Lucio Mariani is an Italian poet who lives in Rome. Born in 1936, his first volume of poetry “Indagine di possibilità” was launched in 1972. He has published eleven more poetry books since then, and has gained recognition as a translator and essayist. “Traces of Time, ” translated into English by Anthony Molino, is a survey that covers the entirety of Mariani’s work specifically drawn from a collection titled “Farfalla e segno: Poesie scelte 1972-2009” (Crocetti 2010).
Only about three percent of all books published in the US are works in translation. Sadly, only about point seven percent of those translations are fiction and poetry. That an English-speaking audience has access to Mariani’s work, thanks to Open Letter Books, is cause for celebration in itself.
Mariani’s style, his preoccupations and sensibility, have remained consistent throughout his career. This isn’t to say that he’s repetitive. One of the joys of this bilingual translation is that the sophisticated simplicity of Mariani’s language, his gentle irony, his awareness of the swift passage of time, never seems stale or falters in a career that spans over forty years.
“On the Tongue” is a perfect example of Mariani’s ironic humor: “Women and spices may linger on the tongue/but be mindful of their ports of origin… of how the ways you use or misuse them/will figure into your smile.” A beautiful example of the undercurrent of loneliness and loss that Mariani’s poems bear can be found in “Crèche”: “…the entire crèche marches in place/casting no shadows/bundles and gazes empty/beneath the plot of stars dangling from a cardboard ceiling./Nor does the white moon smile upon us.” The paradox of time eternal and time as a single moment is expressed in “Piazza Navona,” written in memory of Scipione: “…Hot blood spat up from your chest/in the face of the Piazza Navona sky/that caught fire… And you ignited Rome./And Rome, remembering, still burns.”
Students of Italian will enjoy analyzing Anthony Molino’s translations. The rest of us have the good luck to be introduced to one of Italy’s most important contemporary poets. (Natalie Black)
Traces of Time
By Lucio Mariani, translated by Anthony Molino
Open Letter, 130 pages, $14.95