Academic journal article Italica

Faria's Method: An Introduction to the Poetry of Mariano Baino

Academic journal article Italica

Faria's Method: An Introduction to the Poetry of Mariano Baino

Article excerpt

Abstract: Although little known in the English speaking world, Mariano Baino's work is crucial for understanding the vicissitudes of Italian poetry in the last two decades of the Novecento. This article provides an introduction to his verse and poetics by performing a close reading of the poem Quatre-vingt-treize, first published in 1993. It reconstructs the intellectual environment within which it was written, with particular attention to the issues of language and lyrical subjectivity. The political responsibilities of poetry, as well as its role in the social and cultural life of the nation, are also main concerns that Baino and the other authors of his generation express in their works, and can be gleaned from an analysis of this particular poem.

Keywords: Mariano Baino, Gruppo 93, multilinguism, experimental poetry, literary collage, allegory.

"... we have only to identify the point where the imagined fortress does not coincide with the real one and then find it." (Italo Calvino, The Count of Monte Cristo)


Although Mariano Baino is an exceptional poet, he is relatively unknown in the United States. In part, this is because his poems present an almost insurmountable challenge to the translator. Yet, by studying them and by examining his career over the past three decades, we can gain much insight about the profound crisis that visited the writers of his generation and the ingenious resources they had mobilized to overcome it. But let us first turn to a sample of Baino's writing: the poem entitled "Quatre-vingt-treize" constitutes an ideal point of entry for our exploration. We will discuss most of it, breaking it into seven parts for the sake of convenience:

Caravane-tresor, quatre-vingt-treize, (Contre Saint-Bluff?): chi el Cervantes ricorda d'una carta con cui perdi s'e di piu, ma perdi

a volte pure s'e di meno? o, a far l'ipercocciuto, i versi dell' Ajace foscoliano (risa grasse a la premiere): O Salamini, o so

li / Di tanti forti e sciagurati avanzi ... o gli alfieriani del Fi lippo:--Udisti?--Udii.--Vedesti? Vidi.--Oh rabbia!, e siamo. (Baino 1993: 93) (1)

The opening image is that of a caravan, a group of men and animals journeying together, and very likely a reference to Baino's travel companions, Gruppo 93, whose name is given in French immediately after. This group was officially formed during the seventh edition of the Milano-Poesia festival (September 18-24, 1989), even though its members had been engaged in dialogue, discussing their aesthetic views and sharing their poems since the beginning of the 1980s. We will investigate the composition and ideas of this group in more detail momentarily; for now, it will suffice to say that, far from being a homogenous coalition of likeminded authors, Gruppo 93 was mainly a venue for discussing (and disagreeing on) the path that experimental poetry would take in the aftermath of the disbandment of Gruppo 63 and the rise of the neo-romantic, neo-orphic poetry of the late 1970s. The choice of expressing the name in French serves to highlight the disjoined nature of the group, by exploiting the way numbers are expressed in that language: a multiplication of factors rather than a coherent whole.

More obscure is the reference to Cervantes: there are at least four passages in Don Quixote where cards are counted by Sancho Panza as a metaphor for the outcome of the characters' actions. (2) However, the next reference, to Foscolo's Ajax, makes one think of the encounter with the two flocks of sheep, in Part 1, Chapter XVIII of El Ingenioso Hidalgo: as the duo is crossing a dry plane, they come upon two separate herds that are about to cross paths while stirring up high dust clouds; the vivid imagination of the melancholic knight takes them for two opposing armies about to engage in battle. He begins to name all of the heroes he imagines parading before him, with one being Pierre Papin. …

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