English Samgha/Poesia/Traduzioni

Ferrara, the silent voice of stones : Chiara De Luca translated by Gray Sutherland

by Matteo Veronesi

Cover_Alfabeto_©_foto_Rachel_SladeAs Andrea Pagani wrote so eloquently a dozen years ago in Cartapesta, a lovely little magazine from Imola that now alas has folded (Cartapesta, No. 9, October-December 2003): “It would be hard to find a city more suited than Ferrara – one of D’Annunzio’s “cities of silence”, with its wide empty streets, its lurking loneliness, the sense of waiting for something, something mysterious that seeps from its historic buildings – ” to play host to and impel the genesis of metaphysical painting, “a city,” as he went on, that is capable of inspiring “a suggestion for a surreal viewpoint of the world; the folds of mystery that hide below the contours of reality; images of suspension, waiting, foreboding; a sort of watchful eye juxtaposing things in unlikely ways.”
The same comment applies to these poems by Chiara de Luca, which it is my privilege to present. Her poems contain a sure echo – albeit one remote from and free of any kind of decadent smugness, soppiness or aestheticizing extenuation – of D’Annunzio’s city of silence (and also perhaps of “Ferrara the Dead”, in which Corrado Govoni, emulating Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-morte, sought to meld image and myth back in the early 20th century). At the same time, her poems resound with a triumphant, rediscovered breath, and a renewed breeziness, discursiveness and humanity, which lie beyond, not this side of, any attempt at formalism or intellectualism closed in on itself. This does not weaken but rather strengthens the symbolic content, the existential correlativity of the places, environments, names and memories, which in an almost Proustian manner these recall and reawaken.
On the other hand, in and of itself metaphysics does not lead to vagueness or indeterminateness but rather, as De Chirico himself underlined (and the same might apply to some of Montale’s early scenarios), to an almost classical precision, clarity and limpidity of form and contours: “To me tranquillity itself and beauty free from the material sense seem to be metaphysics, and objects are all the more metaphysical when the cleanness of their colours and the exactness of their proportions lift them to the pole opposite all confusion and nebulosity.”
As Chiara De Luca writes, “for the rotting moss the laurel in the gardens / the cloak of silence that opens on holidays / for the discordant song of the doves that recalls / the syncopated rhythm of a stumbling line.” Here we see (beside the exquisitely early twentieth century, almost Campanian climate of the visual imagery and visionary totality falling into place, scanned by the curling anaphorae) the classic, bucolic voice (“nec gemere aeria cessabit turtur ab ulmo”) of nature blurred by the human presence but rediscovered in a poetic language that aspires to a limpidity and fluidity that are rendered more arduous and full of contrast by the vexation of stylistic consciousness[1].

Translated by Gray Sutherland

from Alfabeto dell’invisibile, Samuele Editore 2015
(cover Rachel Slade, preface by Claudio Damiani)

 

A Ferrara                                      

Dopo vent’anni ti ritorno
a guardare dritto nel centro del cuore
da viaggiatore che ormai più non cerca

da tempo alcun riferimento, madre
tanto lieve distratta e inadempiente,
eternamente infante, mia Ferrara

non una ruga sul volto solamente
i tuoi bar sono cresciuti e i tuoi locali
aperti alle truppe ferme sull’attenti

di giovani in divisa in vista dell’aperitivo
iscritti d’ufficio alle “compa” che a sera
si trovano al piazzale dell’Iper a bruciare
metà della serata nel decidere che fare.

Torno per l’abbraccio di chilometri di Mura
con le mani aperte che non ne sanno altre
gli occhi tra gli occhi dei dissimili distanti;
gli incroci di volti e i balconi fatiscenti,
i vicoli scavati come tunnel tra i palazzi,
i fregi sui portoni e le pallide iscrizioni,
la silente sconfitta di austere prigioni.

Torno a sentirmi raccontare dalle pietre,
dall’albero grande dove seppellivo
in un dolce rito l’amato uccellino,

torno a sarchiare la nebbia per scoprire
il volto di ricordi che non vogliono svanire
e restano sepolti come spettri per restare,

digradano nel buio i luoghi del calvario
trasferito a Cona l’ospedale è nel lontano
ora ormai ricorda un college americano

la scuola che ha visto la mia liberazione
dagli altri nel bagno all’ora di ricreazione
molto prima che imparassi ad abbracciare
la nostalgia del mondo, la siccità d’amore.

cedere lo sguardo a perdere il frammento
che dal grigio-perla fuoriesce sfarfallando
dal vano evanescente di mille false porte

sbalzate dalla nebbia su lastre d’apparenze.

 

To Ferrara

After twenty years I’ve returned to you
to look right into the core of your heart
like a wanderer who’s given up searching

for any mention for such a long time,
a mild, distracted, unfulfilling mother
a perpetual child, this Ferrara of mine

there’s not a line on your face, only
your bars have grown and your spots are
open to troops all standing at attention

to youngsters in uniform waiting for aperitifs
officially enrolled in the “squad” who hang
out evenings in the mall so they can waste
half the evening deciding what to get up to.

