Translated by Rowena Hill. Miami: Alliteratïon. 2022. 171 pages.
In one of the poems in Adriatic/Adriático, there is a wild goat, stood on the edge of an abyss, shouting at the sea its sadness at having lost its flock. The poetic voice that expresses itself through this collection of poems sounds, at times, like an echo of this inconsolable bleating. Like the answer to a question that seems to cross the length of this collection by Gina Saraceni: is it possible to recover what has been lost? The answer of the lone goat on the edge of a precipice is a cry. And in these poems you can hear an intermittent, animalistic shriek, travelling between one shore and another.
Reading this collection of poems is like submerging yourself in the waters of a sea with many shores. Because the sea that Gina Saraceni recovers in this book is a multiple sea or, rather, the one and only sea. It is the same salty water that stretches from the Caribbean to the Adriatic, via the Mediterranean. And when we enter these waters we are struck by the memory of other times. A memory that oscillates between the remote past and the recent past, always longing for the other shore. A memory ensconced in the repetition of an itinerancy, so as not to fully let go of what has remained on the other side.
What memory evokes here is the time of the mother and father’s migration, that time of bewilderment in the face of a new life before a coastline embraced by the sun. That land that speaks another language. But a time of happily putting down roots also makes its presence known. A moment recovered as “an affective geography,” when naming one by one the places in which this parenthesis of prosperity took place, condensed into one point, Avenida Caroní. In the poem dedicated to this street in Caracas, every business and every building emerges from the page with its own name, like a ghostly apparition. The same thing happens in other poems like “Carmen de Uria” or “Puerto Azul,” in which what has been lost returns and settles in the words that name it.
These places are recovered from a third space, Bogotá, the current residence of the uprooted daughter who looks back. Because it is the daughter who repeats, in another register and another time, her father’s daily act at his Olympia typewriter: the act of moving “toward Italy | […] toward the other side of the Atlantic”. The daughter completes the pendular movement, travelling with words from Italy to Caracas, toward the house that has been left empty. The house that “flees toward the sea,” which is not a metonym of rootedness but rather of permanent movement or the impossibility of living in a fixed place. And in this way, the journey comes and goes from the Adriatic to the Caribbean and back to the Adriatic. But it remains anchored in a cold and rainy Bogotá. Bogotá is the city of stubborn uprootedness, “2,650 meters | above sea level.” But it is also the space that makes remembering possible: the center of the pendulum.
It is in this pendular, itinerant movement that an affective landscape unfurls, delving into memory in search of a foundation. Then—alongside the houses and the streets, the restaurants and shops, the beaches and docks—the migrating birds appear, the seagulls, the ducks, the chachalacas, the pelicans who die blind from smashing into the waves too much. And also the fish, “carites, roncadores, meros, pargos,” red mullets. Cicadas, vultures, snakes, parrots, croaking frogs. Kangaroos that jump like crickets, a goat, a lizard, “a black horse | which in a different time | crossed the summer” and remains in her father’s memory, “immortal among the olives.” Jellyfish, a starfish, a white snail. Crabs, grasshoppers, wild boars, flies, dogs that “if they could talk, would bark.” A sardine slowly dying in the sun. Because this is a book populated with animals, which cross quickly or take their time, which make a racket or keep silent, waiting for a memory to recover them.
It is also a book sown with plants. Here there are grape vines, coconut trees, ears of wheat, tree mallows, wild blackberries. Almond trees, capers, an apamate (or rosy trumpet tree). Mangos, rain trees, cacti, Aleppo pines “that defy gravity.” Corals, algae, coral trees, mangroves, oaks, pineapples. A field of wheat, vineyards, and olive groves. A forest of palm trees, a flock of reeds at the shoreline, which “graze | the last light of day.” The plants are the unfailing foundation for memories. In the midst of this abundant and boisterous flora and fauna nests the seed of the paternal language, and the grandmother’s voice can be heard warning, “guarda la natura.”
The harmony between languages is a predominant feature of Adriatic/Adriático. Italian enters a poem in Spanish, without needing to be translated, because the poetic voice lives between these two languages and refuses to mutilate one in favor of the other. For that reason, when the text picks up a letter written by the father, in which he explains the movements of migratory birds to his daughter, Italian takes over the poem without asking for permission. The paternal language also appears combined with Spanish in the names of things and places because “memory speaks Italian.” A language that, since childhood, has mixed with Spanish to create, in that bilingual school called Codazzi, a language that names “this land and that,” that offers “the belonging of accent.” Added to these languages is English, in the precise translation by Rowena Hill, where the English holds the cadences and traces of both Spanish and Italian to create a trilingual space, full of correspondences and resonances.
The round trip that is this poetry collection follows a principle repeated over and again in the text: see with your ears, listen with your eyes half-open. A crossing of the senses in service of the need to give life through words to that which is no longer here. Because on the opposite side of this determination to remember we can find the poem dedicated to Aunt Lolló, who collected “black | stripped | small | blunt” stones and who loses her memory without ever abandoning “her sea fortune.” In this way, memory and memory loss are revealed as the two shores of this sea in which we submerge ourselves to resurface drunk on nostalgia, buffeted by memories and with the father’s voice in our ear. A voice that repeats, from Avenida Caroní, but also from the San Vito trabocco: “Andiamo avanti.”