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Poetry: I read it, write it, teach it, edit it, review it, publish it; Etc.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Che fai tu, luna, in ciel? Dimme, che fai,
silenciosa luna?

What do you do there, moon, in the sky? Tell me,
what do you do, silent moon? -Leopardi

So, I'd begun re-reading Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millenium as an appropriate sort of new year's contemplation, reading slowly, musing, taking notes. I began the first chapter, "Lightness," on New Year's day, the chapter from which Leopardi's quote is taken. Last night I began the chapter's conclusion. Calvino acknowledges that he's introduced several varied ideas, or threads, in his consideration of lightness, a consideration which has to do with weight rather than illumination here. He writes, "There remains one thread, the one I first started to unwind: that of literature as an existential function, the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living." Wow, that's going in the blog, I thought. And so it has.

But he isn't finished and goes on to connect this existential function of literature to anthropology, ethnology and mythology. He considers how way back before literature, folktales in the oral tradition often featured "a flight to another world," and how this is also a common function in the heroic tradition, and of course here is where I am really engaged; if I ever had time for a doctorate, this is my stuff . . .but wait, he then describes Kafka's very short story, "The Knight of the Bucket," in which an empty coal bucket flies the protagonist above the impoverished town and into the night sky . . . Calvino ends "Lightness" writing, "Thus, astride our bucket, we shall face the new millenium, without hoping to find anything more in it than what we ourselves are able to bring to it."

That isn't exactly the same as being astride a flying Vespa, but close enough.


  1. Makes me think of Calvino's "The Garden of Stubborn Cats" from the collection "Marcovaldo, or the Seasons in the City". Great cat story.

  2. I'm not familiar with this collection, Jim, but will be looking for it. Thanks! Have you read "Invisible Cities?"