SONOSUONO, by Alex Caldiero

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……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:mixedvoice 3

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.

. . .

I clearly


not being able to read

my native language;

how the language

I learned to speak in school

mysteriously became

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:

About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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5 Responses to SONOSUONO, by Alex Caldiero

  1. Pingback: News from Your Friendly Nayborhood Sonosopher

  2. Pingback: News from Your Friendly Nayborhood Sonosopher | A Motley Vision

  3. unwillingexpat says:

    What a beautiful concept, so tactile, apt for all the senses. How can I get my hands on a copy?


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