tutta la creazione, bestie e uomo,

Per i fiori dei campi e per le vigne

Per la lontra e il salmone

E le creature dei recessi oscuri –

Per ratti e gatti e topi in fuga lesta –

Per le presenze angeliche

La lesta intelligenza della linea

Che s’incurva, fluisce e s’attorciglia a rivestire

L’energia invisibile di Dio.>>

L’abate aveva voce sempre calma

Mai celavano gli occhi il rapimento.

Trovar l’inizio, questa è la fatica.

L’ammiccante sorriso delle pagine vergini

La cui innocenza non è che un inganno –

Poiché il nulla possiede una bellezza

Che un nonnulla d’inchiostro può violare.

Mi crogiolo nel vuoto

La promessa del non ancora nato

Ed il sollievo del non impegno

Quando ancora divergono le scelte

Come delfini balzano dal mare

Liberi d’inalare l’aria e celebrare

Il tripudio dell’esser senza peso

O come viticci a tendersi nel sole

Delicati e potenti, colmi di vita

A protendersi in spazi sconfinati.

Non riesco a capire questo luogo:

benedetto da Dio o abbandonato?

I mille trabocchetti della regola

Ed il fardello della miniatura

Accrescono la brutalità

Di tempeste e di nebbie e dello stillicidio della pioggia.

Sono giorni che la nebbia mi blocca

E annienta ogni mia immaginazione;

Ma poi uno sprazzo di sole dalle nubi

Che riveste di lamina dorata rocce  e campi

O un momento di contemplazione,

Il dissiparsi dei sensi di colpa,

Fanno robusto il perché della  chiamata.

Ho cercato un rifugio su quest’isola

Ché la vita veloce mi sfuggiva

I capelli ingrigiti e già più radi,

Le caviglie rigonfie per il vino –

Le devozioni un compito seccante;

Ogni dipinto, confessione per metà di sogni

Che il terrore mi impediva di attuare.

Avevo – ho – bisogno di afferrare, di afferrare

L’immateriale che si trova oltre

La superficie del colore, del tatto,

Cercavo un luogo di luce petrosa

Che al di là di me stesso mi portasse;

Eppure  ogni dipinto che completo

Elude l’infinito a cui anelo

E temo la mia anima si sfaccia:

Poiché che cosa sono a parte i miei dipinti?

Che valore ho per Dio?

Se non quello del gusto per il dettaglio, la forma?

E quando il mio ultimo dipinto vedrà la luce

Che scopo avrò io più?

Dovevo allontanarmi, ma mi manca la casa.

I monti Slievebloom,

L’abbazia del Campo delle Querce

Teneri soli e costanza di piogge

Le colline con i bruni lanosi e il loro verde

La compagnia, le battute bonarie –

Tutto mi spinge ancora sulla riva

A celare il convulso del dolore.

Quest’isola è un relitto, alla deriva

Ma mai per approdare sulla costa

Di un qualunque paese della terra,

I fratelli sferzati da venti ruvidi come cardi,

L’isolamento ha reso alcuni folli.

Le durezze straziano lo spirito, ma

Mi instillano un fremito nel corpo

Che mai io prima d’ora ho conosciuto.

Accendo una lucerna. Odore d’olio

E contemplo la carta pergamena.

Rinvio ancora una volta il momento

Nell’abilità, non nell’ispirazione mi rifugio.

Pratico i fori con grande attenzione

In cornici spettrali di linee e margini

E curvature di cerchi e semicerchi.

Qualunque sia il punto da cui inizio il lavoro

Non so deviare dalla simmetria;

E per quanto caotica essa sia

E’ la mappa del cielo che deve riprodurre.

Osservo la struttura che si forma

Apparendo di propria volontà

In simultanea dentro

La mia mente e sul vello lucente;

E’ come uno schema preesistente

Che m’incalza per essere incarnato.

Il flusso inizia a sembrare  una perdita

Del sé – sono preso dal panico, mi fermo, balzo in piedi.

Il sole gonfio ribolle verso il mare

Domani per davvero inizierò.

La notte ripulisce la lavagna del giorno;

Cammino sulla riva per colmare

La mia mente di onde, del flusso e del riflusso.

Uno spicchio di luna sta sospeso a colmare

L’ombra vasta della sua forma;

In principio l’oscurità è totale

Ma poi, epifania di luci

Lo scheletro d’Orione

Dal nulla si materializza.

