Olimpia , the collection of verses by Luigia Sorrentino (Interlinea, 2013; Recours au pòeme éditeurs, 2015 French translation of Angèle Paoli) invites the reader to embark on a lyric journey as far as possible from the poetic researches of the contemporary.
In fact, it immerses in a lyric plot where the object and the phenomenal, the material seem latent if not completely denied.
One immediately feels enveloped in another dimension, in a landscape – the Mediterranean one of the olive trees and the whiteness, the dazzling aphors and the dark stain – of spurs, full of mysticism and sacredness.
On the other hand, the poetic research of the Sorrentino has as its main objective the unveiling of the divine, and immediately declares it, right from the beginning, as presenting a precise and restricted horizon, in an early zoommata that introduces us abrupto within what will be and that we will see; it does so at the opening of the collection through a brief but enlightening quote borrowed from Hölderlin and his Hyperion:
” Do not be limited by what is great,
be contained by what is minimal,
this is divine “.
Hölderlin is, in fact, the guide, not so hidden, of the writer’s work. It is Hölderlin who criticizes his time so desecrated and desolate, forgetful of spirituality and divine. This is why, although agreeing with what Milo De Angelis says in the preface, confirmed, later, after Mario Benedetti, this collection is “orphic” and “spiritual”, without clutches to daily and contingent, timeless and ahistorical, yet it appears alive and present, rooted in contemporaneity and today.
The Olympia with its rubble that the Sorrentino makes to cross in its caverns and in its gardens, between walls and doors, between secret passages and luminous halls, up to the epic epiphany, is yes, certainly and metaphorically, symbol of the existence in the his intimate and contradictory passages, but it is above all the mask of any geographical identity of everyday life where absence, sleep, immobility, vagueness and indistinct have taken the upper hand on how much of archetype, original, alive and moving has been given to our generation , of how much of divine it has been able and able to squander.
Here, then, is the reason for this journey between rubble and ruins, and those who read do not expect the epic distance of the infinite and the sublime, an unreachable vastness of horizon, at most will have to become familiar with the ability of this writing – what then is nothing but “gratification” (see page 20) – to trace the cosmic and the divine in the minima and ritualia .
The opening is the most phenomenal can be in its peremptory assertive game: “she was there”, a presence that, however, immediately reveals itself as a lack, as an impalpable absence, without face and physicality:
” She was there
it was not the same anymore
the face bleached in the intangible
nothing else belonged to her ” (page 13)
In the incipit we find immediately, then, some topical terms of the collection, such as, for example: “face”, or the adjective “bleached”, (in all the variants of white); they will be found in plenty of Olimpia’s passages, such as pebbles or Arianna’s strings, pawns useful not to lose the sense of travel, not to yield to the scorn of inanity and the Platonic.
Olimpia, on the other hand, plays a lot of her being in the dimension of the simulacrum, of the phantasmagoric; this “she” – Olimpia herself, city, life, woman, soul, poetry? – it will be lost and recovered in a succession of apparitions and disappearances, between metaphorical thresholds, in a fluctuating spurious dimension, made of passages and gaps between material and immaterial, between corporal and incorporeal:
” Enormously heard the threshold
his face was on the wall
his pupils were white ” (page 14)
Right from the start you walk the paths that come to death, to impalpability, in the dark but at the same time the research does not end as surrender, and, in the chiaroscuro of light and its fluctuation, this unfathomable feminine entity, can appear in its totalizing physicality:
“In the darkness the flapping of wings
the light covered, and everything
he was on her and she was
finally understandable ” (page 15)
This is the vertical tension, ( we are always closer to the sky , so it sounds like a refrain a verse at different times of the first section of the story, see page 16, 19), which sometimes is prophesied in an ascent, in others crystallize in an atonic voice, sometimes it is traumatized into a disappointment, because not always – indeed, often at all – the revealing experience, the epiphany of the divine becomes a gift, rather it appears as an experience of deprivation, of denial:
” The sun behind is canceled
our faces (…)
we offer the breath here laid out
the beauty that was taken from us
in the inexorable light
turn off “(page 25)
” Divine in the eye of the sky
solemnly supported them at night
that everything rushed
in this stone ” (page 27)
The vertigo often leads to the fall, and the cognitive fury ends up in access to places where nothing is clear, if ever it is cloudy, dark, impure:
“- we are back to disappear
cloud the bottom – ” (page 29)
Paradoxically, Olimpia , a city of white light, exposed and naked city, ends up representing a non-place, a heart of mystery and unfathomable. Prisoner of his own luster, as white as a tombstone, as a page to be interpreted, in a supersaturated light decays his own materiality to precipitate, disappear, vanish. The passage, therefore, the crossing of the “threshold” immediately becomes a departure, a separation, a collapse:
“- we are the one who goes away
we have his legs
the shoulders, the fast pace
the trace of the greeting
we are the sinker
one step away from us – ” (page 30)
The first two movements of the collection, (ed: The cave and the atrium ), are presented as acts of negation; in the shelter of the antrum and in that of the atrium, the passage ends up confusing and nullifying, giving way. There is not yet a gesture of salvation, except in the counterpoint between the place in which one enters and the one in which one ends up getting lost. A horizon of events.
