Five Poems from Francesca Pellegrino's Chernobylove ­– The day after the wind

Translator’s Note

Remarkable for a compression of form and the multiplicity of meanings that emanate from those few short lines, the poems of Francesca Pellegrino survey and inhabit a terrain that is contemporary Italy — its excesses and its silences, a language that ricochets with the internal and external pressures of those who live internal lives while navigating a contemporary world. Each of her four collections reflect and have traveled in tandem with a course of a wider cultural crisis. On one level, her poems might be read as externalized versions of the crises of today’s headlines: the economic and financial crises of Italy, the corruption of its institutions, as well as divergences in claims over national and regional identity.

…the poems of Francesca Pellegrino survey and inhabit a terrain that is contemporary Italy — its excesses and its silences, a language that ricochets with the internal and external pressures of those who live internal lives while navigating a contemporary world.

In her most recently collection, Chernobylove ­— The day after the wind, the consideration of love is twined with the concept of catastrophe, its title instantaneously invoking the nuclear power plant disaster in Ukraine on April 26, 1986. This event, with its horrific visual images and its consequences, is a significant contemporary landmark for the poet’s generation; born in 1974, Pellegrino would have been at the age when one is making transition from childhood fully into adolescence. Her poems thus speak for a generation of women coming of age during Italy’s years of unprecedented economic expansion and prosperity, with its energetic internationalism and a burgeoning economy dosed heavily with glamour-consumerism. As with her other collections, the poems from Chernobylove, including these five, may be considered in some way a meditation upon love, and as a consideration of the individual’s journey both towards and away from catastrophe. The personal, inward journey of these poems is always a journey made with awareness of a wider cultural milieu that includes a widening economic crisis and its effects upon the individual, the corruption of dominant cultural institutions, and war-followed-by-war.

Many of Pellegrino’s poems begin with a consideration of excess and insatiability, whether in the form of physical and emotional desire, or in insatiability associated with food, addictive substances or activities; other poems in Chernobylove are concerned with themes related to personal financial debt and interpersonal transactions. The entry point to many of these poems is the consumer product itself ­— at times a product associated with glamour and high-end consumerism, and sometimes the most humdrum of domestic products sold in an international marketplace, as in the poems “Alkaseltzer” or “SPAM” (Simmenthal). Others begin with a single sing-song phrase of incantatory power, such as the poem, “Eeny, meeny, miny, moe” (“Orsù, orsù, dai un bacio a chi vuoi tu”) which summons up the games of childhood, or “Sim Sala Bim” (“Simsalabim”) which suggests Western constructs of Islamic and Arabic worlds made up of magic carpets and magic lamps.

Whether the investigation begins with a ditty or the image of a consumer product, the threshold of a poem by Pellegrino is both the entry and means to embark on a complex and intense self-examination — one that is over before the poem, lightning-quick, has reached the last line. The reader is thus inspired to return to the poem and make his/her way within its complex peregrinations.

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