Change the sense of nocturne in poetry and the way we look at the stars in everyday life.
Night of memory
Put the uncomfortable witnesses to silence
extinguished the deeds and the survivors
to the loose, scattered banks
mountains of broken clothes, golden teeth, nibs
and scarves and shoes and more than a hundred brooches
as when the sky of stars is full …
Night of memory is a short poem appeared in The plant of bread (Mondadori, 2003) and then included in All the poems 1971-2017 (Mondadori, 2018) by Biancamaria Frabotta . Not all the poems of the book are titled, so the title, if present, has an important semantic value and not a simple identifying function. Night of memory is the opposite of Day of Memory . Why this title? Perhaps because, while we celebrate the Day of Memory, we actually live the Night of Memory . Night of memory is a poetry of testimonial concern: born from the forced silence of witnesses (a silence due to biological causes – the witnesses of the fields of annihilation will not live forever – or political and civil responsibilities, such as negationism or the crisis of historical consciousness in which the West is). This is not said. Let’s see how poetry behaves. Night of memory resumes one of the few points of intensity of Auschwitz by Salvatore Quasimodo (“and endless shadows of small shoes / and scarves of Jews: they are relics”) and turns it into an authorial abbreviation (paronomasia is a bit the “signature” of Frabotta): the paronomasia shoes / scarves is preceded by the paranoasia moved / stopped and followed by the parochial sparks / stars, moreover exposed in closed as a para-rhyme (with a relief certainly greater than the imperfect rhyme escaped : disseminated). It is not a manneristic quirk, like the gesture of the painter who retracts in his paintings, lending the face to a character perhaps secondary, the creation of a field of semantic tension. The title metaphor conveys an ethical content.
The forced silence of witnesses and the crisis of collective historical consciousness generate the night of memory. In the night of memory, however, objects take on a testimonial value: the deported pins shine like stars in the night of memory. After the disappearance of the witnesses, the light of the testimonies will remain. All this is said through an unforgettable image and an unmistakable rhythm: a requiem rhythm. The entire book, which also sings of “clear things”, such as conjugal love, is a requiem for the twentieth century, although composed in the form of a sonata, which, in the three sections from which it is formed, alternates with the The light head is the allegretto of the lullabies and the adagio de The springs of the Volga. Frabotta performs a series of rhythmic variations on the endecasyllable meter, in the typical ways of modern classicism. Night of memory opens with two perfect hendecasyllables, the first of which is slippery, almost to make phonetically the inconvenience of the witnesses; the third is an imperfect hendecasyllable, in which the accovimento of accents with respect to the traditional fourth or sixth position becomes almost an icon of the embankment of the banks; the fourth is an expanded hendecasyllable (“mountains of stopped clothes, golden teeth, | nibs”) through the excess of objects, with metric abnormity that becomes a sign of the abnormality of the extermination, whose “remains” are presented first in enumeration asindetica, franta, and then polisindetica, linked, as to collect and to fix in the final what the Nazis would have wanted to separate from the humanity of belonging. The penultimate hendecasyllable, obtained with monosyllables and bisyllables, beats gravely on things, according to a rhythmic and emotional intensification that prepares the imperfect endecasyllable and suspended cadence of the terminal nocturnal, whose harmony is broken, once and for all – one would say -, from the reflection of the testimonial objects. The same frequency of the sibilant, which constitutes the phonic Leitmotiv of the short text, becomes the formal equivalent of the hiss of suffering that, like a dissonance, cracks the going of the light head, its “superfluous and absolute” days of time “, and inclines towards the funeral dirge of the next section, his tragic allegretto, before the great, solemn final thrênoi, thus bringing out the true intonation of the book (and it would be interesting, even if it is not possible here, to reflect on the musical interpretation which in 2008 Guido Tagliacozzo gave this text). It has been said that the similarity between the pins and the stars changes the way we look at those objects. This would be enough to make a good poem of Night of Memory. But there’s more: the similarity between the brooches and the stars also changes the way we look at the firmament. Because, if from the fields of annihilation we turn our gaze to the heavenly vault, with those objects and similarity still in the eye, we not only see the deported pins shine like the stars, but we also see the stars shining like the deportation pins. Occasional memory becomes a permanent memory, because it becomes part of our daily life: Auschwitz can change the way we look at the starry sky above us, and, together, the moral disposition within us. Adorno went down in history for saying that writing a poem after Auschwitz would be an act of barbarism. Later, he corrected himself, saying that, in reality, after Auschwitz, the true impossible thing was a serene art. Night of memory is also an implicit response to Adorno: the nocturnal, of which the Western lyric from Sappho to Leopardi is full, are, in general, serene and above all timeless paintings. This poem historicizes the most timeless of tòpoi and transforms it into a framework of ethical tension. Change the sense of nocturne in poetry and the way we look at the stars in everyday life.