31 March 2009

M'illumno D'immenso

Today looked like a spring day, but didn't quite feel the part. It may've had to do with the hint of chill in the air that turned into more than a hint afternoon turned to sunset and twilight. It also may have to do with the bare branches I saw. A few looked like they may have beginning to bud. But even they didn't quite look as if they were coming to life.

But I was happy. The light of this day was very welcoming and even in the chilly breeze, it seemed that I could feel the glow of the sunset all over me. I think now of one of the shortest and best poems I've ever seen. Giuseppi Ungaretti, the Italian poet, wrote it:


Yes, that's the whole poem. I won't even try to translate it. Really, it works best when you hear it in the orginal. If you can read it aloud that way (I can pronounce the words; I can scarcely convey the feeling of it with my diction and intonations.), you can practically feel every life force you've ever encountered radiating from the sun within you.

That, I believe, is the part of poetry that can't be taught. It's not just a matter of "having an ear" for sound and rhythm; it's a matter of becoming a receptor and transmitter of music. Generating it is the icing on the cake.

I will probably never be that sort of poet. Almost no American poet has ever developed that sense. The modern European and Latin American poets who had it--Neruda, Jiminez, and of course Ungaretti, among others--must have taken at least twenty years to develop it. For the most part, you don't find it in their early works.

OK, I know, you weren't looking for a treatise on poetics. So more about me. Is that a fair trade? More to the point, is it a trade you'd make?

So I'm happy now. I think it had something to do with buying that plane ticket and booking the hotel room for the night of my arrival. Perhaps I will disappoint some of you by telling you that I picked a cheapie: I guess the mentality I developed from my cycling and backpacking trips will never change. All I want at the end of the day is a clean, safe and not-too-depressing place to lay my head; I don't give a rodent's derriere about how many cable channels or whatever they offer. Even the food doesn't matter much: I'm as likely as not to have an impromptu picnic or a meal in or from a cafe or deli where the locals eat.

On my trips to France and elsewhere, I stayed in hostels, rooming houses, barns, sheds and under bridges. I've even slept in a cemetery. Ghosts knew enough not to mess with me, so I slept real good. I don't know if that will work now. Would a ghost fear anyone who said, "I slept very well last night."?

I've had people tell me that I'm not convincing when I speak in an egregiously ungrammatical manner. (How could they be convinced if I write sentences like the one that preceded this one?) They laugh when I use ghetto slang (or just about any other kind of slang); they're startled when I use curse words in any of the five languages in which I know them.

Odd, isn't it, that I feel somehow lighter now than I did before I went to City Tech yesterday? People have been responding to that; maybe I'm carrying some of the light I basked in when I descended that not-quite-spiral staircase. Or the light that I saw at the end of this day.

M'illumno D'immenso indeed!