The invisible legacy of Italo Calvino was also present at the sixteenth edition of Bookfest, the international book fair in Bucharest which has just ended and where Italy was the guest of honor. In addition to the presence, among others, of Nicola Lagioia, Helena Janeczek, Vichi De Marchi, Piergiorgio Odifreddi, Federica Manzon and Matteo Strukul, the subdued – but nevertheless dense – poetic participation could not be ignored. For the Romanian publisher Eikon, among others, the translations of the collections “Hic et nunc. Poems (1975-1998)” by Fabrizio Dall’Aglio, and “The cause of the days” by Cinzia Demi. Both cling to the hendecasyllable as a rhythmic and tonic unit, returning to a metric framework recognizable by any reader, but updating it and therefore making it consciously imperfect. If Dall’Aglio dares some quatrains cadenced by alternating rhymes, Demi sets a large part of the collection on five-line stanzas saturated with assonances and alliteration.
That missing sign
It is the title of the penultimate section of “The cause of days” (Interno Libri, 2022), nourished by the closure of the pandemic: the constrictive parenthesis breaks the rhythm of the versification as much as the semantic links between the five novenari, uncultivated fruits of an experience choked daily life, prevented by urgency. “Why stay and until / don’t act like the swallow that / at the end of its lost time / moves away from the shell breath / from the snowfall of life”, writes Demi: the fear that has triggered the danger of an eventual extinction, to quote Filelfo’s sentient fauna, it has irreversibly changed the approach to existence. The terms “coronavirus” and “covid”, due to media saturation, have stuck negatively in the common imagination with unprecedented lexical violence, which has marked the idioms of two generations. Just think of the continuous deadly amplifications or reductions made by social channels, to which Aldo Nove reacted by erecting “hendecasyllables of walls”.
If the poet contrasts his own linguistic roots with the sense of estrangement, in the “Sonnets of the quartz day” (Einaudi, 2022) his cynical and trenchant irony stigmatizes the freezing of empathy, the incapacity legitimized by the quarantine to identify with the other , in the “neighbors” who are no longer there. And he submits the reader to a bitter smile.
A kind of poetics
The influence that the pandemic lockdown has had on interpersonal relationships, and consequently on language, was also the incipit of the international conference “Literary twentieth century in Italy”, recently organized by the University of Valencia. Faced with an unpredictable future, or in any case more precarious than expected, various poets have turned to the past, to a tradition confined within the academies, but intangible and indisputable, such as Alessandro Agostinelli who returned to the sonnet. In its literary evolution and despite the innumerable variations, the composition consisting of fourteen hendecasyllables, divided into two quatrains (fronte) and two tercets (sirma), remained flourishing for almost eight hundred years. Roberto Cescon argues it exhaustively in the essay “Of all and no one. A kind of poetics?” (Industria&Letteratura, 2023), when he compares the individual choices of the authors to the metric cage to which they must submit, analyzing the unrelated variables, thus the trend of the internal accents, the rhyme schemes, the relationship between verses and syntax: “A sonnet by Petrarca presents a tonal and accentual structure different from one from Foscolo or from Valduga”.
Since the publication of “L’Ospite Perfetta”, in which he broke down the styles of Angiolieri, Cavalcanti, Petrarca, up to Leopardi and Gozzano, to inoculate us with the symptoms of a degraded and controversial historical period, i.e. the pandemic, Agostinelli’s sonnets deny the vision and the official version of the world, taking advantage of their ideological meaning to give voice to disagreements and disagreements. The Tuscan poet retraces and validates the transformation of the poem which, around the fourteenth century, acquired a comic-realistic and parodic character, emerging from the Italian courts, in disagreement with the clichés of power. His recovery of hendecasyllables, novenari and settenari proceeds with “The living seasons” (L’arcolaio, 2023), a prosimeter that stitches together the three canons of Dante’s stilnovism, i.e. the concepts of salus, venus, virtus. Agostinelli traces an ideal path from the contemporary back in time, renewing the present with the musical foundations of the past – “in this Middle Ages / damp and a little dark / the line of the mouth / is a golden handle” – but without relics of conservatism nor by sacrificing the spontaneity of the creative act.