My love affair with poetry is an old one and one that I don't regret. From this position, one gets rewards, sometimes after much waiting. And one of the poets I must not forget to mention is Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Passolini is famous, mostly for his cinema of poetry, but here I must talk about his poems.
I read his Roman Poems first, a few years back and I would like to draw some attention to these. Passolini always considered himself a Poet...first and foremost. His fame and reputation in Italy are legendary. To quote Ben Lawton, in his preface to Pasolini's Heretical Empiricism if Norman Mailer, Capote, Gore Vidal, Paglia, Madonna, Scorsese, Spike Lee, Michael Moore and Chomsky were rolled up into a single person, one might begin to get the idea of the impact Pasolini had on Italian society. But then, Lawton is writing for an American audience, America, a place which Pasolini only visited once and was amazed to find no Marxists in.
The title's of his Poems are worth mentioning. Memories of misery, The privilege of knowing, The desire for wealth of the roman lumpen proletariat and Sex, consolation for misery, to mention a few. His poems reflect what he saw, the ugliness and the displacement of people, a passionate depiction of those who are dispossessed and desperate. In other words, Pasolini is a real poet because his theme is important. There is no mystery as to who he was.....he called himself a Catholic Marxist, if one can be that. Pasolini wrote with candour, openness, fearlessly and then paid the price for doing that.
I think that pasolini's art is well expressed in The weeping of the excavator. The Poet begins thus:
It is only loving, only knowing that matters, not having loved, not having known. He finds that the soul doesn't grow thus. After this image, Pasolini finds a river strewn with lights echoing mystery, misery. This vision, this knowing makes him an enemy of the forms of the world. The truth is that he sees dark market places, sad streets by river docks. And the silence he finds is deadly. inspite of this desolation, this poverty, the poor are spurred on by a festive excitement, gossiping with loud voices. But to survive, one must be tough and ready in the confusion of the streets. Yet, Pasolini does not resent living in this street but finds in it the eternal colour of summer, to have the world before my eyes and not just in my heart, even though a moon dying in the silence that lives on it. After this we have images of boys and men returning home, counting wages with sweaty hands under festoons of lonely light, towards their alleys choked with darkness and garbage. It is this light step that pasolini really loves.
The imagery in this poem is at once bare, dark and conveys despair, a weeping. That sinister effect is his forte. For Pasolini, the world doesn't possess even a consciousness of misery. The poems reflect the poverty of the surroundings he saw and grew in. Thus Pasolini is not just a great poet but an important poet. To see and describe ennui, Pasolini , unlike say Eliot does not need to go into rooms where women come and go. We are talking of a social, a political act and in this scheme of things, Pasolini is the master. Perhaps, one can only be Pasolini in Italy or on more fertile earth unlike somewhere say in America or even England.
However, Pasolini is not always politics though he usually is. His poem prayer to my mother, sung by Diamanda Gallas is extremely tender. You are the only one in the world who knows what my heart always held, before all other love. you are my mother and your love is my bondage. i beg you, don't desire death. i don't want to be alone. i have an infinite hunger for love, for the love of bodies without souls.
When one reads his poems, one finds all of life's colours portrayed equally, within the space of that necessity.
I find it difficult to narrate the power of his other writings. A very good beginning is his Heretical Empiricism, a collection of critical essays on Cinema, Literature and Politics. I will end with these lines, from the day of my death, a short poem in which Pasolini describes an image stunningly and also perhaps foretells his tragic death.
under a warm green linden i will fall into my death's darkness
scattering linden and sun.
the beautiful boys will run in that light that i have just lost, flying from school
with curls on their brows.
Pasolini is an important poet, one who wrote against the forms of this world, after having recognized those, forms that many don't, ever.