Sunday, April 15, 2012
Over Misty Plains By Alessio Zanelli
By Alessio Zanelli
Indigo Dreams Publishing
8.99 British Pounds
Review by Dennis Daly
These poems of Alessio Zanelli scream out for the twilight tonality and muted landscape of essential beauty. They soften life’s stark edges. At the same time they chronicle the internal seasons of the human condition. The poet’s art connects these two visions on a planet filled with ghosts and shadows. The title poem Over Misty Plains serves as the touchstone. Mankind appears as a species of “tiny“ figures intent on their little deeds, striving against all elemental odds. The poem introduces the situation with this question,
Whoever was this tiny man
who used to run against the wind,
through the fog,
In the rain,
on snow-covered paths,
towards the sun—
away from his own shadow?
Notice the seasonal themes of weather and shadow. Zanelli uses them throughout the book to both frame his visions and define them. The mist, through which man must struggle, lends beauty to his otherwise alien context. AT Lucia’s, a poem set in Lombardy,
…The sky opens,
discloses the plain beauty of the Lombard campagna.
Boscageand lea are slowly unmisted in the distance,
toward the laggard sunset.
The air is just bracing,
not bleak or ungentle.
The distance here becomes clearer through the mist, though it is still misty. At the same time the sun is setting, hiding the clear outlines, softening. This in-between time births beauty. In a poem entitled Chasing Specters Out in the Sticks, the hunters race through the woods tracking down the wraiths of desire and perhaps life-force. The excitement of the hunt is everything. The conclusion hangs in the balance, but a truly insignificant balance.
In the poem Getaway Zanelli comments on the aesthetics of our present environment. He describes an unlovely world, where
Mist and dew
no longer inhabit the dale
Plumes of smoke are the reeds
in the miry oxbows.
The poet then goes on to describe a “snow-hearted” boy, who
now has sand in the lungs
and mineral pitch in the ears.
The acrid smell
of irreparable loss
in the nostrils.
Lord of Winter ices the reader up in its metaphor. The poet’s creative spirit leaves its burrow to face “sharp- cheeked” reality. The frozen season preserves the future’s viability and potential. The awakened poet avers,
As long as your glow resides in my eyes
however dark it is, to be lord again
I just need skin as hard as bark,
a few fluttering snowflakes…
The poem, Snow Runner, is nothing less than a declaration of seasonal preference. The poem starts this way:
You know I like snow
The chilly breath of winter,
Icy roads and rimy trees,
The frosty countryside.
But this winter covering also covers danger. The poet cautions,
Only, if I’m not back by ten o’clock,
Please light a candle,
kneel and pray,
In Summer Fog, Zanelli again softens the piercing sunlight with a fog. Here the fog proves not only an aesthetic decoration, but a potent natural force inseminating the earth with a new generation of life. He exults,
Such phenomenal exhalation from the earth
Betrays the parental nature of the summer
To the dismal seasons to succeed.
Dreamskimmer is a poem about internal coldness and a realization which comes with age. It details the shell of a human being after his dreams slip away and his frantic attempt to recall those dreams. This is perhaps Zanelli’s saddest poem.
Love brings with it a dependency of sorts. In his poem Lost the poet shows how destructive that becomes. There is a nice play on the word “starlet” as the poet’s guiding star. But the end doesn’t bode well for the lover,
nobody can help.
I’ve been going awry ever since.
More ghosts in the poem The Rolling Soul and Mountain Ghost. Only now the ghosts are the chasers instead of the chase-ees. Those solitary untamed souls that dared the mountain heights are rolling toward the earth whence they came. The more vital fire carried by the soul, the more the ghost gets to eat. I think we are talking about the ravages of time here and the poem’s image strikes me as honest, if unpleasant.
Knocker of Giants celebrates one of those carriers of fire, Sir Edmund Hillary. Apparently the poet believes a few grand souls can beat gravity at least for a time. Zanelli says,
We salute you
knocker of giants,
mindful of how small we are,
how greater than we thought your feat,
how grand your soul.
Near the end of this book there is a gem of rhyme and formality entitled A Universe’s Song. The poem takes you to a place of creation in deep space, where vibrating spheres communicate nothing and everything. Here’s a bit,
And yet all things there shift
Vibrating spheres of light
Explode and flash adrift
Till fading out of sight.
Don’t read Zanelli’s last poem titled Witnessing’s End last. It will haunt you into silence with its meditation on the end of cosmic awareness. It’s that good. Instead try Absolute Beauty in which the poet wonderfully negates physics and knowledge and praises the efficaciousness of imagination. The poet puts it this way,
one of the three must be true:
there is no beauty in you;
or else—unreality is the most real of things;
or yet—all those geniuses of matter, space and time
are nothing but madcap visionaries.
I can live with that.