But also in Il giardino , the section of amazement, where we finally catch “the sudden light”, the place where a clarification, a concretization of the bodies, a conviviality is most likely, the unveiling proves to be a process that identifies nothing else. if not the ephemeral nature of which we are made, our nature of simulacra:
“We accessed from the bottom
surprises us from the crack
the sudden light
that he threw on us
propagating from bunches of grapes
the yellow heat of closed lemons
in itself the song of the lighted leaves
the name of the trees
they walked in a row
simulacri ” (pag.33)
The third part is that, however, that despite everything opens up to the possibility: the tu montaliano appears ( “I followed you in the fields …”; “you went by turning again”, by way of example), and above all the lyric is disguised as a lukewarm sensual sensuality. A remote possibility of encounter and enchantment was said to materialize, and this seems to finally give way to an unveiling, an epiphany; but it is all fleeting, too rapid, the result of an error, a fault, imposes a shame, a timid reluctance, as when the sun in the eyes surprises us and everything is so hot, too bright, to support it, to believe it – really – alive:
” Between the walls from the domestic fund
you hid your garden
from a single path
under vines full
with my head bowed I had to follow you
at a turning point
under the sudden sky ” (page 37)
We are in the kingdom of the passage, near the passage, in borderland – another emblematic term of the collection. The threshold approximates. This is the fulcrum of Luigia Sorrentino’s poet. Here he declares where his path has been forwarded and for what purpose, at what risk: to discover the shade of shadow to understand the divine side of existence.
It will be said that chiaroscuro poetry. But in this passage every material support collapses and the more you advance and you get closer to the passage, the more you feel the step sinking. As if the sign of the divine always happens by drowning, baptism, therefore; at the end of the path the lake can not but appear, a symbolic place of rituality and sacredness:
” What would soon happen would have been remembered as a transit, a passage without weight, without any material support. Few times that improper and overflowing proximity would have approached us: “We have come down here to see the shadow and the goal of the shadow.” The human destiny called and added, exposing and withdrawing. “(Pag.39)
As it was for Dante, also in Luigia the approach to the divine completely cancels the dimensions of reality, time must yield its mathematical boundaries and what awaits the reader can not but dream. The penetration into the world of the oneiric, however, seems to be congenial to the poetic passage of the writer because these central pages, in the writer’s opinion, touch the top of her lyricism with texts that strike for their beauty and evocative power.
Access to the ultra-ground occurred through a collapse: “the space was this sinking / in a time when it was only the looting and the voice” (page 43); the forms are lost, the body is suspended in a void, so in a hyperbolic and growing game of sensations, the almost violent act of the apparition, an orgiastic and cosmic penetration, is accomplished by the monstrous generative force:
” And when the god entered them
stronger he gathered all the rivers
in his turn and turn
dressed in mist the eternal essence
met our appearance ” (page 46)
Poetry is eroticized and the gesture of creation is a palingenetic, cosmogonic gesture; yet in its cruelty and fierce beauty, this “gutted mirage” (page 48) is superbly narrated by the Neapolitan poetess.
But, once again, a collapse, a decline, is expected at the top of the revelation. It is not by chance that everything happens in insistent find of rubble and ruins; obsessive is the question “is that the door?” as to ask in vain for a loophole, a saving passage, as if to show a dissent in front of this ruinous landscape that would have been so different.
