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CURRENT ISSUE 2008

Norma Kaminsky

David King

Kathleen Sharp

Vered Weiss

Christopher Zepeda

 

Translation of selected poems from Giusi Quarenghi's Tiramore

Kathleen Sharp
San Francisco State University

In a recent interview Guisi Quarenghi described poetry as a map of words, perhaps of those territories the ancients indicated with 'Hic sunt leones' or 'here there are lions,' meaning passage is not advised: he who enters does so at his own danger and risk but only he who tries can advance the maps.1 Whether spider webs or maps, the poetry of Giusi Quarenghi, with its lack of context, sparse punctuation, and abstract diction, becomes a space to explore for all those who aren't afraid to get lost.

*

Tra le rocce spaccate e divise un ragno
soave ha tessuto sul buio un filo
che solca l'abisso e seconda
le pieghe dell'aria. Sua forza
non far resistenza e un peso
prossimo a niente. L'alba
lo trova e lo ricolma di luce
La luce non pesa

Between cracked and divided rocks a spider
graceful has woven upon the darkness a thread
that cuts through the abyss and follows
the folds of the air. Its force
meets no resistance and its weight
next to nothing. The dawn
finds it and showers it with light
The light weightless

*

C'è una luce a quest'ora una luce
della quale godo come di pelle
viva. Accarezzarla lenta mi conduce
all'ultimo pensiero il più ribelle.
Ma quest'ora smaltata in controluce
a guardarla da qui sotto le stelle
visioni rovesciate riproduce
e vita e morte fa sentir sorelle.
Sta dentro l'onda di una ragnatela
smagliata e lasca attorno al cuore vuoto
il breve oro di durare ancora.
Signore è il vento di questa vela
e suo maestro finché qui dimora
ma è il tuo nome a sostenere il moto.

There is a light at this hour a light
in which I delight as though it were skin
alive. To caress it slowly I am taken
to a last most rebellious thought.
But this glazed hour against the backlight
watching from here beneath the stars
reproduces visions blurred
and life and death seem like sisters.
It is inside the wave of a spider web
snagged and loose around an empty heart
the quick gold of enduring still.
The wind is lord of this veil
and its master for as long as it dwells here
but it is your name that sustains the movement.

*

Mi addormento ogni sera con una domanda
Se passi mi sveglierò con la risposta
Se manchi       ma più mi manchi più sono con te
è un segreto che chiudo al mattino nel letto
che porto nel corpo come un flauto il suo
fiato qualunque sia il suono che dà
e il silenzio       che sta ai suoni come la luce
ai colori       il sonno ai sogni       te a me

I fall asleep every night with one question
If you pass by I will wake with the answer
If you are missing       but the more I miss you the more I am with you
it is a secret that I close inside the bed every morning
that I hold within my body like a flute his
breath whatever sound that it gives
and the silence       that is to sounds like light
to colors       sleep to dreams       you to me

*

Vengo a trovarti dove non sei
ma se vengo ti trovo
e il nostro appuntamento senza
un'ora che traduca
il mio tempo verso il tuo
ha almeno questo spazio
un luogo dedicato. Qui i passi sono
pensieri i gesti quasi baci
e sento che il silenzio
silente ci traduce

I come to look for you where you are not
but if I come I find you
and our appointment without
an hour that can translate
my time towards yours
has at least dedicated a place
for this space. Here steps are
thoughts gestures almost kisses
and I feel that silence
silently translates us

*

Ritornami
qui nella casa ancora
di giorni deserti stagioni
Se ormai sei tanto oltre
che neppure più ti vedo conta poco
che io corra prova tu
ad aspettarmi       almeno
vòltati prendimi nei tuoi occhi
e vai se devi andare ma
tienimi tra quel che vedi
Dove sto è questa strada
Che mi guardi la mia casa
Non aver paura       Vòltati
Ch'io legga nei tuoi occhi
Che siamo altrove e qui
E forse è benedizione

Return to me
here in this house again
for days deserted seasons
If by now you are so far beyond
that I can no longer see you it matters little
that I run you try
to wait for me       at least
turn around take me in your eyes
and go if you have to go but
keep me in what you see
Where I am is this road
That you look at me my house
Do not be afraid       Turn around
So that I can read in your eyes
That we are somewhere else and here
And maybe it is a blessing


Tiramore, the title of Giusi Quarenghi's latest book of poetry, is a dialectal word from Bergamasco meaning spider webs with a play on the Italian words tirare (to pull or to draw out) and amore (love). The author explains in a textual note that spider webs, created upon emptiness, connect distant points and are proof of continuity in the face of fracture. As the only title throughout the entire work it becomes the only context for the poems, as well as a key to interpretation. Tiramore, is a collection of spider webs woven by the author from nothing in order to pull or extract love, whether a discussion on love or an expression of love. Through the voice of an anonymous speaker, present in almost every poem, love is explored through the recurring themes of light, silence, space and time.