I’ve come back for the embrace of miles of walls
with hands open that know nothing else
eyes among eyes of distant dissimilarities;
the criss-cross of run-down faces, balconies,
alleys carved out like tunnels between buildings,
friezes above doorways and faded inscriptions,
the silent defeat of harsh prisons.

I’ve come back to hear the stones talk to me,
the huge tree by which I buried
in a gentle ritual my beloved little bird

I’ve come back to hoe up the fog and find
the faces of memories that refuse to disappear
and remain buried like ghosts to stay near,

in the dark they slip down the sites of the ordeal
moved to Cona the hospital is far away
now it reminds me of an American boarding school

the school that saw me break free from the others
in the bathroom during recreation time
long before I learned to embrace

the world’s nostalgia, love’s aridity.

***

Via della Ghiara

Perla in salvo tra valve di conchiglia,

avvolta dalle mura gelose di una villa
anche oggi scorgo qualcosa che somiglia,
traluce dalle crepe, il verde di una foglia–

non lo sa il romano che ieri in comitiva
ho sentito gridare madonna che griggiume!
che le strade di Ferrara tramano giardini

lodando il legno vivo nel chiostro delle case,
dove pregano gli uccelli nell’amen del silenzio
la salmodia del giorno sul messale dell’inverno;

lo sanno i gatti dei vicoli del centro
che occorre scalare i muri per entrare,
sgusciare come ombre dalle gattaiole,

bocche severe sui portoni delle case
a chi non sa volare o è cresciuto per sgusciare
non resta che essere negli occhi e non lasciare

cedere lo sguardo a perdere il frammento
che dal grigio-perla fuoriesce sfarfallando
dal vano evanescente di mille false porte

sbalzate dalla nebbia su lastre d’apparenze.

 

Via della Ghiara

A pearl safely among the valves of shells,

enwrapped by a villa’s jealous walls today
once more something I glimpse shining through
cracks that looks like the green of a leaf –

that roman I heard out in his group yesterday
shouting my god what dismal grey!
doesn’t know Ferrara’s streets weave gardens

praising the living wood in houses’ cloisters
where birds pray in the amen of silence
the psalm of the day in winter’s missal;

the alley cats in the town centre know
to get in they have to climb the walls,
wiggling like shadows out of cat-flaps,

those grim mouths scowling in house doors
for those that cannot fly or grew to wriggle
being there to see is all that’s left and

not looking aside and losing the fragment
that issues fluttering from the pearl grey
the evanescent hollow of a thousand fake doors

tossed by the fog upon slabs of veneer.

***

Via Camaleonte

                                                                     a mio fratello

Al tuo braccio appesa come all’albero maestro
nel viavai di arrivi e partenze a Tiburtina
dopo il primo appello della morte repentino
a spingerci sul treno da bambini verso Roma

dove mamma per mano aveva accompagnato
la sua mamma all’ultima stazione del dolore
che per sempre chiuse il regno in Via Napoleone
cancellando Roma dai posti per restare.

Di due naufraghi arenati all’alba sul binario
per cercare nella folla la giusta direzione,
tu eri il capitano con gli occhi presi al largo
senza timore perché i grandi non ne hanno.

Non so se giungemmo volando a quella chiesa
o contando a uno a uno i sampietrini come quando
la domenica mattina raggiungevo il catechismo
centrando con un piede dopo l’altro i sassi pari,

ma che era grande da fermarci sulla soglia
e che ho colto tra le dita una lacrima di cera
mentre sull’altare un uomo calmo ci parlava

di Teresina come di una che non c’era,

che più non mi avrebbe baciata sulla fronte
la sera nel lettone la vigilia di Natale,
che più non mi avrebbe accolta sulla soglia
sorridendo in fondo ai quarantadue gradini
da fare al galoppo senza mai perdere il conto.

A chi diceva La tua nonna è andata
in cielo, gridavo Il cielo è in terra
e in tutta questa pioggia
di pianto manca nonna,

finché mi sciolsi in acqua
per cadermi lungo il viso.

Ora che ho cercato altrove per vent’anni
ritorno alla partenza per non ritrovarti,
i ricordi come stecche di mikado li ha soffiati
un alito d’orgoglio la tenacia di un tornado

e sono già due anni che ci ha sparpagliato.

Oggi lungo il muro ritraccio lentamente
le gobbe in via Cammello verso via Camaleonte,
sasso dopo passo dopo sasso da contare
senza perdere di vista la luce al davanzale,

per sapere se stasera tra le labbra della nebbia
è la breccia di un mondo o solo il margine di un giorno.
Ma di nuovo perdo il conto e resto appesa al vento
in quest’angolo di cielo da tempo ormai deserto.

