Olimpia: a journey between the infinite and the mortal


The book is divided into 8 songs interspersed with 7 poetic prose: The cave, The city , The atrium, The garden, The lake, The contrast between the divine and the time, The descent, Hyperion, the fall, The border , The permanence, the distance from the limit, The deformation, The sleep, The entrance to the mountain, Young mountain in the middle of the unknown, The new city .

The structure evokes the Greek tragedy and culminates in the six choirs of the Hyperion section , the fall, which refers to the Hyperion of HÅ‘lderlin with all its neo-Platonic implications.
The choral counter-singing is the emanation of a verbal force that puts the reader in front of the continuous opposition between that which is eternal – motionless and motionless – and that which is mortal – in motion and motion. The female character, Olimpia, is a divine creature that plunges the human condition into its own nature, in a path between the infinite and the mortal. The archaic night, which is in each of us, is a starry night full of wonder. At Olimpia we share “a time suspended between mind and heart” (page 58). The suspension of time and of the heart makes us perceive the eternal and cancels the superfluous, the ephemeral, which characterizes the mortal. From the darkness of the indistinct comes the light that dissolves in the body of water of a lake carried by the wind and a light breeze. By analogy we express a series of changes that refer to the fall of Hyperion and its rebirth:


the light dispersed,
body mass fell
leaning on the density of the drop
he was there in his border
the change was a fading away
from the bottom of the wind it gave off
dragging something slowly out of it


[…] in rising up against the nebula
it became the breeze lying on the water
she broke madly at the neatness of her opening
in front of her he let himself fall, finally


Hyperion (choir 5, p.61)
The rhythmic slowness of the fifth chorus accompanies the reader in the mutation of perception, which lies between the visible and the invisible. The dispersion and the fall of light seems to coincide is to cancel itself in the dimension of the eternal, conveyed only by the wind and the breeze spread over the water. The eternal can be imagined, therefore, through the perception of an impalpable nature, which preserves in itself the purity of an original state.


The cave is the niche where the female saving creature takes shape in the balance between time and eternity. Its connotations are blurred: there is a white, the white of the light of truth, which everyone understands them:


she was there
it was not the same anymore
the face bleached in the intangible
nothing more belonged to her
he turned to another that offended him
in the monster monstrous in the distance
she was a closed breath
everything was in itself full, attached
on the walls, she was now root


Like the breath of Psyche of Pascolian memory, it is a Platonic creature, which hides within itself the meaning of each individual existence:


the face looms
the face that we have been is instinctive
embodied in the ritual that is consummated here
we came in the consolation
his eyes changed when he asked
eternal life
his youth died out
it became a cicada
then only a voice, a breath
it became


The essence of the female creature gradually takes shape then it is simply reduced to a breath and a voice. The woman descends from the mountain and stops in the vestibule of a temple, perhaps pagan, dazzled by light and supported by classical columns:


the threshold was this
that to ourselves was unknown
for many years
as things that age and cancel out (p. 30)


Separated from the woman there are the silent spectators, we, who share the unique and absolute experience and support a wonderful nature and a hortus conclusus



now as a trunk the voice
infilza our hearts
and it increases them, in all that we are
in the middle of oaks and olive trees
in all that we have been
in the wind, from incarnate roses
calls his children to himself
it is laid on acanthus leaves
it is laid on acanthus leaves
coming to us in his return (p.18)


We change into an ego that follows Olimpia’s gestures and slow movements:


– you exist here
I am in this stone
the earthly form, near

Details are transformed into pure forms and become essential.


For Olimpia everything is a turning point, a surprise, the water mirror of an elliptical and circumscribed lake (“In an ellipse closed by the wind, it swallowed the light [the lake], turning it into the muddy matter that was bubbling to the surface” 39), a marvelous garden bathed by a “calm water” source; as a refrain, it returns from one text to another in italics “here lived the woman”. The female creature represents the point of connection between space and time marked by silence:


in its substance of silences
performed, she was still and armed
underground presence of all things
conjunction between space and time,
colossal inside the surface,
similar to a rocky spire […] (page 69)

In this faded and dissolving context it is possible to imagine death:

it is the dying I see
the fainting, this
sudden jamming of the breath
while we fall short our doing […]

Death suddenly assaults the moving creatures and cancels the motion of men and things. Thus the lyric self is able to cross the gap and to approach Olimpia, flooded with light by excess of white:


then it is me that through
the crack, the wall,
it is I who come near you
in your last time –


The last section, The New City , consisting of a single lyric prose, makes the reader perceive a sense of rebirth in a deformed reality, as viewed from a chipped glass:

From the iron bridge on which we stood we saw the gutted dome, surrounded by the new city. It appeared from the deformed lens of the chipped glass. At the bottom, from the concrete square surrounded by terraced houses came the song of the human that no one resists. Far away, the boundary of a horizon cut by a spring of water that somewhere joined the sea.

