Jordan Davis (thank you, Jordan!) made the connection for me: Patrizia Cavalli, whose poems are featured in the Italian Poetry Portfolio in the December issue of Poetry is the title character of Kenneth Koch's poem, "Talking to Patrizia," first seen in One Train and reprinted recently in Collected Poems. What did she tell Koch?


Among other things (according to his poem):
"Patrizia doesn't want to
Talk about love, she
Says she just
Wants to make
Love but she talks
About it almost endlessly to me.
It is horrible it
Is the worst thing in life
Says Patrizia
Nothing
Not death not sickness
Is as bad as love..."
Can this be? In Geoffrey Brock's translation, here's one of her own poems:
[The happy ones are almost always also vulgar]
The happy ones are almost always also vulgar;
happiness has a way of thinking
that's rushed and has no time to look
but keeps on moving, compact and manic,
with contempt in passing for the dying:
Get on with your life, come on, buck up!
Those stilled by pain don't mix
with the cheerful, self-assured runners
but with those who walk at the same slow pace.
If one wheel locks and the other's turning
the turning one doesn't stop turning
but goes as far as it can, dragging the other
in a poor, skewed race until the cart
either comes to a halt or falls apart.
*
Ah.
In Koch's poem, she advises him to hide outside the house of a woman who's abandoned him: jump out from behind the bushes, and confront her to see "if there is love / In her eyes or not. It can't / Be hidden." She thinks he will "get her back / But it will be too late." And she seems to be an expert in hiding, and the hidden, and yes, the theatrical - here's another poem of hers from the portfolio, again, in Brock's translation:
[From behind, standing, from a distance]
by Patrizia Cavalli
From behind, standing, from a distance,
in passing, the taxi meter running,
I'd watch her, I'd watch her hair,
and what would I see? My stubborn theatre,
curtain won't fall, my always-open theatre . . .
Best to leave as soon as the show begins.

Originally Published: December 12th, 2007

Don Share became the editor of Poetry in 2013. His books of poetry are Wishbone (2012), Squandermania (2007), and Union (2013, 2002). He is the co-editor of The Open Door: 100 Poems, 100 Years of Poetry Magazine (2012), and editor of Bunting's Persia (2012) and a critical edition of Basil Bunting's poems (2016). He...

  1. December 12, 2007
     Ange

    Don, You stole my post. Incroyable!

  2. December 13, 2007
     Don Share

    Gee, Ange, I thought all your posts were in the public domain!! :) :)

  3. December 13, 2007
     Geoffrey Brock

    Good post. Here's a Cavalli poem that didn't make it into the portfolio, from her most recent collection:
    Grave and determined each morning
    after my disastrous night games
    I review the lesson with grim zeal–
    the lesson of fate and of destiny.
    But why don’t I learn? It’s all so clear!
    Just yesterday they offered me a chance.
    But how is it that these two entities
    always have something to teach,
    and why to me? Their exhausting pedagogical
    industry, their exaggerated dedication–
    to me? Well, I can’t believe it, but if it’s true
    let them leave me in peace,
    I’m not cut out for going to school.
    I simply didn’t want to be alone.