Echoes of Memory, by Lucio Mariani
Echoes of Memory.|
Anthony Molino, translator.
Wesleyan University Press, 2003.
122 pages, $30 (hardback).
Mariani's poems dwell on apocalypse: flashes, Eternity, Delos, rituals, shipwrecks, eras, deaths, Ephesus, September 11, 2001. Yet the climate is calm, with a muted tone, in Mariani's disciplined texts. He may not be a post-modernist poet, but the language is certainly post-apocalyptic. Everything may be finished "Since our time appears to be over"; let's relish what surrounds us:
To defend the dream at millennium's end
the grand experiment will consist
solely in stepping aside, in muting tones
decanting extracts of soul for a few select tasters
drop by drop, the rarest of honeys.
The favorite game in the poems is certainly chess. In one of the most startling, effective poems "Checkmate," its Brooklyn narrator becomes "dust scattered by an obscene blast" on September 11 in the "treacherous towers" his father warned him about during chess games: "never will my father find me not even / to hold the hand I'd use to play chess."
I found the numerous classical references in Mariani's work rather arbitrary. I took the trouble to follow through the ones in the series "Ephesus," and I could not fathom why we had to travel across the Aegean and the Mediterranean.
Mariani retains a skilled high modernist concentration on words and on the apparatus of construction. "They say it's always the same poem that gets written." ("Alphabets of Surrender") Even punctuation marks get attention in "the despotic empire of the blank page." ("To a Mentor's Dismay") I particularly liked these writing references: "So pour me words / like minimal quiet droplets" and "The pages of abandoned notebooks / board ship in the sky." ("Several Voices")
Mariani is primarily a connoisseur: knowledgeable, interested in detail, subtle, and discriminating. The translator, Anthony Molino, brilliantly hugs the words like a dictionary maker. When he gives us as close to a literal translation as he can, the reader of both sides of the pages in this bilingual edition is rewarded with help and guidance. When Molino makes one solitary leap into the cyberspace of interpretation, I wanted back the safety net of precise close-knit word parallels.