Books


pierpaolo_pasolini_2-3bd7a2I have had an unabashed love for Pier Paolo Pasolini since literally the minute I first saw a double-screening of Accattone and Mamma Roma at a theater in North Austin.

His movies are wonderful. But in his poetry, Pasolini can leave you breathless.

After that preamble, the number I want to share here is actually an exceedingly simple paen to a lost homeland.

What makes the poem beautiful, aside from that very simplicity, is the language. Pasolini, who spent most of his adult life in Rome, hailed from Friuli, part of a Northeastern Italian region that borders with what now is Slovenia.

He wrote most of his work in Italian, concentrating in his movies on the dialect of the rough-and-tumble Roman periferia, but he also assembled thomes in his native Friuli language.

I don’t know if he had any idea of the treasure he was leaving behind by doing so, but consider that less than a million people speak Friuli anymore, and if I had to guess, I would say a majority of them now are probably very old. 

The dominant emotion of the piece – yearning – is layered in triplicate in the poem: obviously in its wording, and through Pasolini’s use of his natal tongue.  But the atmosphere is made more powerful by the stark Eastern beauty – the sheer phonetic Romanticism – of Friuli.

I read this poem tonight in a small selection called Pasolini: Roman Poems, by the City Lights imprint. The relatively wan English translation is courtesy of Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Francesca Valente, although I tweaked a couple spots. The poem originally came out in a volume called La Nuova Gioventu, or “The New Youth,” in the year of his brutal death, 1975. 

This poem will probably stay with me for a while…at least all week.

CIANT DA LI CIAMPANIS                           CIANT DA LI CIAMPANIS

Co la sera a si piert ta li fontanis                  When evening loses itself in the fountains

il me pais al e’ colour smarit.                         my village is a color diffuse

Jo i soj lontan, recuardi li so ranis,              I am far away, I remember the frogs,

la luna, il trist tintinula dai gris.                   the moon, the sad tremolo of the crickets.


A bat Rosari, pai pras al si scunis:                Vespers sound and fade into the fields.

jo i soj muart al ciant da li ciampanis           I’m dead to the tolling of the bells


Forest, al me dols svuala par il plan,             Stranger, in my sweet flight over the plains,

No ciapa poura: jo i soj un spirt di amour   fear not, I am a spirit of love

che al so pais al torna di lontan                     who to his land returns from afar.

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books are for stupid people.

This makes me feel much better about the stack I’ve neglected this year.