Via Camaleonte
                                               to my brother

Leaning on your arm as on a mainmast among
the comings and goings of arrivals and departures
at Tiburtina station after death’s first sudden
call to push us on the kiddies’ train to Rome

where our mum had taken her mum by the hand
and accompanied her to the terminus of pain
their reign in Via Napoleone having ended forever
and Rome deleted from the places they could stay.

Of the two shipwrecks stranded on the platform at dawn
looking through the crowd to find the right way
you were the captain your eyes open wide
fearless, because big guys don’t know fear.

I don’t know if we reached that church on wings
or counting the paving stones one by one as when
on Sunday mornings I used to go to catechism
stepping from one stone to the next, step by step,

but it was so huge it stopped us on the threshold
and between my fingers I found a wax tear
while from the altar a calm man told us
about Teresina, as if she did not exist,

who never again would kiss me on my forehead
in the evening in my big bed on Christmas Eve
who never again would lift me over the doorstep
smiling deep down at the forty-two steps
to gallop up without ever losing count.

To the person who said Your grandma has gone
to heaven I cried in reply Heaven is on earth
and in all this rain
of tears my granny is no more

until I dissolve in water
trickling down my face.

Now that for twenty years I have searched elsewhere
I come back to where I left to find you gone,
memories blown down like Mikado sticks by
a breath of pride tenacious as a tornado

and for two years now has scattered us about.

Slowly along the wall today I retrace the humps
along via Cammello towards via Camaleonte
stone after step after stone to be counted without
losing sight of the light on the window sill,

to discover if this evening between the lips of the fog
lies the breach of the world or just the edge of a day.
But once more I lose count, stand hanging in the wind
in this corner of the sky deserted for so long.

***

Correndo sulle Mura degli Angeli

Lungo la navata centrale che risale

in quel suo violento slancio verticale
nella Notre Dame d’alberi la pioggia

smalta lo smeraldo delle foglie,
accende le colonne di corteccia,

interseca le note d’acqua del respiro
sciolto in fruscio di passi sul sentiero –

Corri forte lepre dov’è inutile la fuga
in quest’invernale primavera seminuda,

quasi non scrosciasse che sole per sentire
pioggia defluire se il vento col sudore

gela sulla pelle come brina sulle punte
di rami fuoriusciti dai relitti della notte.

 

Running down the Mura degli Angeli

Along the central nave that climbs

in its violent vertical lunge
in Notre Dame of the trees the rain

glazes the emerald green of the leaves
ignites the pillars of their bark

intersects the watery notes of breath
dissolving in whispering steps along the track –

Run, hare, run fast where flight has no aim
in this semi-naked wintery spring

almost as if it bursts forth only to feel
the rain stream down if with its sweat the wind

freezes on skin like hoar-frost on branch tips
jutting up from the wreckage of the night.

_________________________________ 

gray_sutherlandGray Sutherland was born in England in 1948 and educated in Europe and Canada, obtaining his M.A. in Frenchfrom Calgary in 1975. He has been a professional translator since 1978, first in government service and since 2000 as a freelance specializing in art, photography and contemporary Italian poetry. His poetry translations include The Immedicate Distance by Stefano Guglielmin (Le Voce della Luna, 2006) and Splinters of Light: Poems of Antonella Anedda, Milo de Angelis, Fabio Pusterla (Kolibris edizioni, 2013). Since 2001 he has published one novel and a number of books of his own poetry, including the photopoetic work Terje Vigens Båt (2006), a sequence of poems and photographs based on the Ibsen ballad, in collaboration with the American nature photographer Carll Goodpasture. Some of his poems were also included in For Kelly with Love (Treeline Press, 2014).

 

Foto di Carlotta Bartolozzi

Foto di Carlotta Bartolozzi

Chiara De Luca studied Foreign Languages and Literatures at the University of Pisa, attended Magda Olivetti’s European Translation Institute in Florence, and Françoise Wuilmart’s Collège Européen des traducteurs littéraires in Seneffe. She has an M.A. in Literary Translation and a PhD in Comparative Literatures and Languages from the University of Bologna. She is a poet, essayist and translator from French, German, English, Spanish and Portuguese to Italian. She has translated more than 60 contemporary poetry collections. In 2008 she created Edizioni Kolibris (http://edizionikolibris.net), an independent publishing house consecrated to foreign poetry in translation. She has created and manages the international website Iris di Kolibris – Poetry in Translation, which is dedicated to poetry in translation, bilingualism and migrating literature (http://irisdikolibris.net). Her personal website is http://chiaradeluca.net

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2 thoughts on “Ferrara, the silent voice of stones : Chiara De Luca translated by Gray Sutherland

  1. Pingback: Ferrara, the silent voice of stones (“Samgha”) | Chiara De Luca (Edizioni Kolibris)

  2. Pingback: Ferrara, the silent voice of stones (“Samgha”) – Chiara De Luca

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