La sua cintura di stelle triple e immobili

E silenti,  guardano come i Magi,

Christi autem generatio

E nell’eternità di questa meraviglia

L’oscurità oceanica dà  vita

Ad altre stelle che emanano scintille come pietre focaie

E a grado a grado una cornucopia

di piccoli diamanti, di zaffiri e di perle

Scintillanti, risplendenti di vita –

Un improvviso filo di seta luminoso

È lanciato da punto a punto

Mentre Dio rivela sulla sua pergamena

Che tutto nella creazione è collegato.

Lascio il mare nero-lucerna e ritornando

Trovo la notte dentro la mia cella.

In questi giorni sento che aumenta la pressione

E fa fluire più luce serotina;

Avverto una potenza che mi ingrossa le ossa

Incubi  che infiorano il mio sonno

Ricorrenti come campana d’allarme

Di serpenti che balzano nel mare

Di serpenti con giganti nel ventre.

Ed il mattino arriva con sollievo

Fino a che emerge l’opera di Dio.

Scuoto i pigmenti fuori dalle ciotole

Mischio nel verderame il bianco d’uovo

Poi gesso e lapislazzuli,

Preparo l’orpimento color oro.

La pergamena brilla come fonte di rocca

E nel suo specchio vedo l’abate;

Sta parlando; lo ascolto attentamente.

<<Voi siete i pastori di chi è cieco.

Devi evitare le derivazioni

Le separate istanze proprie della natura,

Ritraiti a contemplare, trova

Il paradigma primevo di Dio

Intatto, intangibile, abbagliante –

Questo mondo non ne è che imitazione.

Dipingere l’ombra della creazione

Solo è moltiplicazione dell’errore

Ingannare  e attirare  verso il basso lo spirito

Nel brulicame oscuro della materia.

<<La vera arte nasce della meditazione –

Quando  la mente giunge

A cancellare ogni interferenza;

Così come le stelle accrescono l’intensità

Dei loro punti nel cuore della sfera che s’inombra

Si chiariranno le vere sembianze;

Fissale con fermezza fino a quando

L’anima tua sarà tanto ricolma di luce

Da traboccare la sua testimonianza

E riversarsi in forme temporali.

Vuota te stesso dell’io ed introduci

Il labirinto dell’eternità

L’energia che fluisce serpeggiante

A connettere tutta la creazione

In spirali, in anelli ed in viluppi

In cui  l’Alfa e l’Omega

Sono ovunque e sono in nessun luogo

Perché non v’è inizio, non v’è fine,

Ma solo una e ininterrotta verità.>>

Un merlo apre la gola.

Gli auspici son propizi.

Mi siedo e guardo. Guardano le pagine

Da una polla bruciante di luce.

È  sospeso l’istante.

La procrastinazione ora mi implora

Disegnando una lontra sopra un margine

E poi ecco che sento sussurrare:

No non pensare all’enormità.

Rilassati e lascia che lo spirito emerga

Nel vuoto.

Ma come posso affidare lo spirito

Ad un pigmento inerte?

Come può ciò che è Incorruttibile

Essere reso da  corrotta visione?

Le domande intanto si moltiplicano

Per arrestare il panico e il terrore

Dell’autoannientamento; e tuttavia

Un’occasione di illustrare l’eternità

Di dispiegare il mio talento supplice –

Ma come potrà Dio esser mediato!

Egli è in ogni onda che s’infrange passando

Da un non formato a un altro non formato.

Come potrò imprigionare la  gloria?

Resta nella cornice, ti devi concentrare

Lascia fluire l’ispirazione; vai a ruota libera

Dispiega l’ingegno –

Sii altruista  in questa sacra opera

All’uomo sconosciuta ma amata da Dio

Per ogni pennellata che gli è cara.

Immergi il tuo pennello, fallo  errare

Investi in esso tutta la tua fede e penetra

Nel vuoto che è in attesa –

Basta l’inizio, il resto fluirà, lo so;

Prima il Chi, e dopo il Rho.   

(C) by James Harpur

(C) by Francesca Diano per la traduzione RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA

Pagina del X Rho, partcolare

Pagina del X Rho, partcolare

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keeners – a poem by Francesca Diano

Image Detail from Gospel of Luke, Book of Kells

From the Book of Kells

 

KEENERS

The woman of tears, that cries from distant darkness

Is your lonely companion – and yet she bears no loneliness.

You dug deeply into the bog of souls

Into the misty eyes of subtle whispers

Crowds of whispers – linked together – shape your path –

Like pebbles thrown into the water.

Wide circles trembling over the skin of time

Delicacy – white skin of singing echoes.

Silence thrust into sound – rings of glowing distress –

Hidden amid the stony route – a single sign –

Cobweb-like trace of hidden gods – now only energies.

