22 giugno 2022
by Mario Sechi

A Sea of Poems. Come forward!

Lorenzo Jovanotti and Nicola Crocetti - Pictures di Leandro Emede.
Lorenzo Jovanotti and Nicola Crocetti - Pictures di Leandro Emede.

The hunt for today's myths is open: after Roland Barthes, there is no one else but Barthes. Here, we compile a modest list of objects intercepted by the radar, the coming and going of the season of love (Battiato, 1983), fooled by the alcoholic rate, always high “to forget.” Who's on the list this summer? It starts with words, as always. Whereas "in the beginning was the Word", we cannot help but ride the wake of the phrases, surf on the foam of the vowels and consonants, swim with large strokes on the intertwining of words, follow wheel-to-wheel the verses, grab hold of the puff of rhymes, hitch a ride in the carriage of sounds. We are somewhere between novel and poetry, story and song.

Legends of today: where are they? Who shoots out of a notebook like an eel from the Sargasso Sea? 'Jova'. Who? Lorenzo Cherubini, Mr. Jovanotti, now reduced to 'Jova': a name that can be rounded off, to be served fresh, with watermelon and a bottle of Ichnusa, strictly at 'Jova Beach', the Italian Florida, our Ocean Drive of crazy loves and 'joie de vivre'. Put briefly: it is a beautiful day, at night you can see the stars, we’re in Sardinia.

Mario Sechi interview with Nicola Crocetti

And what does he, 'Jova', have to do with the rhymes and the relaxing destination of the moment? (it's always “all a moment”, Anna Oxa, 1986). What a question! We’re talking about a guy who started stamping on the grapes of rap when he was still in shorts (which he still wears, praise heaven!); Lorenzo has what it takes to participate in the Fiera dell'Est del Bel Canto, the festival where “my father bought a mouse for two pennies” (verses by a musician of our age, Angelo Branduardi, 1976). And then on the pile of books to read (a winey “savor” escapes my pen), there is a title which is the pre-text for writing about him: ‘Poesie da spiaggia’ (Beach Poems).

The copious ink is proof of a crime committed on the shore; the signature is by Nicola Crocetti and Jovanotti. It doesn't take Sherlock Holmes; they left traces all over the place. I crossed paths with Crocetti, way back, editorial office at il Giornale, in via Negri in Milan; Jovanotti has been around ever since he made the leap from the Brothers Grimm to 'Penso positivo’ (Positive thinking). In short, the Italian Persuaders (Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, 1971) and basically, I can say that I know them better than most of my relatives. Crocetti and Jovanotti have set up a poetry ‘disco’, what can be classified, without fear of going over the top, as something wonderful. A collection of poetry, an intimate anthology (which means “flower gathering”, sublime!), something that people don’t make any more, therefore subversive, 'Poesie da spiaggia.' If it were music (it is this too, but it antagonizes the legion of musical purists), it would be something that dangles between Bach and Pink Floyd, Vivaldi and Lady Gaga.

Guy who started stamping on the grapes of rap when he was still in shorts (which he still wears, praise heaven!); Lorenzo has what it takes to participate in the Fiera dell'Est del Bel Canto

'Poesie da spiaggia' is a book born of the explosive (I was about to write 'chthonic' and it would work just fine, because the theme is the underground desire linked to the earth) instinct of Jovanotti (“I was the one who called Crocetti”) and amidst lava, ash and lapilli, the two washed up on shore to choose the poems they love. Thus the book was created between difference and amalgam, addition and subtraction, a metric that calculates the figure of the soul of the couple. I started reading 'Poesie da spiaggia’ (Beach Poems) while Ivano Fossati sang 'Naviganti' (“But now it's time / To go to sleep / Letting slide the book that / helped us to understand”) and I read it to the end with a hunger for writing running through my veins.

To be clear, 'Poesie da spiaggia' doesn’t exactly 'flow', because it harpoons you like a tiger (William Blake: “Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright / In the forests of the night, / What immortal hand or eye / Could frame thy fearful symmetry?”); it drags you, leaves bruises, wounds to be washed with the ointment of literary experience; it is a luxuriant forest of sharp petals and leaves of grass (Walt Whitman: “To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle”), love to and fro (Robert Lowell: “Why does a man love a woman / more than women?”); it is silence, lifeboat, rescue (Mannick: "I know of ships that go off two by two / to face the swell when the storm is overhead”). An adventure, a shipwreck, the mess of life, the journey and not the destination.

