The newest addition to the Elik Poetry Series (the brainchild of Andy Hoffman) and to Alex Caldiero’s extensive body of work (his Body/Dreams/Organs was also published by Elik Press) is the volume titled sonosuono.
Does the title mean “we are sound”? I decide to ask Alex. He answers by email:
scott, sono(i am)suono(sound) or i am (sono) as “I play music” or sound out(suono)….and then there is the micro-phonems so…no..su…on..o…visual circumnabulation of the u and n …. the opening vibration of the successive o’s and s’s….(this is a sonosophical exegesis of the word). all this to articulate in one word, the movements of my life in terms of sound…nuf sed…it s getting thick…..til later…..alex
Yes, it’s thick—and tasty. Thanks, Alex.
The book begins with a dual-language “Proem”:
Pirchi nun speru di riturnari chiu
nti la terra mia amata,
libriceddu, vacci tu
nti dda casa abbannunata
e rapicci na finestra
quantu pigghia n’ariata.
Because I don’t hope to return again
to my beloved land,
little book, go yourself
into that forsaken house
and open a window
to let in the fresh air.
The little book (it’s not really so little—145 pages, and beautifully designed pages at that) is indeed a window opening into that forsaken house, an act of return to Sicily where Alex spent his first nine years, a reclaiming of his native language, a reunion with family and food and landscapes that have become so unfamiliar that they are the stuff of dreams.
The drawing on the cover depicts a face whose nose is what Alex calls a “jaws harp.” It bears the inscription con voce miscata! In 2004 Alex made a series of drawings, many done in the hours before dawn, variations on the shape of a jaws harp that all feature the little hook at the end of the metal reed. In 2009 he published a chapbook of the drawings called With Voice Mixed. The cover of sonosuono reproduces one of the drawings. And here’s another:
sonosuono is indeed a text “with mixed voice” — Sicilian and Italian and American (Alex’s preference over “English”), poetry and prose, tragedy and comedy, the familiar and the strange, the drawn and the written, the old and the new, the imagined and the real, the traditional and the modern. In fact, when I put my ear up to the open book I think I can even hear the faint buzzing of a jaws harp.
The mixed voice is necessary for an account of emigration from the perspective of an immigrant (or is this an account of immigration told by an emigrant?).
The mixed voice issues from a multiple and thus fecund identity:
Because I grew up in America, I can only ever be part islander. As proof of this, let me recount the incident of swollen testicle.
. . .
Born on the island of Sicily.
Raised on the island of Manhattan.
Growing old on the island of Utah.
All my life surrounded by water.
. . .
not being able to read
my native language;
how the language
I learned to speak in school
the one I speak every day.
With mixed voice Alex celebrates the multitudes he is. He does so in the most profound and thus moving book about immigration/emigration I have ever read.
[My friend Zarko has two books on the subject, the one titled “Emigration” and the other “Fear of Emigration.” Because he writes in Serbian, and because I can’t read his language, I’m left to trust that they are the shadows to Alex’s light, the light to his shadows.]
sonosuono is available for purchase here:http://www.kensandersbooks.com/shop/rarebooks/index.html