Poetry by the same author
Books in English translation
Garden of Delights, Selected Poems. Gradiva Publications, New York, 2010
Books in Italian
Translations by the author
Gianfranco Palmery, author of sixteen volumes of verse, four books on poetry and poets, as well as translations of Keats, Shelley, Poe, Berryman, Corman, Sponde, Corbière and Stéfan, was born and lived in Rome where he died on July 28, 2013, after a long illness. He was critic for the Roman daily, Il Messaggero, founder and director of the literary journal Arsenale and worte a column for the Pagine magazine. His poems, essays, and translations appeared in many reviews and papers such as Corriere della Sera, Paragone, Leggere, Poesia.
If I name your eyes, these
How many times did I take them
(from L'opera della vita, 1986)
Secretions hair nails teeth skin:
Where do the nails go? Where goes the hair?
(from Il versipelle, 1992)
These translations by Barbara Carle are from Garden of Delights, Selected Poems, Gradiva Publications, New York, 2010.
“Palmery pushes into the most impervious borderland between abstraction
and the sayable. Like in Wallace Stevens, the succession of quatrains
finds in the signals of the recluse ‘universal misfortune and grace’.”
“He is like a novelist, essayist or, better yet, an ancient poet,
knowledgeable that is, of the untouchable power that emanates from his
chosen material. [...] Palmery’s poetry sends firebolts, fumes,
crackles, like the ember in Dante’s Inferno XIII, or like in the
mental, rather than optical, pyrotechnies of Milton’s poem.”
“Palmery’s garden is theater and by right its inventor’s
place is, together with Sade, Fourier and Loyola, among the ‘logoteti’,
i.e. the founders of language, as defined by Roland Barthes.”
“Absolutely unique in the Italian—or more rightly, European—context,
poet by vocation, perpetuator of a tradition, erudite translator of Keats,
Stéfan, Berryman, founder of the magazine Arsenale, Palmery
lives with a rigorous wellspring of tenacity his existential detachment.”
“An obstinate battle in verse against Nothingness, Death, the Demons
of ambition and vice, represented with rock solid thematic and stylistic
“Palmery’s poetry is the mental equivalent of travel to a
war zone or the taking up of an extreme sport—every fiber in of
our essence will be explored and stretched beyond what we believed possible.”
“Even with every quatrain emitting a suffering need of the absolute,
Palmery is animated and animates us, not with that need, but instead with
his way of putting it.”
"Palmery has the same intimacy with night and death as Emily Dickinson.
He is cruel and very sweet, heavenly, a San Juan de la Cruz... But mostly
he resembles himself, the infinite, sharp selves who transform darkness
into something like a sunny threshing-floor on which to beat the grain
“Finally, after so much anti-poetry and careless verse during the
last few decades, in Palmery’s work we rediscover with wonder page
after page a profound, liberating idea of that which was, and is, literature.”
“A contagious poetry, strongly rhythmic, enveloping, spiralesque—without
doubt the most notable I’ve read in this closure of the millennium.”
What first hit me in Palmery was the scandal of the contents. The modern poet is certainly the most prudish of all the generations of poets that have passed on earth; in reality he hasn’t gotten over that reaction to romanticism that consisted in determining what wasn’t right, wasn’t decent, to say in poetry. Palmery instead throws all his desperation at you right away without prudence. Maybe it isn’t a personal sentiment, but nevertheless a faith, a code, a deciphering grid: I was caught by and liked this courage to reveal, as Leopardi had, the hidden hand of the universal executioner.