The use of inserts in italics, in its anaphoric dorma, is certainly a topical element of the collection, they represent the material appeals in their paradoxical inconsistency (obsessions? Guide voices? Ghosts?) That allow Luigia Sorrentino’s poem to avoid, in the juncture, the scorn – always lurking – of a too ethereal vagueness and of a too emphatic mysticism. There is, therefore, a search (editor’s note: is that the door? ) And there is a lived body (editor’s note: here lived the woman ). The sacredness is in this advance towards the gap, and the disappearance coincides with it, the truth with the offense, and the return back resembles a trap where, between sinks and rubble, you freeze what has been, or rather that that it was hoped it had been. At this point the experience has lost its connotations of humanity and the reductive perspective of a calculable space-time, has become a totalizing inanity:
“His face was bleached
from an illness that works in itself
a constant tighten
He came down from the half-closed eyelids
it radiated light
there was nothing left around her
beyond the threshold the human was deposed
for this unique way they came
keeping all these things
in their heart
forging purity with whites
wrists ” (page 51)
Finally the epiphanic encounter took shape, and yet the ancient question has raised an equally ancient response in its denial, the shadow of death peeping out (note: the urn ), severe glimmer behind the contact with the divinity, and the gesture of creation is still the bloody fruit of a wound, a black hole that dematerializes, smemora. Take, for example, the prose that closes the first part of the book, a summit of evocative power and erotic charge, with the metaphor, sumptuous in its subtlety, which compares the cognitive and generating act, to the cosmic explosion:
“He called from a soft and subterranean cavity, living in the fury of a love that was only for her. Pulsed the perennial essence, regenerating itself, without interruption. At the sudden cutting of the flesh, he threw us against our own entrails, our organs, with the excrement. He held us there, in a long wait, he hid us, while she expanded broad, liquid and full. In itself it contains the damp space of the night “(page 53)
These verses that conclude the first part of Olimpia, it would be, even in the umpteenth contract, in the succession of fractures and wounds, a happy gestation in his suffered and slow labor, if all, finally, returned pacified in conjunction.
Yet, in its maximum dilation, the lyric movement of Olimpia contracts in a second part that is equally intense and difficult, no longer on the rise, but in a precipitous fall. In the manifestation of the divine, in fact, the dissolution of the human is reflected, that discovering its limited and fallacious vanity, sees the apex opening in a precipice. From here the song becomes choral, against the Horatian counter-song, just as sublime as it is tormented. Man can not sustain the divine lineage, seems to confess in his verses Luigia Sorrentino, or rather the God who reveals himself has another image, mutilating, mercilessly monstrous, (Editor’s note: When I turned around he came across in his whiteness a decapitated deity – The boundary, page 63), and man only has to deal with his own limitation and defeat:
” We lost everything
fallen into an eternal
the first light on us
fiery burned everything
the first creature of human
beauty is dead, unknown
peoples belong to the city
who loves them
devoid of this love every state
skeleton and annera
imperfect nature can not stand
pain “(page 62)
“The archaic night” , the original trace of our being thrown to the world, in the starry wonder of the generating movement, still remains a night, in its gloomy fading of shadows and indistinct. Everything, then, is definitely lost? Petrified? Apparently, yes, if we stop at the only carnal element of the existing, but it is at this juncture that the soul makes its appearance (page 65) and the journey can continue, even if in a backward return to the starting point.
Two seem to be possible attitudes as resistance to this process of petrification and annulment: the permanence in the enchantment, admirably metaphorized by the statue, and the refuge in sleep, (note: in Neapolitan also applies to dream), in the dream wake that grants an even ephemeral movement in loss.
In the first case, the immobility, the static nature of whiteness, of plaster, of marble, however, grants the caress, the breath of the divine, which even in its distance is granted under forms of spiritual and fluctuating consolation:
“It is the dying I see
the fainting, this
sudden jamming of the breath
while we are losing our doing
then you are holding out your hand,
to help him
in a single gesture open the night ” (p.72)
In these verses it is the synaesthetic game that sustains everything, that makes a dominant poetic instrument; words such as: touch, caress, fingers, warmth, breath, breath, chasing each other in a versification crushed and chanting that not only concrete metrically the aching sob of the flesh that dies, but it plays, even the hidden desire of the movement, (asking the ‘man the movement , says a verse on page 72), of the evanescent fluctuating of the soul that transpires in the same petrified transmigration of the body:
” Here’s what we die
the human animal forced
in the marble cliff
of the burial, we fail,
tired like columns
broken by fury
of the powerful, dear, we were swallowed
the remnant of our life ” (page 75)
We are in the realm that made great poets like Celan or Bonnefoy, think of certain passages of “Movement and immobility of Douve”, only a nod to presumable masters, but it allows to underline at what poetic top the Luigia Sorrentino writing risks and to which care must undergo any reading of the same.
