While in Siena, Italy this past November, I stopped by the apartment of Alessandro Fo, a Latin professor at the Università degli studi di Siena, the most recent translator of the Aeneid (Einaudi 2012) into Italian, and author of Mancanze (Einaudi 2014) which took the 2014 Viareggio-Rèpaci prize in poetry. The purpose was to record him reading Pierluigi Cappello's poem, "L'autostrada" ("The Highway") my English translation of which was slated for publication in the online journal Asymptote. Fo, after all, had introduced me to Cappello's work the year before—and Cappello himself, in the city of Tricesimo, situated in the far northeastern corner of Italy, was well beyond the reach of my Garageband microphone.
Fo's apartment, as he warned me, was all in boxes. After numerous years living within the city walls, he'd decided to venture to Siena's outskirts, where he'd at least have more space for his gargantuan library. I first met Alessandro Fo in 2011, when a friend invited me to a late-night literary gathering held in the offices of the University of Siena's literature department. More than a gathering it was a literary group, under the name of Le mille giubbe blu (The Thousand Blue Coats), which had been meeting in Siena for more than a decade. Though the constituent members changed, the basic principle remained: 10-20 people meet after dark to share literary passages around a selected theme. I could go on about the group, its pleasures and its intricacies, but the point is, presiding over the Giubbe blu in 2011 was Alessandro Fo. And so we met. We kept in touch after I'd left Italy and reconnected in 2012, but when I arrived to his boxed up house in 2014, it'd been two years since I'd seen him in person.
He met me on the spiral staircase—shorter than I remembered him, with the same round-framed eyeglasses, salt-and-pepper scruff, and two or three frail hairs on his head—and invited me in. We began things, of course, with an espresso at the kitchen table. As we caught up, he asked if I'd heard from Mr. Cappello himself, who knew I'd been translating his poetry and who'd asked Alessandro for my phone number. No, I hadn't. So we decided to telephone him then and there.
Pierluigi responded in excellent spirits, and when we told him what we were up to he offered to read the poem over the telephone from Tricesimo. So I put him on hold, prepped Garageband, and placed the receiver before the microphone. The result, I'm happy to say, has just been published by the journal Asymptote, along with the English translation and the original Italian. I think it makes for an exceptional reading experience to listen to Pierluigi's recording while going through the English text, and I thank the editors at Asymptote for dreaming up just such a feature. Happy reading and listening.
Just now it was spoken
look, a hare
in the thickest patch of forest where it was,
only the hunch of a reflection,
that height of happiness at which it snaps
and bolts, far from us. continue reading—>