My Poems Won’t Change the World: Selected Poems by Patrizia Cavalli

If you can, imagine Sappho strumming her lyre from the center of a modern-day piazza…

Such is the appeal of Patrizia Cavalli. She knows how to chum-up to an audience as a head-over-heels romantic–tempered yet untrammeled by love and its loss. You’re brought into her living room, behind plush curtains, onto her balcony to watch the spectacle of the everyday, arm in arm, with her head on your shoulder. Cavalli is the goddess of the heartfelt, who’ll quickly become your closest cohort.

You arrive like this, as always,
to spread the suspicion of paradise,
and before I open the window
I know you from the gentler light,
from the dust that hangs in the air,
from the birds’ obsessive performance,
and if it weren’t the birds it would be something else,
for you have your specialties for every place;
and when you come in and I surrender my senses
I’m living in unfamiliar houses again and feeling nostalgia
for things that never occurred. And across your labyrinths
you hang the continents and seasons on my back
and I become the wall of shouts and reflections
the platform flights take off from
till the silent eddies of summer.

Her poems nose at your clavicle. They’ve seen sun, smelled cappuccino, dipped a toe in city fountains. They sweat richness of life and thickness of feeling, upbeat or otherwise. They emanate her Italy, smitten as she is with it, connected as she must be to all that it is: cobblestones and snapped stilettos, neglected cats and warmed pilsners.

But first we must free ourselves
from the strict stinginess that produces us,
that produces me on this chair
in the corner of a café
awaiting with the ardor of a clerk
the very moment in which
the small blue flames of the eyes
across from me, eyes familiar
with risk, will, having taken aim,
lay claim to a blush
from my face. Which blush they will obtain.

Cavalli’s talent lies in sweeping you up, putting you in the midst, in making you feel she needs your advice. Translated by an assorted group of respected poets the likes of J. D. McClatchy, Jorie Graham, and Kenneth Koch, the bilingual My Poems Won’t Change the World glows with an ancient sort of present you’ll be happy to hug.

P.S. All paperback editions of My Poems Won’t Change the World are misprinted in the “Introduction” and “About the Translators” sections, with several pages in both repeated and/or excluded. Please come by and pick up a copy, thumb through, and see if the poetry can’t overwhelm the errors!

Posted by Alexander