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entry Dec 2013

Campania Felix
         -poetry by Giacomo Garzya

Giacomo Garzya                       
The six poems presented here below in my English translation are excerpted from Campania Felix, a forthcoming book of poetry (pub. M. D'Auria, Naples, antic. 2014)* by Giacomo Garzya, poet, professor and my next-door neighbor! Other examples of his poetry have appeared in these pages here and here.

Campania Felix (Happy Campania) is what the ancient Romans called this part of Italy, rich in mythology and history; it is the "Parthenope" where Virgil, himself, was "nurtured." It is Garzya's native land, and the poems in this volume are exclusively about this area, places such as the islands in the Bay of Naples and the towns along the Sorrentine peninsula and Amalfi Coast. In the sense of the twentieth-century poetic form known as “Imagism,” Garzya favors precision, even isolation, of single images and clear, sharp language. He is almost never didactic or expository, and there is a Haiku-like intimacy in his poems. As with all poets, he has a sense of cadence and euphony, but he is less interested in formal meter and rhyme than he is in the brief flash. It might have been more convenient to present his poems in paragraph form and call it a prose translation. I have chosen instead to present them in the typographic form chosen by the poet, single lines (even of a single word), staccato-like, one above the other, to achieve the effect of a parade of images.

I present this material cautiously. After all, almost everyone has words of warning about translation:

"Translation from one language into like gazing at a Flemish tapestry from the wrong side."  (Cervantes)
"Poetry is what gets lost in translation."  (Robert Frost)

Yet we all know the difference between a good translation and a bad one. And we all know how indebted we are to the centuries of work done by translators to provide us with the literature of other cultures, ancient and modern. So in that spirit, I have plowed ahead. I have tried not to inject myself into the poet's lines and have provided a few notes for some of his cultural and geographical references that might not be familiar to the non-Italian reader. To the extent that I have succeeded, I am very felix; if I have failed, well, my apologies to Mike and Bob.

(If you read both English and Italian and might have liked to see the originals, I am prevented by copyright law from obliging you. Sorry. You'll have to wait for the book.)

*update: March 2014. Campania Felix has now been published.


The ancient colors
of the houses vanish
in the clouds of spring
for an instant
there is light,
from the trimmed walls
sprigs of golden lemons
strung like bells strike
A hymn of joy.


I have gone in your footsteps
I have seen with your eyes
I've held fast to memories of you,
to your places of contemplation.
The rust in my mind
has not eroded even one.
Jeranto*, San Costanzo high above,
where the silence spoke your name,
and of your generous soul,
there just a step from heaven.

*Jeranto, a bay on the Sorretine peninsula


The loveliest spot
where the tower stands,
cylindrical in front,
trimmed by four sides in back,
water pounds restlessly
on the rocks
water mad in the flow and backwash
with strong yellows
snapdragons, spring daisies
just blossomed
while warmth welcomes
the seated woman
bent to a book
that frees her from time
and the secret thoughts of memory.


At sunset in the Falanga wood
the soft hues,
and reddish,
of velvet trees
shade slowly down from
the hermitage of Epomeo
to the walls
above Forio.
The air is crisp
over Santo Stefano and the islands,2
the sun tilts the depths of the sea
upright and gaudy.
Now the dazzling portal
of the sun leads
from the beaches
to the silent rustlings
of Falanga.
The arch is striking,
not Cyclopean
but light and strong
lava rocks like
those of the Greeks.

Titian, (the sun on the horizon)
though well used to
carpets of fallen leaves
still living and
rich with hues,
would have besung
the colors.

Mosses brought to life
by filtered light
on the damp walls
draw and shape
ancient and new.
It is nature's game.
Enchanted Falanga
between quenching springs
and ancient hollows
that collect the snow,
Soon reborn as flowers of Spring.

1. The Falanga is a large, well-known chestnut wood on the island of Ischia
2. Santo Stefano is a small island in the Pontian archipelago 35 km to the west of, and well visible from, Ischia.


The cuoccio1 lies in the sand
scent of iodine and wind,
to one side Fornillo
and Vetara
and Li Galli.2
High spindrift
whitens the hair
a gull, as if stunned in flight,
suddenly swerves.

Boats safely moored
wait for spring.

It is raining now
the cloud banks pass
The nets
as agile as serpents
wend up the ramps.

Now in the distance
lightning sings
a strident hymn
to the sea.
Below, the mosaic
of Maria Assunta
in Cielo3
A palm sways
amid vivid colors
of houses arrayed
like an ancient theater.

1. Cuoccio. Dialect term for a fish common in many seas of the world, known in English by various names: gurnet, and, commonly, the Hawaiian term, mahi-mahi.
2. Fornillo, Vetara and Li Galli. The first is a small beach at Positano; Vetara and Li Galli are islands off the Amalfi coast.
3. Reference to the majolica tile dome of the church of Maria Assunta in Cielo in Positano.


A cut to the stems
and the first mandarins
at the Immacolata2
drop in the basket
their leaves fresh and green.

Unlike the yellow-red
persimmons you pass
that tinge the air and wet earth
with autumn.

The gardens are laden
with fruit on the hill
where the north-wind pounds,
while at the Marina,
the spray of the sea is heedless
of the pungent yet sweet smells
of this earth of ours.

1. Casamicciola is a port town on the island of Ischia.
2. The Immocolata is the local church.

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