  Olympia, joy of beings not experts of joy!


INTERVIEW by Elena Salibra

Rome, 26 October – 22 November 2014


Six poet and professional journalist of Rai. How do you reconcile the two works?


Writing poetry does not have much to do with the work of the journalist, but the two different scriptures are not incompatible.

The journalist, working on the news of events, approaches reality to observe it in its evolution. The poet feels the need to remove from himself the events of the news to observe them from a distance. Distance has a power of enormous vision that leads to awareness. The poet does not report, implements, absorbs reality and doubts, questions arise. Doubt is a vivid force, it divides the all-encompassing truth that the journalist seeks, he detaches himself from it. Doubt is farsighted: he sees farther, he senses the course of things, and sometimes precedes him. From the distance, therefore, reality is perceived by the poet, in a completely different way. The language of poetry has no connection with journalistic jargon, with the news that it must enter a well-defined structure: who, where, how, when, why. Poetry writing does not observe such a scheme, does not mention, does not define the place, does not report, does not answer questions, rather, it poses them (often the question already contains the answer) or brings to zero any possible answer. As a person, every day, I look for a space to fill the void that separates the work of the journalist from that of the poet, comforted by the awareness that the poem is there, never leaves its place. At any time of day or night, I know that I can go to her, to meet her in a central nucleus, devoured by little time and space. When they are there, the material is transformed into song or elegy and what has happened – the trauma – is accomplished in the movement, in the action of poetry, an infinitely precious act that redeems the time that has been taken from us.



Tell us about your experience as a creator and director of the first RAI Poetry Blog 


The blog is my most social and communicative aspect. It is a moment of listening and dialogue with people who work in the world of poetry, art and culture. It is a landing place where everyone finds hospitality. The meal is consumed there, sitting, standing or passing. Everyone can participate in the banquet, knowing, however, that when one’s work becomes a res publica , one is exposed to danger. The body is stripped off, is given “in meal” to others.


What is the function of poetry in your opinion today?


The function of poetry has always been the same. Since ancient times the poet poses the same questions. The central point is the human condition, the poet gives voice to you, and shows you under the most different aspects. Poetry in itself brings a flame that is transferred to another person. And this too is a teaching that comes from afar. Prometheus, the first man, handed down this action when he stole the sacred fire from the gods to deliver it to the human. He has hidden it in the stem of the ferula he carries on his shoulders. That fire is knowledge, but above all intuition. The poet makes the same gesture of Prometheus aware of the risks he faces when he offers the man the fire of poetry. What will the man do with it? How will the flame be used? We can not know it. The poet, like an archaeologist, sinks his gaze into a remote, archaic night, seeks the imprint of a lost form, tries to decipher it, wants to understand. More than any other art, the word of poetry exercises a saving power, of medicine, it wants to give back to the human one its own wholeness. Giacomo Leopardi reveals to us that the word of poetry comes from “interminated spaces, superhuman silences and profound stillness”. Intermittent spaces, superhuman silences, very quiet. Where are the interminated spaces? And why is silence superhuman? What does deep quiet mean? These questions already contain the answer and every poet knows it. The flame supports the word and sends it elsewhere. The poet is measured with human and terrible nature, his word is testimony. The poet constructs a living space, a bridge over the void, to place or bridge the distance between the limited and mortal self and the eternal. This reflection does not mean estrangement from what is happening in the world; rather, it means accepting, containing, in the space of poetry, the awareness of one’s own time. All the “matter” of poetry is the determination of existence. An existence that is the symptom of its eternal decay-becoming.


You have published several poetic collections: There is a father (Manni, 2003), La cattedrale (The innocuous boy, 2008), the silloge The axis of the heart (“Almanac of the mirror”, Mondadori, 2008 ), The birth only the birth (Manni, 2009) and finally the poem Olimpia (Interlinea, 2013). What is the relationship between your first poetic production and the last poem that somehow deviates from the previous works?


