The absence, or the perception of something that is not there. The perception of a lack. It marks a destiny that unites us human beings, whom we desire and love. Plato already wrote it in Symposium: we can only love what we are lacking. The absence it is therefore the emptiness that pains but opens wide to the labor and frenzy of that confused drive which is desire.
Lack, absence and desire and their reciprocal dances can only be considered themes dear to the poetry, to literature and to art as a whole. Art itself, perhaps, arises from absence.
Think of one of the myths that Pliny the Elder tells. The art of modeling he was born because the daughter of a potter, in love with a young man, drew the shadow of his face projected on the wall with a line, so that she could always remember him. The father imprinted the clay on those lines and painted his portrait.
According to this version that we gladly welcome, art is born from the attempt to solve the absence problemto veil the suffering it brings.
1. Cristina Campo – The Tiger Absence
The problem of absence, of its aggressiveness, of the wounds it causes, was painted by a poet with an image of essential lucidity: Cristina Campo neither The Absence Tiger.
Vittoria Maria Angelica Marcella Cristina Guerrini, who adopted the pseudonym of Cristina Campo, was a poet, writer, translator. Of herself she said: “You have written little and would like to have written even less.”
Read also: 103 sentences about the lack of a person
There are few, indeed, his poems. In a handful of lines, of vivid and silent images, however, she unraveled the complexity of what she felt.
Ouch that the Tiger,
the Tiger Absence,
or loved ones,
he devoured everything
of this turned face
to you! The mouth alone
you: to pray again
because the Tiger,
the Tiger Absence,
or loved ones,
do not devour your mouth
and prayer …
Absence like a tiger
Few lilting words. Absence, Tiger, Prayer. Absence like a tiger that lurks and tears, bites and devours. A lack can become that excruciating pain that disfigures the face. What is not there claims the frightening presence of a beast.
In this raw image of devoured faces, the poet introduces a possibility, one hope: you can survive the tiger. In fact, the mouth remains pure, asking, praying. But what the mouth asks is to be able to continue asking, so that the absence is never definitive, that the last word is never the bite of the Tiger, but the request that she does not die.
May the tiger devour the face as well, as long as I can keep asking. If the mouth remains the question remains, the possibility of reunification survives, despite the painful awareness that what is missing can never be returned, never found.
One might think this prayer is the poem itselfwhich therefore prays to be able to perpetrate itself, not to be devoured by an absence that silences, in a cyclical trend of returns and repetitions that is in the very texture of these verses that they repeat and ask for.
2. Amelia Rosselli – How many fields they would like as a sponge …
Another poet has unfolded absence on the surface of the world. It is talking about Amelia RosselliItalian poet of the last century, daughter of the anti-fascist exile Carlo Rosselli.
English mother, studied in France, England and the United States. A poem that feeds on of rhythm and freedom of use of that material which knows how to be malleable and which is the word.
How many fields that they would like as a sponge
enrich your past, even the
your present suffocated.
How many completely picturesque alleys
that you would like to turn into meaning
of the essence of this suffering of yours.
But it groans in the essence of your suffering
a desire for sleep and for meat. Oh
how the blackbirds are silent! They confused
your idea of peace with the sunset
that he offered to your pendulous eyes only
a sophisticated seizure of your craving
to be alone, and yourself.
A desire for presence
The empty space of absence cannot be filled from landscapes, beauty. These do nothing but dig into the lack and make the root naked and visible before suffering, that desire for a presence that Rosselli calls sleep and flesh.
Everything’s quiet compared to the desire that quivers, invests everything in itself, it would like to fill the world with its meaning and make it vibrate with it.
And while everything is silent and the sun goes down, it surfaces, in the last lines of the poem that seem those somewhat delusional thoughts of the moments before falling asleep, surfaces quietly the tiredness of being oneselfmissing.
Striking that word, “craves”, So disruptive, to clash with the calm decay of the poem in its end: an acute accent disturbs the final sigh of the verses. As if to remind us that in all this silence of fields and alleys there is still that desire that does not subside.
3. Mario Luzi – Year
Even in Luzi’s poem, Year, one breathes absence. Mario Luzi was an Italian poet, an important exponent of Florentine hermeticismwhich in the collection First fruits of the desertfrom 1952, reached the culmination of that incessant dialogue with imaginative figures and landscapes that is his poetry.
The sky is dull, the cry of frost. The other it is configured as something that is confined to us. There is a sense of constriction and impossibility of access, and loss, of what has never been possessed.
The poet remains, alonein the face of this closure, in front of one’s past and one’s future, equally strangers, to constantly change even though it cannot be other than oneself.