The first poem of the book, Tra le rocce spaccate e divise un ragno, acts as a sort of prologue to the rest of the poems, an extension of the title. It sets the stage describing a spider weaving his first thread, as does the author her first poem. Words like rocks and dawn give this poem a more tangible space and time, a concreteness that vanishes from the rest of the poems; the speaker, present throughout the rest of the book, is here absent. The last line introduces the first of many recurring themes, that of light. The dawn showers the spider with light, though ricolma in Italian means re-showering or re-saturating. The last verse, metrically shorter than all the others, reinforces the idea of weightlessness in contrast to the saturation. And in this way the reader, physically and perhaps mentally lighter, enters the book of poetry.

The sonnet C'è una luce a quest'ora una luce also discusses the themes of light and spider webs. The speaker enjoys the light at this hour caressing it like skin, yet this only leads to a rebellious thought. This hour then becomes lit in a backlight that produces blurred or toppled visions. Light in this sonnet instead of enlightening the situation produces conflict, a conflict which is reflected in the sonnets sounds as well: the line visioni rovesciate riproduce has our mouths struggling to pronounce each syllable. Though the author strictly adheres to Italian sonnet form, with hendecasyllabic lines and almost perfect rhyme scheme, the words conflict with the form, as though fighting to break out like in the third verse which breaks irregularly into two with viva dividing the line. The only time the author deviates from the sonnet form occurs in the last lines. Instead of following the rhyme of ragnatela/vuoto/ancora of the first tercet with vela/moto/dimora in the second, the poet inverts the order of moto and dimora as though this were the 'last rebellious thought'. The very presence of your name in the last line mirrors the change in end rhyme, as though the mere uttering of the words your name acts as a reprieve from the form, as though the love for this you allows the poem to deviate in a way that sustains the movement of the spider web, the movement of the poem, and perhaps the movement of the poet.

Quarenghi also explores the theme of silence in her poetry. Mi addormento ogni sera con una domanda presents numerous pairs of nouns woven together in a list of metaphors illustrating the you/me relationship between the speaker and the lover. We find sleep/wake, question/answer, silence/sounds, light/colors, and sleep/dreams. Here silence interacts with its partner sound in a way that embellishes or enhances sounds. Music for example depends upon silence to allow the melodies, harmonies, etc., to have a greater impact. Thus the speaker's relationship to the lover goes beyond a 'there is no sound without silence' or 'no me without you' association to a reciprocal connection where one enhances the other. Silence reappears in the poem Vengo a trovarti dove non sei this time in the role of translator. Here translation, like a transformation, changes steps into thoughts, gestures into kisses and characterizes the process of two people moving towards each other as in the line my time towards yours. It is silence at the end which will finally translate or transform us and lead to a clearer understanding. Silence brings us closer to love, like the idea of silence as a goal and step in spiritual development in order to bring one closer to the divine.

This same poem also depicts an abstract sense of time and space, two ideas that Quarenghi constantly explores in her poems. There is no distinct location in this poem, only a here or space where time runs differently. My time towards yours shows time as a personal experience for the speaker which passes in a direction towards the lover. The poem, though it uses words like appointment and hour, also plays with the words' meanings, inverting them as the concept of time gets explored. The use of the word ora, which in Italian means not only 'hour' but also 'now', further illustrates the ambiguities of time. The inability to express these ideas of time even using traditional terms like appointment and hour makes the use of a translation necessary in this poem.

Not only does the meaning of time entangle itself within the poetry, but space gets confounded as well. Physical objects are easier explained in a three-dimensional space so we can see their relationship to each other, but abstract ideas require a different atmosphere, as we see in the last of Quarenghi's poems, Ritorrnami. Numerous verbs in command form illustrate the speaker's pleading tone, as he/she asks to be remembered or kept. But it is more a request to remain in the undefined space of a here which could be a moment, a memory, anyplace that transcends the physical here. Quarenghi uses very few concrete nouns, only house, street, and eyes, yet these soon take on different meanings. Verse two reads here in this house yet by the end of the poem the speaker's house lies within the gaze of the lover: that you look at me my house. Another, different dwelling is created within the eyes of the lover as physical space becomes metaphysical space powered by the act of looking. Repetition of the word eyes, and the use of the verbs to look, to see and voltati, which in Italian incorporates the word èvolto' or 'face' as in 'turn your face towards me', all stress the importance of seeing. Seen by the lover, the speaker will be remembered, memorized, placed within a new space. And while the beginning of the poem describes the distance between the speaker and his/her lover, the end shows them together as a we in both spaces of somewhere else and here. The act of looking becomes an act of remembering, of destroying time and distance, of creating a space that endures.

Notes

1 Quarenghi, Giusi. E-mail interview. Trans. Kathleen Sharp. 27 February 2008.

Works Cited

Quarenghi, Giusi. Tiramore.         Trans. Venezia: Marsilio, 2006.

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