Dappled green – dappled brown – intertwined in a cloak

Strips of grey hair set loose to reach the wind.

The ancient mothers knew.

They wore their sorrow like a golden lace

Around their throats and spoke so silently

To the ones who had set on the journey

Reaching for distant shores – across the sea of tears

Beyond reach – beyond space – beyond delusion.

They chose you to give voice to, – you to disclose

Once again secret rites – that they be kept

– trapped into the chalice –

A secret token to the dormant ones.

 

 

(C) 2006 by Francesca Diano RIPRODUZIONE  RISERVATA

Gerard Hanberry – Braci e altre poesie, tradotte da Francesca Diano

Gerard Hanberry

Gerard (Gerry) Hanberry (1955) è un noto poeta e scrittore irlandese, che vive a Galway e ha pubblicato varie raccolte di poesie che gli hanno guadagnato numerosi premi nazionali. È stato giornalista, con una sua rubrica settimanale su un quotidiano nazionale, perfino cantautore – attività che ancora svolge occasionalmente –  e tiene corsi universitari di scrittura creativa e scrittura poetica a Galway.

Ha pubblicato tre raccolte di poesie, Rough Night, Stonebridge Publications, 2002, Something Like Lovers, Stonebridge Publications, 2005 e At Grattan Road, 2009. Una quarta raccolta uscirà a breve. Ha vinto il Brendan Kennelly Sunday Tribune Poetry Award ed è stato finalista in numerosissimi premi nazionali di poesia. È stato invitato ai più importanti festival poetici e a reading pubblici e ha tenuto reading delle sue poesie sia alla radio nazionale che alla TV nazionale irlandese RTE.

È membro permanente della commissione del Cùirt International Festival of Literature.

Nel 2011 ha pubblicato un’originalissima e documentatissima biografia di Oscar Wilde, More lives than one, in cui per la prima volta si indaga non solo sulla vita e sulle tragiche vicende del genio Wilde, ma, con il supporto di molti documenti fino ad ora inediti (parte dei quali forniti dai discendenti di Wilde) si traccia un quadro in parte ancora sconosciuto delle origini familiari e delle motivazioni che condussero Wilde alla sua fine infelice. Il tutto senza avere però la pesantezza di una fredda biografia, ma con una felicissima scrittura allo stesso tempo documentata e poetica, narrativa e stringata. Il libro ha ricevuto recensioni entusiastiche ed è stato presentato anche a Dublino, nella residenza e al cospetto del Presidente della Repubblica, che ha voluto congratularsi personalmente con Hanberry.

Quando ho chiesto a Gerry Hanberry il permesso di pubblicare alcune sue poesie che volevo tradurre in italiano, non solo è stato entusiasta, ma la sua gentilezza è giunta fino a mandarmi personalmente questi testi. Gli ultimi due testi sono inediti anche in inglese e usciranno in ottobre come parte della sua quarta raccolta. Dunque sono per il lettore italiano un dono prezioso.

Hanberry non è mai stato tradotto in italiano ed è dunque per me un grande onore essere la sua prima traduttrice. Ringrazio di questo Gerard Hanberry con gratitudine.

********

BRACI

Questo testo ha  vinto il Brendan Kenelly/ Sunday Tribune Award nel 2006

 

Quando Apollo ordinò a Mitra il sacrificio d’un toro

a malincuore obbedì, lo si vede in mosaici

con il volto girato. Quando il toro morì divenne

luna, ed il cielo stellato il mantello di Mitra.

 

 Dal sangue del toro germogliò il primo grano,

i primi rossi grappoli. Ogni altra cosa germinò

dal suo seme, eccetto lo scorpione.

Lo scorpione si beve sangue e seme.

 

*

I loro giorni trascorrono in silenzi

o frasi fatte, arrivano e poi vanno,

tenendo duro come meglio possono,

ritraendosi dietro le abitudini

e in stanze vuote a sud,

ignorando che mai nessuno viene.

E tuttavia fan l’amore,

più con speranza che con passione,

come due naufraghi

tengono acceso il segnale luminoso

nella remota ipotesi,

dandosi il turno a soffiar sulle braci,

a raddrizzare il segnale d’aiuto

fatto con pietre bianche

lungo la spiaggia.

Ogni notte arrivano i frangenti

A spazzar via le orme,

ora quelle di lui, ora di lei.

*

Avevano ragione i cartografi antichi;

si può precipitare dal limite del mondo

ed esistono i mostri degli abissi

lì dove le antiche mappe li ponevano.

*

Guglie di pini, medievali, qua e là nella campagna d’ambra;

silenzio non ancora rotto dal traffico sull’Aurelia.

