Blood Autumn (Autunno di Sangue)

by Daniela Gioseffi

(translated by Elisa Biagini, Luigi Bonaffini, Ned Condini, Luigi Fontanella and Irene Marchegiani.)
© 2006, Bordighera Press, 123 p. ISBN: 1-884419-73-9

Joseph Brodsky learned English while reading the poems of T S Eliot in a Russian labor camp. I feel that I’d like to learn Italian by matching the translations to the poems in this blood red book. 34 poems are presented with their counterparts in Italian, and this book, (new and selected poems) is testimony for the years Daniela Gioseffi has lived in the court of the muse. She is a political activist, a feminist, a naturalist,a mother, wife, former singer and dancer, actor. She says: “ I’m a “Jersey girl” whose mother was part Polish/war orphan, part Jew, whose father was a Greek/Albanian Italian immigrant. I’m the daughter of a lame/ “guinea gimp” who was a poet dying/ of the word “ empathy.” He carried it on his back/ and taught me Shakespeare’s English…” pg. 56

and thus tells some of her story in the poem ‘Unfinished Autobiography for My Daughter” written in 1994. (A nice touch is this, the cover for Blood Autumn designed by daughter Thea Kearney,) but we know Daniela better by her song, on pg. 28:

Beyond the East Gate

I listen to the voice of the cricket,
loud in the quiet night,
warning me, not to mistake a hill for a mountain.

Leave me alone, in a house with doors that opens only outward,
safe from strangers who smell of death,
where I can draft a universe under my eyelids
and let nothing invade it.
Sing me a fugue, like the genius of flowers
talking to leaves on their stems,
Let me contain more aspiration
than even the dance of a child in my uterus.

I sense a lost and primitive priestess
wandering in a walled city of the wrong century.
I need to spend thirty years in the desert
before I will understand the sun,
forty years at sea
to gather the blessing of salt and water.

In the back room of my skull,
a secret dice game determines
the rites of my hands
before they touch flesh again.
Give me a serenity I’ve never known,
make me an old woman who is young,
a child who is a sage
come down from the mountain.

This is an Ars Poetica of sorts in its deference to the mountain, the hopes and dreams she has held, and enacted over the years, perhaps even in honor of Olympus. Yet she does not live there, for her ongoing concerns in poetry are about war, injustice, AIDS, prejudice, poverty. Literary history may have trends, and we can note them in the temporal, but it is a different matter to write consistently in opposition to the norms, or tenor of the day. Daniela’s work is consistent, based in modernism but not far from classicism, even incorporating some of the poetic definitions from the mid part of the 20th century, and surprising us with rapid changes in topic and tone. Timeless imagery framing contemporary conflict, Daniela Gioseffi’s poems can be read as allegories, and also as an authority on the history of our time. Beneath every poem, a desire to be allowed to continue as witness

Grace Cavalieri is a playwright and a poet. Her latest play “Quilting the Sun” premieres at Centre Stage, S.C., 2007. Her public radio series is The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress Grace’s poetry commentaries on “innuendoes” MiPoradio: