Monday, November 7, 2011

Aimless Reading: The P's, Part 21 (Pier Paolo Pasolini)

In Danger
Pasolini, Pier Paolo
In Danger: A Pasolini Anthology

Given to me by Joshua Clover. Clover came to town around this time last year to read at Big Night and also to visit Kaplan Harris' class at St. Bonaventure. On the afternoon before his reading, I took him to Talking Leaves Books, where he bought a stack of books and passed this one along to me as gift for hosting. On page 85, there is a book mark. It is an unopened treat from a Cracker Jacks box, also given to me by Joshua. He has a thing for Cracker Jacks. Just ask him.

Eileen Myles was the first person who ever pointed out to me that Pasolini, in addition to being a major film auteur, also happened to be an important Italian poet. I remember her bringing another collection of Pasolini's poetry to class. I remember it having a white cover with red font. I am remembering it to look something like Althusser's Lenin and Philosophy. I also remember it looked like the old Leonard Cohen selected poems.

I have no way to confirm these memories, as I cannot find an image of the old cover on the internet, but that's how I remember it. I did find the Leonard Cohen cover, which looks nothing like my description. It has a faint, orange-yellow font over a black and white image depicting Cohen's face from three angles.

Anyhow, I remember feeling excited by the fact that Pasolini the filmmaker also wrote poetry. I was at the time studiously going through the Great European Director's shelves at Kim's video on Avenue A and had recently hit upon Pasolini. The first film I saw by him was one that is now exceedingly rare, Notes Toward an African Orestes, an astonishing work of filmic essay, very much in the tradition of Chris Marker and Bertolt Brecht.

I have to admit that I was a initially a bit disappointed to discover that most of Pasolini's films had a more traditional narrative structure, so it took me a number of years to return to his films. I have since seen quite a few of them, but I have never even seen that first one made available. I'd love to go back and see it again some time.

from In Danger


Ode to a Flower in Casarsa


Desert flower, flowers from the garland
of our houses where families
bicker in the pen air,


you browse the stones of the day,
simple, while field and sky
like sky and sea
appear all around.


Rustic desert flower,


no evening streaming with lights.


No shepherds drenched by dew,


slender fire of the hedges.


No marsh-marigold, bilberry, swamp-violet
or Florentine iris, or gentian, no angelica,
no Parnassian grass or march-myrtle.


You're Pieruti, Zuan
and tall Bepi with his walking-sticks of bone,
slim at the helm of his wagon,


pasture flower.


You become hay. Burn, burn,
sun of my town, little desert flower.


The years pass over you,
and so do I, with the shadow of the acacia tree,
with the sunflower, on this quiet day.



Translated by Jack Hirschman

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