Milli Graffi: Embargoed Voice


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Graffi’s poems place themselves on the edge between a highly pliant, “thick” language and absence of voice. Together, these two faces of the coin enact the internal splintering of the word in its role as mediator. Against a tradition that has become a museum of manipulative skills, Graffi values the energy in words, their ability to transform themselves. “I feel words as something physical,” she says, “with a smell, a taste, something capable of gestures beyond self-display. The desert of the blank page is actually swarming with life. Go have a look.”

Milli Graffi was born and still lives in Milano. In the 70ies she was part of the avantgarde movement “poesia totale” around the magazine Tam Tam and performed sound poetry at festivals in Amsterdam, Paris, Cogolin and Milanopoesia. She has published three books of poetry: Mille graffi e venti poesie (Geiger, 1979), Fragili film (Nuovi Autori, 1987), and L’amore meccanico (Anterem, 1994). She has translated Lewis Carroll and Charles Darwin into Italian and written essays on Petrolini (an Italian comic of the 1910s), the avantgarde’s relation to the comic, and on nonsense in Marinetti, Palazzeschi and Breton. She is one of the editors of il verri, a magazine for avantgarde literature.

Michael Gizzi’s recent books of poetry are My Terza Rima (The Figures, 2001), cured in the going bebop (paradigm, 2000), No Both (Hard Press, 1997), and Continental Harmony (Roof Books, 1991). He lives in Massachusetts.

Giuliana Chamedes was born in New York City. She has published in the Vermont Literary Review and translated the poetry of Franco Loi. She is currently completing a year of study at the University of Florence, where she is working for a public radio station.

“I search for the GORILLA-WORD” [Graffi] writes and…puts her poem through the motions of confession, pleading , and humorous reflection. But even her humor is pressed into the service of a serious business, one which needs to go deep into the objects under the poet’s lens, whether they be “mountain pink,” an “unthinkable absolute,” the “first vowel” or the “I” itself…

At her best, Gaffi goes about her experiments with a sense of awe that can get Whitmanic in scale: “here’s the job / a word we can name // grass burning in the electric inferno of midday [S] // oh the / lyrical nameable watermelon word.”

The challenges [to the translators] are evident; the agility of their English speaks for itself-and is a credit…. well worth the five-spot cover price.

–Chris Glomski, RAIN TAXI on line (Fall 2002)