Corporeal, homoerotic, reified and ethereal.
Pierre Lepori’s Almost Love (Quasi Amore) contains forty-five short stanzas, reminiscent of a lyric tradition extending from the Greek elegiac poets, such as Sappho and Mimnermus, to the Italian poet, Sandro Penna. The poems revolve around the word “love” as compared to the precariousness of life and the incompleteness of language, thus generating new images in a poetry that is corporeal, homoerotic, reified and at the same time ethereal. As Lepori writes, “There are forms of love – both physical and spiritual – that escape the events of what we call reality by convention.”
Guernica World Editions (World Poetry)
68 pages |
Peter Valente is a translator for whom every poet should hope. A distinguished poet, Valente possesses an exceptionally fine sense of the English language. Fluent in Italian and French as well, he renders the celebrated multilingual Swiss poet Pierre Lepori in nuanced English. Valente’s is an achievement of a remarkably high order, a great translation of a major book.
Almost Love bristles with imagery that is both startling and timeless, drawing us onto a love-road that branches towards eternity. In this epic work, Swiss poet Pierre Lepori effortlessly pulls the reader into a Jacob’s ladder of passion and despair. Separately, each stanza is a small jewel—linked together, they are truly dazzling. Beautifully translated by the poet Peter Valente, Almost Love is a work that shines brightly in these dark times.Maggie Dubris
In these highly metaphoric and charged love poems the beloved becomes not just the characteristic object of desire, but the embodiment of desire itself. “There are doors open everywhere,” writes Lepori. Peter Valente has found each door the poet has opened and marvelously manages to convey for English readers the resonance, depth, beauty and language of Lepori's originals.
Through a consanguinity of sculptural space and tormented silences, Peter Valente’s exquisite Almost Love erupts as a mereology, a mirrorology of aching hunger in the ferocity of desire. Riddled with arced echoes, madness and rigor; suspension, fragilities, agilities; pulsing partitas of lettered skin threshold in an erotics of meaning and being caressing and elevating the other and the other in language.
With magnificent intensity, between dawns, bodies, fingers hauntings, lairs; between the “as if” and the “always already,” Almost Love will leave you forever absorbed in the textatically shadowed constructions of trembling eros.
With its passionate echoes of Sappho and Cavafy, and the querulous shadow of Barthes, Lepori’s Almost Love continues the ageless attempt to fix the beloved in an ever-shifting sky. Anguish and ardor fuse in an idiom of invocation and idolatry, with an intimation of torn papyrus, or rolled parchment in a marble box. Yet Peter Valente’s sleek translation reveals the freshness of these timeless tropes, their inescapable resonance with our own personal mysteries. The leanness and immediacy of the language turns sentimentality into wonder, and the pure contrary intellect of Eros burns free.
The absence of a lover’s response in Pierre Lepori’s Almost Love is as powerful as the absence of light. The poet is consumed with his love and the lover—"my love has lands bathed in rain / and white suns in the fold of the knee.” His love is tangible, intangible, sexual, mythic, and like the wind. When the poet begins to separate from his love, first a period of analysis, then as the veil lifts, barrenness and bitterness. As with Orpheus, if one tries too hard, love evaporates. The “we” flounders without a verb, but then Lepori moves from the wild longing that obscures sight and vision into a quiet acceptance of the shortness of love, of life. With the end of the love affair, whether imaginary or real, the love and the lover remain beautifully inscribed in Lepori’s poems.
In this bracing sequence of quasi-amorous poems, Pierre Lepori subjects both his emotions and the language in which he expresses them to clinical self-scrutiny. He is especially skilled at reading the precise calibrations of proximity and distance involved in loving and in speaking of love. Each entangled in tight knots of feeling, two lovers confront and turn away from each other, as the development of their relationship demands. In Peter Valente’s incisive translations, the language of love is spare and clear, as transparent as a finely-ground lens.
It’s almost impossible to translate a poem. A translation is like a reflection of a lover in a mirror you cannot kiss although you see his lips. What’s remarkable about Peter Valente’s translation of Almost Love is that there is a kiss; there is nothing almost about it. Pierre Lepori’s Italian is beautiful, but so is Peter Valente’s English. I’ve read Almost Love several times now and love the poems because they’re real, the experience, not its reminiscence; when they tell you they love you, you hear them loud and clear. I can’t imagine anyone not sensually enjoying them.
About the author
Peter Valente is a writer, translator, filmmaker and author of twelve books, including a translation of Nanni Balestrini’s Blackout (Commune Editions, 2017), which received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. His most recent book is Essays on the Peripheries (Punctum books, 2021) and forthcoming is his translation of Nicolas Pages by Guillaume Dustan (Semiotext(e), 2022) and his translation of Gérard de Nerval, The Illuminated (Wakefield Press, 2021) He is presently working on editing a book on the filmmaker, Harry Smith.