Lei dorme poco nella stanza dal soffitto alto, le paure fruscianti

come creature notturne nel bosco, l’aria è già secca come foglie morte.

Ieri un uomo, nel negozio di souvenir ha sorriso ma non era

un sorriso d’estraneo quello che voleva. No, non il suo, non il suo.

Un grande uccello, forse un falco, si leva dispiegando le ali e vola in circoli,

petali bianchi s’incurvano in veranda, conchiglie madreperla sparse sulle                                                                                                                 pareti  decorate.

Sul comodino, accanto alla sua testa addormentata,

la scritta sul cartello in stampatello NON DISTURBARE.

*

Dove l’antico fiume forma un’ansa

attraverso la terra arsa della campagna

è difficile distinguere dove l’est e dove l’ovest.

Una lucertola, la gola pulsante nella calura,

sta ferma su una roccia, attende, ascolta,

poi guizza nella crepa polverosa.

Lei resta nella piazza, mentre lui sale

le scale verso la grande cupola della basilica.

Più su, più su, lentamente s’avvolge, un inno, un canto,

forse non è troppo tardi, amore mio, forse non è troppo tardi.

poi la città gli si stende di fronte, il colonnato

curvo di San Pietro, ellittico, come una chela.

La vede giù lontana tra i turisti vaganti,

accanto alla fontana, minuscola, non puoi confonderla.

Vuole gridare. Il cielo è un marmo azzurro e

stupendo, han fatto bene a venire. Ma lei si muove,

passa accanto all’obelisco di Nerone, la cui lunga ombra nera

attraversa la piazza, una coda, la punta aguzza un pungiglione.

*

Sono arrivati ai ruderi di Ostia.

Lui all’ombra sfoglia la guida,

il berretto calato contro la vampa della luce bianca,

lei s’aggira vagando, facendosi strada

attraverso cortili vuoti, colonne inclinate

e irregolari, verso il silenzio di un anfiteatro dove

si siede, ginocchia ripiegate, ad osservare tre gatti randagi

allontanarsi sui gradini come voglie respinte con dolcezza.

Nella frescura del tempio di Mitra si dividono

del pane casareccio e del Chianti, versando il vino in bicchieri di plastica,

qualche gocciola rossa cade sopra i mosaici, sullo scorpione

ed attraversa il toro, il collo teso alla lama.

Vicino alla via Ostiense siedono separati nell’ombra che si addensa,

lungo l’antica strada ha marciato un impero,

ora non c’è clangore di legioni, né pulsazioni di seme e di sangue,

solo tazze di plastica che scricchiolano.

Poi esili attraverso le ere e il farsi del crepuscolo

chiamati forse dal loro sgomento, dalla sconfitta, giungono attutiti

dei suoni, una donna singhiozza, una porta chiusa ed inchiodata,

l’ultimo carro carico che s’avvia cigolando verso Roma.

 

 

 

EMBERS

When Apollo ordered Mithras  to sacrifice a bull

he carried out the task unwillingly, mosaics depict

his face averted. As the bull died the animal became

the moon, Mithras’ mantle the starry sky.

 

From the bull’s blood the first corn sprouted,

the first purple grapes. Every other thing sprang

from his seed, except the scorpion.

The scorpion drinks seed and blood.

*

Their days are passed in silences

or set pieces, coming and going,

holding out as best they can,

retreating into props and costumes

and south facing rooms,

ignoring the fact that no one ever calls.

And still they make love,

more in hope than passion,

like two castaways

keeping the signal-fire burning

on the off chance,

taking turns to fan the embers,

to straighten the help sign

built with white stones

along their beach.

Each night the great breakers roll in

to wipe away the footprints,

now his, now hers.

*

The old cartographers were right;

it is possible to drop off the edge of the world

and monsters of the deep exist

exactly where the ancient charts placed them.

*

Spires of pine trees, medieval, here and there on the amber hillside;

silence not yet shattered by traffic on the via Aurelia.

She sleeps little in this high-ceilinged room, her fears rustling

like night-creatures in the wood, the air already dry as dead leaves.

Yesterday, a man in the gift-shop smiled but it was not

a stranger’s smile she wanted. No, not his, not his.

A great bird, a hawk maybe, rises broad-winged and circles, circles,

white petals curl on the veranda, pearl-shells loose from the patterned wall.

On the bedside table near his sleeping head,

the door-sign in bold lettering – DO NOT DISTURB.

*

Where the ancient river winds

through the scorched earth of the campagna

it’s hard to know east from west.

A lizard, throat pulsing in the heat,

clings to a rock, waits, listens,

then slithers for his dusty crevice.