In my first work of poetry There is a father there are young poems written in the late eighties, although I published those verses only in 2003, many years later. If we re-read those fragments of writing bringing them back to the age I had when I wrote them, we understand that the voice sought its own way in a germination rhythm that shattered the preconceived and immobile order of language, turning it into a “mobile” rhythm , delivered to another time . Those poems already had an oracular shape, with sculptured images, permeated with active, figurative formulas. A word far from the expressive maturity that came after, but still the cell of the poetic material that has been developed in the most recent works, up to the last one, Olimpia , which recovers in the language of poetry, in the fragment of a tragic, extreme time, the human condition, inhabited by death and persecuted by the destruction of civilization.


What are the poets that have weighed on your training?


The answer to this question takes a long time, I should make different names. The formation of a person who is measured daily with the poetic word is long and demanding. One life is not enough, you learn something new every day and perfection, perhaps, is never achieved. The contemporary poets have entered my formation, naturally also many poets who are no longer there and who have struck me with their verses, but there are also friends, colleagues, people met and never again reviewed … There are studies conducted, the philosophy, anthropology …. there is the dynamics of affections, the study of birdsong, the manual of otorhinolaryngology of my father and my brother, and above all the tragic Greeks, the first great poets. I believe that the tragic foundation preserves the nascent state of poetry. It is a gateway to human nature, it is a trace that can not be ignored to bring reality closer together.


Your new book, Olimpia, enchants and surprises me, it’s the book of your life. Why this title?


Olimpia is the name of a woman, a city, a condition. The place to which the title refers, is certainly identifiable with Greece, with the splendor of an era, but also with its destruction. We are in a time and an absolute space, as Milo De Angelis writes in the preface to the book. Once dominated by force that, as Simone Weil writes, subjugates men. A force before which the flesh of the human being withdraws. In the name Olimpia , therefore, there is certainly the return to the fragment of the past, a return to tradition, but lived in the contemporary, in being here and now. The terror and the massacres caused by wars and force in today’s world are proof that the enemy is still in us. We must defeat it, be capable of such an effort. Olimpia tries to make this effort, she goes out of the shape of the stone to mold herself to a vital, powerful essence, which rejoins the root of the opposites, reduces the contrast and provides the human an appropriate place to rediscover the sacred self.


In the poem you measure yourself with the classical tradition but also with modern poetry. It is perhaps a contemporary reinterpretation of the Hellenic myths. Do you agree with this interpretation?


As I told you before, Olimpia is linked to the classical world, but also to the contemporary world, to our culture. There is the fragment of an ancient civilization, but not as a preconceived intention. Olimpia is the fruit of a return to the places of adolescence in which I presented some questions that I asked myself as a girl. And it is with them that I tried to measure myself. The answers came from there, from dialogue with places. The poem took on a mythical , not mythological form. The titanic world that has surfaced, is that of the first time, is the realm of wonder, the shock of primordial forces. An experience lived at the dawn of life, in the first readings made at school, in adolescence, and which survives into adulthood in a quiescent dimension. The figure of the woman is colored by the strength of a mother who approaches a problematic son, who is afraid of death, and forces him to accept his condition, to confront the fixed nature of his threefold nature.



This your new book also has a profound philosophical depth. How can you define the relationship between poetic word and philosophical truth?


The relationship between the word of poetry and philosophical truth as rightly observed, is very profound, concerns our origins and stems from an ancient dispute that was resolved very quickly with what were called “pre-Socratic”. Philosophy, as you will remember, was born in Greece in the form of a poem and Parmenides was one of the last to use the language of poetry to write about philosophy, (after him only Empedocles will express itself in verse.) In his poem about Nature Parmenides claims that everything is one, it is eternal, not generated, immobile and limited. Olimpia in proposing similar themes (the limit, the threshold, the boundary, immobility, time, the eternal) seems to bring us back to that ancient link between philosophy and poetry, but also to the remote conflict between poetry and philosophy. At immobility Olimpia contrasts mobility, a mercurial essence that stops at the crossroads and “leaflessly flips through the trees” which then turns into a plastic material that accepts the limit. So the word of poetry he makes a gesture of persuasion that frees the language from any rhetoric and confides in a word that emphasizes the substantial difference between the language of poetry and that of philosophy. While it is true that philosophy owes much to Parmenides, who chose the form of the poem to express his thought directly, poetry owes him less. Because the operation that Parmenides performs is against poetry and for the affirmation of a philosophical thought dominated by rationality. He reverses the way of thinking of Homer and removes his real meaning from poetry. In short, Parmenides engages a very high contrast, a body to body with poetry, and it is with him that the splitting takes place, the separation between poetry and philosophy. Olimpia reproposes that ancient conflict, but the destructive fury that has separated mother and daughter, sinks into the same root. In the end, poetry, the mother coming out of a petrified face, prevails over cold reason. The woman puts the mouth of the god, looking for answers in a very deep, underground space, which fills the contrast, unites the two opposites, makes the invisible visible.