Palmery is from Cioran’s stock. He himself speaks of slaughterings
committed in some metaphysical stockyard. He doesn’t think of Poe
as a creator of symbols, but as an inexhaustible source of horrors; he
can revisit the Baudelairean Albatros or rewrite a Vie antérieure
of his, as in Feria. Well, all this means courage; but I also
know that all this – what we have called scandal – would not
be enough if the inspection of that supreme degree of matter which is
the nothingness, wasn’t physically represented and mimed by the
Sometimes Palmery resembles John Donne; but in him there is also a suggestion of the transcendental baroque of Giacomo Lubrano, a religiosity in negative, of a mystical type, as in Maria Maddelena dei Pazzi, that becomes a foretaste of the ecstasy of nonexistence while life, biology still interpose their weak shelter from that full acquisition. As in Pegni (Tokens): “Unghie secreti pelli peli capelli: / sono anticipi e annunci, i nostri pegni / precoci alla terra, ignari seppelli- / menti prematuri o sparizioni (...)”. (Fingernails, secretions, skin, body hair, hair: / are anticipations and announcements, our tokens / precocious to earth, unaware premature/ burials or disappearances...). Which is an excellent way of saying death discounts living, but where above all, that anticipation of nothingness is figured in the cancellation of a lexicon, so that “pelli, peli, capelli” (skin, body hair, hair) annul each other in the same play of rhyme with “seppelli” (bury), which would seem to originate in mere metric necessity, but instead assumes its peremptory significance. (...)
On my part, I prefer to admire in silence this rider of the apocalypse: among the greatest poets active in Italy today. “It is impossible, in the end, to explain a poem.” Francis Bacon said recently in an interview. Bacon, sure, who also belongs to the constellation under whose influence Palmery came to light – or rather to dark. (...)
Luigi Baldacci From the Preface of Il Versipelle *
Critic Luigi Baldacci considers Dante to be at the foundation of Palmery's rhetorical system. A Dante stripped of all meaning and "nailed to the evidence of a signifier that generates itself in perfect autonomy." (Baldacci, Preface to Il versipelle). The poem which gives the book its title, Il versipelle, is written with terciary "Dantesque" stanzas which realize the serpentine transformations of Inferno XXV: "Fuggire il finito e cercare rifugio / dall'infinito con l'infinito / indugio […]" ("To flee the finite and seek refuge / from the infinite with the infinite / delay […]").
A dominant theme of Palmery's poetry is death. He sings of it in all guises and with all tones as his serpentine verses transform themselves into Medusa who in turn becomes emblem of poetry itself: "luce nera / sulla pagina bianca – e musica / sbilenca sibilante – musa-sibilla –: o infera // poesia! […]" ("black light / on white page—and crooked / sibilant music—Sibyl-Muse—: Oh infernal // poetry! […]”). Mythology is very present in Palmery's poems, though it is not always taken seriously (see Prometheus Housebound). Nor does his poetry offer salvation, rather it exudes "pathos and irony, it is physical writing about passion, evil, and suffering", observes Tiziano Salari (Testuale, 33, 2002). Indeed, as the title of his most recent book suggests, L'io non esiste (I does not exist) the poet lives and represents a sort of absence from himself and at the same time an imprisonment in his own body-sepulcher which is slowly dissolving to dust (See Apotheosis of Dust). This continuous vanishing into nothingness is developed by Palmery in what we could call a contemporary Baroque mode ("Trick, display, fragile semblance / of worked clay, pulp or pulsating / dust, ruin disguised / as victory […]" Apotheosis of Dust) At times the poet himself is target of irony or mockery as we may observe in many poems from In quattro:
The intricate system of alliteration, assonance, homophones, and rhymes create a very intense and difficult to translate poetic network. Palmery was very helpful during the months of writing, rewriting, and revision necessary to translate his poetry. His suggestions, explanations and clarifications were invaluable and all revealed the minute attention he affords to every detail of his each poem. I have been fortunate to be able to work with one of the only contemporary stilnovisti (true crafters of verse) who currently grace the Italian literary stage.
Barbara Carle The Sun in the Sepulcher: Six Poems by Gianfranco Palmery, "Gradiva", 33, Spring 2008.
Books in English Translation
Garden of Delights: Selected Poems, Preface and translation by Barbara Carle, Gradiva Publications, New York, 2010.
Books in Italian
Mitologie, Il Labirinto, Rome 1981.
Il poeta in 100 pezzi, Il Labirinto, Rome 2004.
* Translation from Italian by Victoria Shore
|Edizioni Il Labirinto|