She remains in the Piazza while he climbs

the stairs to the Basilica’s great dome.

Higher, higher, slowly winding, a hymn, a chant,

perhaps it’s not too late, my love, perhaps it’s not too late.

Then the city spreads before him, the curving

colonnades of St. Peter’s, elliptical, like a claw.

He sees her far below among the wandering tourists,

standing near the fountain, tiny, unmistakable.

He wants to call out. The sky is marble blue and

beautiful; they were right to come. But she moves,

crossing by Nero’s obelisk, its shadow long and black

across the square, a tail, its sharp point the sting.

*

They have arrived at the ruins of Ostia.

He thumbs the guidebook in the shade,

cap pulled low against the blaze of white sunlight,

she prowls the edges, making her own way

through empty courtyards, the tilt and stagger

of columns, to the still of an amphitheatre where

she sits, knees drawn up, watching three wild cats

move away over the steps like wishes softly rebuffed.

In the cool of Mithras’ Temple they share casareccio

bread and Chianti, splashing wine into plastic cups,

red droplets falling on the mosaic floor, on the scorpion

and across the bull, his neck stretched for the blade.

 

By the via Ostiense they sit apart in deepening shadow,

down this ancient road an Empire marched,

no clang of legions now, no throb of seed and blood,

just the dry crackle of their plastic cups.

Then faint through the ages and the gathering twilight,

drawn perhaps by their dismay, their defeat, come faded

sounds, a woman sobbing, a door being nailed and shuttered,

the last bundled cart creaking up the road for Rome.

**********

LO STALLONE MARINO

 

Troppo vecchi ormai per stare su una barca

e non comunque col mare agitato,

pensammo di tornare fino a Na Clocha,

Steve e io, e buttare una lenza,

magari cercare qualche scorfano nascosto

nelle fessure in fondo alla scogliera.

Quella mattina era alta la marea con delle belle raffiche

così c’accomodammo su una pietra a vedere come buttava la giornata.

Steve lo vide per primo, alzarsi di lontano,

la testa e il collo tesi, una fluente criniera bianca,

il petto ampio, i grandi fianchi rotondi

dietro la bianca coda che s’arricciava in alto

nello slanciarsi d’impeto verso la riva.

Capimmo subito che era lo stallone marino.

E nell’avvicinarsi alla scogliera si levò sulle zampe posteriori

e con balzo possente superò la parete

cadendo con clangore sulla pietra nemmeno a venti passi

da dove noi stavamo a farci il segno della croce,

poiché quello che vedevamo non era cosa di questo mondo.

Si raddrizzò e si lanciò all’interno dell’isola.

Non una sola parola dicemmo ad anima viva,

chi ci avrebbe creduto comunque all’età nostra,

ma quando Paddy Dick scoprì che la sua cavalla era incinta

e non poté spiegarlo, allora ne parlammo.

Non sono tornato mai più alla scogliera

e spesso il mio sonno è agitato.

( Nota di Traduttore. The Sea Stallion è una creatura del folklore irlandese, anche detto Phooka, la cui natura è assai pericolosa.)

 

SEA-STALLION

Da “The Stinging Fly”

Too old now for the open boat

on frothy days anyway,

we thought to go back as far as Na Clocha,

Steve and myself, and drop a line,

maybe try for some rockfish hiding

in the cracks at the foot of the cliff.

The tide was big that morning with a good gust up

so we sat back on a stone to see what the day would do.

Steve saw it first, rising far out,

its straining head and neck, a flowing white mane,

its huge chest, its great round flanks

and a white tail curling high behind

as it charged headlong towards the shore.

We knew straight away it was the sea-stallion.

Nearing the cliffs he rose on his hind legs

and with one mighty leap cleared the face

clattering down on the flag not twenty steps

from where we stood making the sign of the cross,

for what we had seen was not of this world.

He steadied himself and headed off across the island.

Not a word did we say to anyone,

who would have believed us anyway at our age,

but when Paddy Dick found his mare to be with foal

and couldn’t explain it, we spoke up.

I’ve not been over to the cliffs since

And my sleep is often astray.

*************

OCCHIALI DA SOLE

 

Ieri io ero il pesce che s’incurva

nel mulinello presso il ponte a schiena d’asino

e tu eri la dolce corrente del fiume

che carezza i ciottoli lisci sul fondo sabbioso.

Poi tu eri la luce gialla tra le tende

della finestra al terzo piano e io ero l’uomo

dal cappotto lungo con il cappello e la sigaretta

appoggiato al lampione giù in strada.

