Today is -- at least according to NPR's "Morning Edition," National Poem in Your Pocket Day. That led me to share one of my favorites with you, but maybe you should only read this if you have a Blackberry or something. Otherwise, the poem isn't really in your pocket, even if it's in "the pocket," as musicians are fond of saying.
This poem, written by Luciano Ravizza of Castell'Alfero -- a small town outside Asti, Italy -- is about how his grandson always thinks Ravizza is speaking English when he's, in fact, speaking the Asti dialect of the Piemontese language. It's a testament to an older generation eager to maintain its traditions in the face of a younger one that can't distinguish it from another foreign language.
It was a touchstone for me while I was compiling a CD of this and other poems last year and I'm especially fond of the name of the short work, as anyone who knows me can attest.
I love listening to poetry in languages I don't speak. I can read the translation to get the gist, if I don't already, but not focusing only on the meaning allows me to savor the rhythm and the sonance. Because, really, if the meaning of the words were the sole motive, why would I even read poetry?
Here is the poem in Piemonteis and in English and here is an mp3 of Luciano Ravizza reading it.
I have a grandson in my house,
Luca we baptized him,
He is not yet three years old, but with the little he talks he makes himself well understood,
He is smart, more than you can imagine,
With his grandma nearby in the courtyard, he likes to walk around, then he starts to play, and he is so much fun to watch, he is so free and easy.
When he comes home from preschool,
He jumps and plays in the grass. He likes to chase the dog,
and he tries to grab its tail with his hands.
He then takes his tricycle and goes around some more,
While he explains what he is doing,
If I speak in Piemontese,
Luca listens to me.
Afterward, he tells me I speak a foreign language,
that my words are English words,
Anyway, he repeats them with pleasure and you can see he really wants to learn them.
Aj'heu nà nuud che er gira per cà
Luca a luma batsà,
trei ani a rà ancura nan cumpì,
ma con ir sò linguagi ben a sfà capì,
arè svig, che ad pù as-por nan dì,
con rà nona dausen,
ant-rà curt, ai pias fè i sò girulen,
pò as bità a gighè,
rè propi da bajchè,
tant a rè sbarasen,
Quand da rà sjlù au turna a cà,
er sauta er gioga an-ter prà,
aj pijas fè curi ir can,
e rà cua aj pija an man,
pò con ir triclico in gir ar fà,
mentri tà spiega l'uch che-rà mangià,
Sè me parl an piemuntajs,
chial mas-scutà è pò man dis,
che mè parl di nat paijs,
che ir mè parlè inglaijs arè,
ma ir paroli che mè dis,
a-i ripet vurentè,
pirchè as vugh che
ij vor propi amparè.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.