Pietro Cagni

Italy

Pietro Cagni was born in Palermo in 1990. In 2015 he received his degree in Classical philology from the University of Catania, defending a thesis about truth and allegory in Dante’s Comedy. During 2014 he spent six months as visiting student researcher at the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana). He’s teaching in Catania and he’s currently working on Dante’s Comedy as well on contemporary italian poetry. He is a founder member of the Centre of Contemporary Poetry of Catania, which organizes literary events and workshops in collaboration with the University of Catania. He contributed to the publication of Poesia inChiostro (Bonanno, Catania, 2016), an anthology of essays about italian poets of 20th century. He has published his first volume of poetry Adesso è tornare sempre (Now it’s always coming back) in 2015.


A dantean and necessary first book

Pietro Cagni became a poet because a life where the excess of beauty as well of pain dwell together. I think that we can always find those twofold roots, like a twofold sword, in the life that generates the poets. Like those who have in their bodies a sign from their birth, to some few is given to show that sign in the body of their poetry, which seems ready for this from the beginning. In a first work this can become clear, and in this first work we can recognize it. And it almost astounds us, as if we were in front of something irrefutable or unquestionable.

“Now it’s always coming back”: it’s an enigmatic title for a less-than-thirty years old. His poems are flashes of encounters, of visions. But “coming back” to where? Why not sailing away, instead? What is the secret brightness of this little book, published by the poet-wizard Angelo Scandurra in a Sicily brought back to life by the young people of the Center of Contemporary Poetry of Catania? I think that the mystery inside Cagni’s visions, inside his sudden flashes, is the backbeat. First of all, it’s a stylistic backbeat: the verses are broken and rarely longer than the hendecasyllable. The poems are marked by the enjambment, by dislocations in the space and contradictions. Read, for example, “bologna is all over me” (in which Cagni gives also an uncommon portrait of me, with candour). The backbeat lives deep inside the texture of relationships, loves, surprises, and pain. That “now” in the title is a movement that keeps on coming back, but the word “always” points to overturning every measure and establishes an irreducible contrast, a confused (or, better, dis-oriented) perception of time, through a new order and energy. How is it possible to congregate that “coming back” with that “always”? What kind of movement can realize this? Only a movement that belongs to the poet’s eyes. Cagni looks at vanishing faces, and they’re often painful and sometimes striking (for example, the poems dedicated to his brother Alberto). I don’t think this is a going back. This poet, who has travelled and comes from a land that is – at the same time – center and periphery, is not really “coming back”. There’s no nostalgic mood in the book, nor regret. There is a tension, instead, a “coming back” to the center, to the point that really unites the “now” and the “always”. It’s a torsion, a conversion, that indicates the real nature of the gaze. The poet’s eyes need to go back to a position in order to preserve the “now” (i.e. the moment, the fragment, the naked shoulder, the brother’s eyes and others loved ghosts) from the loss. Cagni is a dantean poet, not only for his personal studies, but also for the peculiar understanding of poetry as a path of the will and the gaze. Even if the book doesn’t point directly to this, Cagni’s poetry brings the signs, or rather, is a clear sign. The excess of beauty and pain, the twofold roots of the poet, are like gasoline of the “coming back”. Beauty and pain can become a curse, leading to a self-centered gaze if the poet, the man, doesn’t go back, doesn’t look at something able to give a reason and open the horizon. Eliot knew that poetry is the path of this gaze, along mysterious and often indescribable ways. Old and new poets on those trails give us gifts, prophecies, signs, and so does this precious first book.

By Davide Rondoni