Questa mattina, guardandoti in giardino

con le cesoie e il cesto seppi che tu eri

i raggi di miele che si riversano dagli occhi

di quell’antico ponte ai limiti del bosco.

e io non ero più il pesce che s’incurva

nel gorgo oscuro, invece ero adesso

l’airone silenzioso a monte nel canneto

con un cappotto grigio e gli occhiali da sole

molto simili al paio costoso che hai riportato dall’Italia,

quelli che uso solo per occasioni formali

o quella volta al chiuso della nostra stanza d’albergo

a Cascais alle due della mattina.

SHADES

 

Yesterday I was the bending fish

in the swirlpool by the humpback bridge

and you were the river’s gentle current

stroking the smooth pebbles on the sandy bed.

Later, you were the yellow light between the curtains

in the third-floor window and I was the man

in the long coat and hat with a cigarette

leaning against the streetlamp down below.

This morning, as I watched you in the garden

with pruner and basket I knew that you were

the honey-beams pouring through the eye

of that ancient bridge at the edge of the woods

and the I was no longer the bending fish

in the dark pool, instead I was now

the silent heron upstream in the reeds

wearing a grey cloak and dark shades

very like the expensive pair you brought home from Italy,

the ones I take out only on state occasions

or that one time in the privacy of our hotel room

in Cascais at two o’clock in the morning.

SAKURA[1]

 

A Okinawa a sud fioriscono i primi Sakura

la nuvola di fiori si spinge lenta a nord

verso Kyoto e Tokio, delicata onda di petali,

seguita lungo la via da innamorati

in attesa dei primi boccioli

e poi l’hanami sotto l’esplodere dei petali.

(Sakura è il meraviglioso ciliegio da fiore giapponese, simbolo d’amore e di giovinezza. L’hanami è il tradizionale picnic sotto gli alberi in fiore.)

SAKURA

In Okinawa to the south the first Sakura blooms,

the blossom-clouds creep slowly north

towards Kyote and Tokyo, a gentle petal-wave,

tracked all the way by lovers

watching for the early buds

and then the Hanami beneath the petal-burst.

(Sakura is the beautiful Japanese Flowering Cherry, symbol of love and rejuvenation.

Hanami is a traditional picnic beneath the blooming tree.)


[1] Il testo è stato ispirato dalla tragedia del recente tsunami  nel nord del Giappone.)

(C) 2012 Gerard Hanberry per i testi originali – (C) 2012 Francesca Diano per le traduzioni. RIPRODUZIONE RISERVATA

 


Q&A with Francesca Diano on The Wild Geese.com Part 1

I’m greatly indebted to the wonderful people of The Wild Geese website: Maryann Tracy for her constant presence, help and ethusiastic support,  Gerry Regan for his  great help and presence. my special thanks to Belinda Evangelista, who introduced me to The Wild Geese and with her loving presence made all this possible.

FROM: The Wild Geese The history of the Irish worldwide

http://us1.campaign-archive.com/?u=c2de7d833977ba0b4852d9b81&id=b5ce7f0d5f

AND DIRECTLY FROM HELL’S KITCHEN

http://thewildgeeseblog.blogspot.it/2012/04/italians-affair-with-irish-antiquarian.html

An interview to Francesca Diano. 

IRISH MINUTE

Italian’s Affair With Irish Antiquarian:
A Q&A With Writer Francesca Diano 

Writer and teacher Francesca Diano seems likely to be among Italy’s greatest living experts on Irish folklore, with her particular focus on the work of 19th century Irish folklorist Thomas CroftonCroker. She is what one might call in American slang “a chip off the old block,” the daughter of Carlo Diano, a famous philosopher and scholar of ancient Greek and professor at the University of Padua. He had a great influence on her interest in mythology and ancient cultures.

A graduate of Padua University, she lived in London for a time, where she taught courses on Italian art at the Italian Institute of Culture and worked at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In the late 1990s, she lectured in Italian at University College Cork.

A literary translator, having worked for well-known Italian publishers, she has done translations of many famous authors, including Croker. With Irish folklore and oral tradition among her main interests, she was lucky to find one of the few and very rare original copies of the 1825 first edition of Croker’s “Fairy Legends.”

Diano was curator for Collins Press, Cork, of the facsimile edition of “Fairy Legends,” which was released on the bicentenary of Croker’s birth [Editor’s Note: Croker was born at Cork on January 15, 1798]. For the occasion, she was interviewed by The Irish Times about her interest in Croker and Irish folklore. Her Italian translation of Croker’s work was launched at the Irish Embassy in Rome.