There is also a particular reflection on time. The dialectic of time and eternal in what way is it in the poem?


The imprint that time leaves in Olympia is a lost form. The poem tells us that what we have lost forever is our time. Poetry tells us that it is given to know, to become aware of their own time of decadence, he also says that we can recover a sacred language that human beings still possess in the formulas of religion, of religious living, as Mario Benedetti underlines in the afterword. in the long quote by Romano Guardini. In Olimpia, the word is action and opens up a previously inaccessible space, even before thought. Olimpia continually faces opposing forces opposed to poetry, it makes us understand that filling the empty space with a pure and liberating act through language also solves the problem with the eternal before which we are simple apparitions. We are the ones who become accessible to different forms of reality. The question iterated: “Is that the door?” Opens the space that we will fill, or the emptiness, the lack of memory, in which we will fall.




From the metric point of view one can find a rhythm in the verses of Olimpia that is obtained through a particular use of the strokes. It is like a musical score that when reached its climax folds in on itself and descends. The rhythm, which suddenly fades and is lost in the maze of the mind, gives a sense of fading and unfinished to the lyrical discourse. Do you agree with this reading?



Yes, of course … Beating, beating, arranging, the matter of poetry on the page, start a music, then a fading, a disappearance of disappearing. The form of this poem has its “tempo”, its rhythm, that is to say, a profound and decisive phenomenon of existence, of human creation. What is at the dawn of creation is borrowed from the rhythm of thought and poetry. The lyric soul gives voice to the word. The first word pronounced in Olimpia answers an ancient question and reveals: ” she was there “. The first allocation is already a revelation, it refers to the place of poetry, the “in” , the permanence that is within us. The root of this voice then sinks into our life and into life, closing the circle. It is the unity of poetry, a sacred unity, from which we come.

The boundary cut from a source of water, which we find in the last prose of the book, is the place where the new city will be born, Olimpia , conceived by the union between Alpheus – the largest river, and for Zeus the most “fabulous” for love “- and the nymph Arethusa, transformed into a source by Artemis. Artemis’s benevolent action is in the rhythm of poetry, in the renewed harmony between the human and the divine. This is why Olimpia , the new city, is the real polis , it is the city of joy that only great men and women can rebuild. In the awareness of the binomial life-death it is necessary to become “experts of joy”, and, at the same time, with a simple, conclusive gesture, we must separate ourselves from joy, without rancor, intoxicated with absolute.


From ” Olimpia ” by Luigia Sorrentino
Young mountain in the middle of the unknown

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

one of us had left the ground

we did not look for anything anymore

in the dark twilight of the forest
someone will see like us

the hero fallen into the stone

in fresh clarity


all our waiting was

in a mother who returns

in the realm of the living and the dead

shattered before her
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



what we believe lost we can

get it back, I already told you,

depopulated !


the source does not disappear

he weaves his divine the human

young mountain in the midst of the unknown

I found you asleep

with the ear to the earth,

so spend the time talking to you


say goodbye to beauty

you are born, you are important

you will be a great man, a woman

great you will be, you will decide the action

the rejuvenation of peoples,

you will be brother and sister,

spring, which swarms in the vineyard


on the edge of the hill we saw

only once the only one,

its beauty collected in one

only light released


or maybe, all that pink worn out

where we felt it was

our presence


abandoned before it could

to fade was welcomed, listened to

in the balance of flowers

entrusted to the precious rigor of nature

in spontaneous joint harmony

to the shoots, under the oleander that still

born, she was there, she existed


He knows and sings with his mouth

the praise of the rose, the burning heart ruins


time burns but remains

do not call the rose

surrounded by greenery


almost up close,

leave what is motionless around

to her, always penetrates her first


and then come back


archaic rose no more

but clear shiver that looks backwards

and supports the distant in that moment

the Rose