Crocetti talks about the over and under of this writing story: his, Jovanotti’s, ours too, in the end. Together, they are something unlikely to happen naturally: free-flowing Jova, dry Crocetti. The result is a joyfulness that shines through, transpires, breathes.

'Poesie da spiaggia' is the high-proof cocktail that gives you a literary hangover

'Poesie da spiaggia' has the fragrance of starfish: the title came from the Jovanotti printing house. “The title is his,” confirms Crocetti, with the smile of a boy who has lived more than 80 summers; and so be it. As soon as the news was out, the critics frowned, the wigs of literary scholars objected, counter-argued and muttered: Er no, Jovanotti publishing poems alongside Rainer Maria Rilke? No, never let pure verse be corrupted by this sell-out concert singer, never! But no, he doesn't publish his poems (he sings them, idiots!) and the heresy, the commercial operation, jeez, is a pitch-up à la Maverick (Top Gun 1 and 2) that is just what was needed in publishing where there is an abundance of good feelings without pathos, writing without ink, books without writers. 'Poesie da spiaggia' is the high-proof cocktail that gives you a literary hangover; our favorite chansonnier did the simple thing in the company of a silent man, an exception born in Patras: choose and put together poems written by beloved poets. Here they are: Crocetti & Jovanotti, heresy on a seahorse, 'Poesie da spiaggia'.

Jova, who makes millions of people dance, and Crocetti, non-automatic translator from the Greek of the oceanic poets of the Aegean, accustomed to speaking to the creatures of the Cyclades. They selected, chose (in Sardinian there is a cosmic word, stellai, to separate, which reminds me of Giacomo Leopardi's “noverar le stelle una ad una”) their best of this season of life, a very personal thing that we should all do, thinking of ourselves, of others, of those who leave and those who remain, of what is really forever, our children. You get it in a flash if you read 'To my Daughter' by Joseph Broskij: “On the whole, bear in mind that I'll be around. Or rather, that an inanimate object might be your father, especially if the objects are older than you, or larger.”

Crocetti and Jovanotti plowed the earth and planted the seed; the book is the juicy fruit of an intelligence moved by the pure interest of having fun making poetry glide and land back where the sea is born. “I imagine this book in a beach bag,” says Jovanotti. It is from the time of Ithaca (the title of the first poem that opens the collection, a masterpiece by Constantine Peter Cavafy: “When you set out on your journey to Ithaca, / pray that the road is long, / full of adventure, full of knowledge”) that the poetic affair navigates on the bodies of water (fresh, salty, brackish), wide playgrounds and the narrows of the imaginary, a passage in Mare Nostrum, going upwind towards the monstrum that awaits us beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the “oceanic sentiment” that moves the great poets. "A book in which there is a lot of life and little death, with high temperature,” Jovanotti comments.

The poetic affair navigates on the bodies of water (fresh, salty, brackish), wide playgrounds and the narrows of the imaginary, a passage in Mare Nostrum

'Poesie da spiaggia' is of outdated punctuality; it is a démodé, ergo revolutionary operation, between Strega prizes that fail to bewitch and pop-summer-literary evenings where everyone is there, no one excluded, except the real readers. Jova who says, “I am very fond of rhyme, in this period to the sonnet” becomes subversive in a world that clicks and doesn’t read. It does not end here; there will be other occasions, other anthologies, another time for what Jovanotti calls a “fun game.”

The fact that he repeats it, that he puts his words into it, no longer just those of others, that he typesets his own verses, that he dares, because “every time we dare, the angels surround us” (yes, there is also the immensity of Ezra Pound, a great jibe against the wind by Jovanotti - “it was Pound who proposed it, and I was surprised and happy,” says Crocetti). A game, so that in the divertissement the essential becomes visible to the eye, as Arbasino did twenty years ago, photographing with rap the beginning of our Third Millennium: "But with whom / and against whom / would the eighty-year-old Pasolini fight today? / ... (Perhaps) some Christian Aristocracy?...”). Perhaps. Time to step forward, young men.

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