To return to the text it must be said that in a liquid dimension, where gradually each form ends up dissolving and decaying, the dismantling makes it possible to come back alive and pure to a forgotten primitive originality, ” we return archaic ” (cf. page 79), and therefore we are almost unexpectedly given a second chance, a rebirth.
Sleep, it was said, is then the alternative form of resistance to the stripping of the human; but here it is not so much the carnality as the psychic incarnated in the space-time dimension:
” The human condition closes
in itself the form of time
that you do not want anymore, then
you walk by feeling
walls you do not see, you know
in the eyes it descends … ” (page 83)
“It lands the ground, it goes down,
nobody stopped him … “(page 85)
Once again, the cognitive desire of the versatility of Luigia Sorrentino seems to close definitively and desperately in a check; in immobility and blindness, too firm in front of so much light or too full of it to open the eyes and move forward, even if it were groping, is there perhaps a last chance to proceed?
” We had climbed the mountain
towards the colossal figure of the temple
reduced to rubble
after the terrible fight everything had vanished
death had opened … “(page 93)
Or does the only temptation of silence remain?
” Everything had subsided between the trunks
of holm oaks
without stems we were on the esplanade
transported here where one is silent with joy,
he keeps silent about everything he owns
that spirit of the future
above the ruins “(page 94),
is this, then, the surrender? To this defeat it is necessary, in the end, to undergo?
It would be all too easy to get used to the absence of the divine, he warns us in his admirable final Luigia Sorrentino, a luxury too presumptuous, or an act to be ignored. Here, then, that, in an atrocious verse in its luminous and firm peremptoriness, Our reveals another possibility:
” What we believe lost we can
get it back, I already told you,
the source does not disappear
the human man weaves his divine … ” (page 95)
it is the clear invocation of action, of doing, of constructing the divine in what is human; this invocation allows the vision of the ” young mountain ” and the discovery of ” its beauty gathered in one / only light liberated ” (page 96).
It is not necessary to ensnare in front of the colossal grandeur of the divine, (always and only celebrated in its minor form, word, in fact, exclusively indicated in each of its passages with the minuscule letter), to its mortal truth; and if the divine can not be made man, (God died, they have already told us for some years …), it is instead the human who can trace his own and limited divine dimension, a niche of joy in his eternal ignorance. In fact, a new Olympia is resurrected from the rubble, and in the end it is not the notes of a requiem but the “song of the human that nobody resists” (page 99).
The song is then the only instrument that can defeat the nihilistic drift. The song of poetry, in its manifestation of action that is made, which is built ( Poyesis !?). The collection of Luigia Sorrentino ends with a proposal, as it should be for every artistic journey that has a sense that is not only aesthetic but also ethical.
If there is only one way of preserving the sacredness in the contemporary world, a world consecrated to death and immobility, a blind world fallen asleep in an ecstatic spell, that is to be found right where the absence of beauty resides, to dig its beauty right where they are missing:
” Olimpia, joy of beings not experts of joy! “(Page 99)
Therefore, in the imperfection, in the limitation, in the research never ended always open, in his own becoming acquainted, the source, ” the door “, for a renewed humanity, the one that aware of its own boundary overturns it in the horizon of eternity.
The collection of Luigia Sorrentino, therefore, has the merit of probing the ground of the myth, to vote for Epos, just in an era, the current one, where desert and aridity seem to have finally defeated him. In a song that becomes universal, (Luigia Sorrentino is not afraid of resorting to the First person plural), in his frant unfolding from tears to prayer, is the driving force of a poem that, precisely because it risks redundancy in every direction, knows how to impose itself for the neatness and the proactive capacity.
Orphic, yes, spiritual and metaphysical, but so deeply rooted in his voice that it can not be disregarded, remain unheard.