Photo credit: Luca Carlino | Interview by Zoë Brigley
“Every single word, every one of my lines, arises out of the quest for immortality, to conquer death”
Why are you calling out to me?
Why are you calling out to me? I’m coming with my body laid out and icon-seared eyes. Be ready to set fire, to throw me among the catcalls, the wood, the little that remains.
Every effort takes me down.
Te, lapis, optestor leviter super ossa residas1. My face is already macerated, my flesh rotted. I anoint it with myrrh, get it ready. My breath is broken, my throat wheezes. Every effort takes me down.
I made my coffin ready
I made my coffin ready, in the thud of evening. I was mirrored in it, I found my way back. I’m through with that, I want only to lose myself in the noise of the city, in the light that confounds, in the pain that digs.
I am ready to tell you everything
I am ready to tell you everything. I come to you as they taught me, without haste, one foot after the other. My shadow leaves no mark, it approaches with the new wind, moves from the sea. If I could hear your voice I would know to follow you, I would perhaps be able to sing. But all is silent, the fire spreads and then dies down it clashes with the sky, invokes the horizon, falls. It is without stars and I am so empty.
Don’t leave my body to the dogs
Don’t leave my body to the dogs, burn it far away with its ills. The fire will cleanse its wounds, the ashes will soothe its challenges. At a thousand degrees my bite will still be strong, my sin, this comedy.
1I plead with you, stone, to rest lightly on my bones.
So you are just having a book out called Confessions, a collaboration with the artist Andres Serrano. Are these poems from that collaboration?
Yes, we worked separately on the fundamental Christian themes of “Pity”, “Passion” and “Crucifixion” through the work of Michelangelo. It was all put together in a splendidly edited book by Eris Press (London).
Your poems have an epigrammatic quality and they draw on the journeys of religious figures towards spiritual cleansing, like Jacopone da Todi, a thirteenth century clergyman and poetry, who you describe as a tortured character. What do we get out of such journeys in poetry?
Having grown up in a Christian culture, the figures of saints, artists and poets have always been interchangeable to me, being figures prepared to sacrifice themselves for an idea. All my work is derived from that agonistic spirit, from seeing existence as a struggle in a foreign land (Marcus Aurelius), our very body and mind as battlefields of forces that transcend us and will end us. Every single word, every one of my lines, arises out of the quest for immortality, to conquer death.
These short poems seem to have at their heart coming to terms with mortality. Do you think this is part of your poetics?
My poetry is monologue, protection against death, it is an act of resistance against the power of death. Because everything starts from that, from that fear, and leads back to it. We write, we practice art, we step outside ourselves by creating something, a picture, a text, in order to desperately endure, to conquer time. It is a pathetic attempt, but it is this that is behind all Western art.
Gabriele Tinti (he/him) is an Italian poet and writer. He has worked with the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the British Museum (among many other institutions), and his poems have been performed by actors including Abel Ferrara and Malcolm McDowell. In 2018 his ekphrastic poetry project Ruins was awarded the Premio Montale with a ceremony at the Museo Nazionale Romano in Palazzo Altemps.
You can follow him on Instagram @gabrieletinti and visit his website www.gabrieletinti.com
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