She has lectured extensively on art, literature, translation studies and Irish folklore. Her work been published in journals and newspapers. She writes poetry, in Italian and English, short stories and essays, and has served as art critic for some well known Italian artists.

In May, she will present on Irish funeral traditions and keening, a focus of Croker’s, at an international meeting in Tuscany on the 10th anniversary of the death of Italian-English writer and scholar Elémire Zolla.

Diano has her own blog, “Il ramo di corallo” (The Coral Branch) and is a teacher at the Art High School in Padua. The Wild Geese Folklore Producer Maryann Tracy decided to learn more about Diano’s fascinating Irish focus. Here’s what she learned:

The Wild Geese: You mentioned that everything connected to Ireland is a joy for your soul. How did you develop this love of Ireland?

Francesca Diano (left, with her T.C.Croker’s original book): Yes, it’s true. Ireland has this power of attraction and fascinates many people. I suppose this has something to do with its beautiful, intact nature, but also with a special energy radiating from the island. But, as far as I’m concerned, there is much more. It’s a long story, starting in London, in the early 70s, when I lived there for some years. I’m Italian, but although I love my country, since the first time I went to UK, I felt a strange sense of belonging. It was in London that I found this very special book. It all started from it. I’ve always loved fairy tales, myth and legends, and the past. The very distant past, but at the time I didn’t know much about Irish folklore and traditions.

Yet, as soon as I started to read this book, something clicked inside me. Like a faint bell ringing deep inside. I was extremely puzzled, because the anonymous author’s elegant style, encyclopedic culture and the same structure of the work clearly revealed a refined education and a great knowledge of the subject.

I have a very enquiring nature (I love detective stories), and discovering the name of the author was a challenge. At that time, the Internet had yet to come, as well as personal computers, so it was very difficult to do research from abroad. I was back in Italy then and from here I couldn’t find any clue about this work. In fact, in my country it was totally unknown. It took me 15 years to unveil the mystery, but all along those years of research my love for Ireland grew stronger and stronger. It was, you see, like digging for a treasure, or going on a quest, but that country, where I had never been before, didn’t seem unknown at all. It seemed like a place I knew and that was gradually coming back into my life. The time had come for the soul to find its way back to my soul country. That was how I got interested in Irish folklore. It was an act of love. Like if I was just rediscovering a great and long lost love.

The Wild Geese: How did you acquire Croker’s “Fairy Legends”?

Francesca Diano: It was while living in London that, on a late summer afternoon, I met for the first time an Irishman without a name. I was unaware at that time that he would completely change the course of my life.

I met him in an antiquarian bookshop in Hornsey, so the bookseller was actually a go-between. I had befriended the bookseller, and we shared a passion for old books, for things of the past, for the lovely smell of old dusty paper. In that shop I could dig into the past – a past that proved to be my future.

Often, on my way back from the Courtauld Institute, where I worked, I stopped there and he displayed his treasures in front of my adoring eyes — prints and books that rarely I could afford, as he was well aware of their value and he wasn’t very keen on parting with the objects of his love. But he liked me, so, that afternoon, knowing that soon I would return to Italy after my years in London, he went at the back of his bookshop, and after a while he emerged with a little book that he handed me with great care.

“I am sure you will like this very much,” he told me with a knowing smile. He charged me only £3.6. This book is now worth hundreds and hundreds of pounds. I often wonder, thinking of how this book dramatically changed my life, if the bookshop in Hornsey and the bookseller really ever existed, or were they just a fairy trick.

The Wild Geese:  Why is Croker’s work so significant?

Francesca Diano: Thomas Crofton Croker was an incredible man and a unique character. Since he was a young boy, he was fascinated by antiquities and old curiosities, so he started to collect them very early in his life. His family belonged to the Ascendency, but he developed a great interest in old Irish traditions and tales, a subject not at all considered at that time, if not with [disdain]. In his teens, he toured Munster, sketching old ruins and inscriptions, collecting tales and superstitions from the peasantry, noting them down, an interest quite unusual for an Anglo-Irish. Then, on the 23rd of June 1813, he went with one of his friends to the lake of Gougane Barra, to attend a “Pattern,” such was called the festivity of a Patron Saint.