Read also: Five great examples of hermetic poetry
Luzi has the ability to say terrible things but always leave you, in the last lines, with a moving opening to something that is unknown but could save. Absence can become a threshold at which to wait, no one knows what or who. In the empty light one can find rest.
Provide now, but quietly racks and vases are exposed,
grapes hang. The other is unknown, the other
he was and is closed in this opaque sky
where a vined light congeals
and the cry of the finch is already cold.
It is here, it is in these mythical works
and clear that passes and burns
what I don’t have and what I will have to lose.
Past and next time hovers …
I, as it may be, I have come here, I advance
From unknowable times, I have been burning, I have been waiting;
without end I become what I am,
I find rest in this empty light.
4. Edgar Lee Masters – Mabel Osborne
There is therefore an “other” that we desire but we cannot reach. There is the importance of the word, to veil the absence, not to make it ineluctable. But when the word is not spoken it can happen to wither, and the other can be closed and opaque by distraction.
It is a question of concrete word and concrete withering, in the condemnation of Mabel Osborne the indifference of his fellow citizens. We pass in fact to an American author of the last century, who met with great fame thanks to the publication of a poetic collection in which one imagines giving a voice to those who no longer have it.
Who, in Mabel’s case, didn’t even use it when she could. In the’Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters, who arrived in Italy thanks to the translations of Fernanda Pivanoa city is rebuilt through the epitaphs of its dead.
In what Mabel Osborne leaves written, the absent are the inhabitants. They were wanted, but they weren’t there. And at their not being there Mabel bent over, unable to ask, like geranium.
We imagine this mute presence, desiring but modest, and an entire country that knows, but has never cared to know fully, to feel the real weight of that solitude which also breaks the voice.
Now Mabel is gone, the plant remains thirsty, and it is not known whether to read this poem as an accusation, or as a warninga wish not to let us die of thirst like her, without rebelling.
Although this second option seems unlikely to us, considering the emphasis placed on the “everybody knows“. Everyone knew and she was convinced of her, of Mabel, that if she certainly couldn’t talk, she didn’t really need it: everyone knew. There is no regret but accusation.
Your red flowers among the green leaves
van falling, or geranium!
But you don’t ask for water.
You cannot speak! You don’t need to talk –
Everyone knows you’re dying of thirst,
yet they don’t give you water!
they pass on, saying:
“Geranium needs water.”
And I, who had happiness to share
And I wanted to share yours:
I who loved you, Spoon River,
and I yearned for your love,
I winked under your eyes, Spoon River-
made mute by the modesty of the soul in asking for love
to you, who knew and saw me die before you,
like this geranium that someone planted on me,
and lets him die
5. TS Eliot – The wasteland
As thirsty is the geranium that cannot drink, so are the protagonists of one of the greatest poems of the twentieth century: The wasteland by Thomas Stearns Eliot (here in the translation of Roberto Sanesi).
Here there is no water but only rock
Rock and not water and the sand road
The road that winds up there in the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there was water here we would stop and drink
Among the rock one can neither stop nor think
The sweat is dry and the feet in the sand
There was at least water between the rock
Dead mountain mouth with decayed teeth that cannot spit
You can’t stand up here, you can’t lie down or sit
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But grim red faces that growl and grin
From doors of cracked mud houses
If there was water
And no rock
If there was rock
And also water
A puddle in the rock
If only there was the sound of water
Not the cicada
And the dry grass that sings
But the sound of water on a rock
Where the hermit thrush sings among the pines
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
The poem of the desert
We conclude with a poem that opens to dizzying and unmentionable absences. The ability to communicate is lacking, a rebirth that gives meaning to the devastation and the desert is lacking.
Not going into the dense web of interpretations and meanings that we have tried to extract from the succession of Eliot’s images, we limit ourselves to pointing out nature obsessiveredundant of a section of the last part: What the thunder said.
The references are, in the slightly preceding verses, to the Crucifixion. Then the image of a dried place.
Tired and repetitive chimes that recall the song of Cristina Campo. Indeed, Eliot was an author very dear to her. Here though there is no breath, the verses become more and more hallucinated, there is no possibility of requesting water, therefore of listening, only lament. Thirst suffocates and prevents thinking.
You cannot stand or sit, the state is intolerable and the mountains strangers, grinning. In aridity the protagonists walk between a hostile and rotten nature, and the water, in its absence that floods the mind, is the regeneration that is missinga new agreement with nature that rejects the human, any faith.
The lack of water dulls the expression, speaks through the onomatopoeia in which the verses converge, exhausted, as in an attempt at imaginative satisfaction. We would be satisfied with even just the sound to deceive our thirst.
And you, which poem about absence do you prefer?
Report other absence poems in the comments.
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