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Joseph Tusiani
Poetry as rebirth
A recently-published volume, A Clarion Call, collects his most intense verses, written after the stroke which the Apulian-American poet suffered in 2014, shortly after his 90th birthday.
Verses from which emerge a sense of regeneration and vital impulse. In the wake of Svevo, Montale and Moravia, in whom suffering led to a more powerful vision of life
by Sergio D’Amaro
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A Clarion Call (New York, Bordighera Press, 90 pages, 2016), selects sixty-eight of the hundreds of compositions that Joseph Tusiani has written since February 2014, when he suffered a stroke which caused the partial loss of the use of his legs. He had just celebrated his glorious 90th birthday with a great party held in New York in which a solid delegation from his home town of San Marco in Lamis had attended. Miraculously, Joseph, wielding a pen and a red notebook (as Anthony J. Tamburri tells us, since he went to visit him and edited this book together with Paolo Giordano), began to write again only forty-eight hours after the sorry episode.

For those who know him well it doesn’t come as a surprise, since for our author writing has been the most efficacious of remedies and the best of friends. We could, while we are on the subject, cite some remarkable examples in which the act of writing meant salvation, a nourishing space in which to live, resuscitating senses and memory, declaring a regeneration and vital impulse, clarifying one’s existential path. So it was, to cite some illustrious cases, for Svevo, Montale or Moravia, in whom an organic or psychological illness could mean a moral crisis and the suffering conscience of the world, to then resolve itself in a more powerful vision of life, in the clarity of analysis surrounded by doubts.

In this book Tusiani has redressed the suffering by elevating it to an instrument of enlightenment, he has looked into his “stormy mind” to regain the Olympic garden of peace. But apart from being a reconciliation of a religious nature, here the rebirth meets the totalizing vision of a cosmic harmony. Signals making reference to the semantic constellation of light bear witness to this, from the insistence on the “morning”, on the beginning of a new day punctuated by epiphanies, by sensations, by intuitions, relative to a renewed knowledge of the world, and to an evident gratitude towards all that is life.

How shall I name this tempest and this peace, / this dark that goes, this limpidness that stays” (the lines belong to the poem Only a chapter that Bridge has published in its feature section). Here the work of the poem is an expulsion of the darkness of evil, it’s the triumph of the light of intelligence, of sensitivity, of creativity, in a word; beauty. From the cone of shadow gouged by his illness, Tusiani has extracted the pearl of beauty that is Good, of the banal that becomes a miracle, of the fleeting that becomes eternal. He has achieved from the tempest of images that tormented his mind a calm profundity of outlook, he has regained a health that seemed lost to him, and now has imposed itself as a luminous sun that strikes in all its wisdom. And it is the same “Lord of the Light” known as a child, they are the same dreams that nourished his early life and that transcend reality and enrich it, that suggest the difficult path of a pact and a movable bridge stretching from Gargano across the Atlantic. So the incessant questions posed by this interrogative poet return, as do the Hamlet-like doubts about destiny and the unity of his own conscience, about the irreversible loss of years in such a long life, about the disturbing absurdity of a mystery that deforms the confines of what is allowed us.

Perhaps only silence (“Silentium / solum bonum omnium viventium”) suits those who, by ploughing their memories, discovers the sprouting of a canticle. This is the religious disposition (of Pascal and Spinoza both) of Tusiani’s most recent work. The “clarion call” of the title alludes to a re-awakening, to a revelation, to a re-birth.

His past religious education cannot fail to respond to this vocation, to this stroke of lightning, on the new morning that he frees himself from the embrace of darkness, and points, purified, to the road of the eternal wayfarer that is Man.