On the little island in the middle of that lake, in the 6thcentury, Saint Finnbarr (or Barra), the patron and founder of Cork, had his hermitage. For centuries, around the lake, Saint John’s Eve was celebrated and a great number of people gathered there, even coming from distant places, to pray, sing, dance, play and feast.
It was on that occasion that Croker heard for the first time a caoineadh,recited by an old woman.  He noted it down and was so impressed, that he decided he would devote himself to collect and write down oral traditions.
Later he went to live and work in London as cartographer for the Admiralty, and in 1824 the publisher John Murray released his first work, Researches in the South of Ireland, a unique collection of observations, documents, descriptions and tales of the places and people, a sort of sentimental journey, so to say. Croker had collected so much of oral tales and traditions that Murray asked him to write a book. So, in 1825, he did, and that was the first collection of oral tales ever published on the British Isles.
 Croker greatly admired the Brothers Grimm, and their work inspired him. In fact, the “Fairy Legends” were translated into German by them that same year, as they acknowledged the great importance of this work, although it was anonymous. Later, they became friends and they even contributed to a later edition of Croker’s legends with a long essay.
The 1825 first edition bears, in fact, no author’s name. This was because Croker had lost the original manuscript, and he asked his friends in Cork to help him in reconstructing it. So, honest and true as he was, in this first edition he only refers to himself, not by name, but as “the compiler.”
This edition was printed in 600 copies and sold out in a week! And Croker became a famous man. The importance of Croker’s work lays in its very modern structure and research method. That is, in the fact that he gives the tales as they were told to him, and all his rich notes and comments are confined at the end of each tale, thus showing great respect for his informants and for the truth. This is why he is regarded as the pioneer of Irish folklore and of folklore research in the British Isles.
The Wild Geese:  What compelled you to translate Croker’s work into Italian?
Francesca Diano: My father was one of the greatest Italian translators of the Greek tragedies, but also of German and Swedish authors. So I can say I breathed the art of translation since I was born. Translating, as I said, is first of all an act of love, that is, knowledge and a way to share this knowledge with others. A way to connect cultures and times.
But I started to translate Croker’s work long before I decided to publish it. It was because I loved it and because I wanted my children to love it with me. I’ve always had the spirit of a storyteller, and I told my children stories every night, at bedtime, for years and years. So, that was the first reason why I translated it. They were its first Italian public. Later I submitted my work to a publisher.
The Wild Geese:  I understand that you just completed your first novel. Tell me about it.
Francesca Diano: Yes, after more than seven revisions in the course of some years, I eventually resolved it was time to print my novel. I’m an obsessive editor! “The White Witch” (“La Strega Bianca” in Italian) is, as according to the subtitle, an Irish story, set mainly in Ireland and partly in Italy. It came first as short story I wrote while living in Ireland, which later developed into a novel.
Sofia, the main character of the story, sets on a long journey through Ireland on a very special quest, a mystery to be unravelled. There is also a love story that belongs to another life and a surprising encounter with a woman, who is both a witch and a psychic — the White Witch. She will help to lift the veil hiding Sofia’s past.
The beauty and magic of the island reveal to Sofia the power of the feminine, the healing power of the Great Mother Goddess, as a means of a total transformation.
Sofia’s is a journey through time and space, paralleled by a journey inside her. …
 While meeting the various characters in her new homeland, Sofia recalls people and events of her life, and all the things that were before unclear and confused. These will now acquire a new meaning and place through the unexpected events of her new life.
Cork, Cobh, Dublin, Monkstown, the Killarney lakes, Glandore, the National Museum, are all for Sofia places of learning and discovery. Each one of them is a center. In Ireland, Sofia will find the mother she never had. WG

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COBH a poem by Francesca Diano

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'COBH' page

Cobh Bay

 

This is a poem from a short collection of poems I wrote in English. Most of them have been written while I lived in Ireland.

http://www.ouririshheritage.org/page_id__89_path__.aspx

COBH

Green like dawn among the oaks

green I am – and my throat

thick with moss and heather –

opens to the flush of greenish words.

Green is my smile and leaf-like is my skin

my fingers green grass leaves.

My eyes – a wave – lost in translucent waters

melt into currents and wriggling  sands –

travel beyond  the bay – flooded with stars –

Flatland –where long rows of preying seagulls

keep time beyond the line of time.

The time that fills me, that fills up the banks

of twin skies – reflecting a blue shyness –

bringing together – interlaced fingers – moon and tide.

Around me  dripping of archaic waters

ebullient flashing words.

In their rolling – the clouds – melting the hills

burst with green froth of rhyming waves.

Ogham signs carved into the stone of heaven.

High is the sky and higher still

When I set on my quest – searching the limit

For its primeval sign.

The well of my new path –

gleaming already in its triple spiral.

Listening  – open-eyed – to the song of the light

to the lightning that sets rainbows on fire.

The green sacred Isle that is buried inside –

Sphere of desire.

Nothing will win you back

If not a running – melting sky.

 

(C) 1998  Francesca Diano. All rights reserved