Giovanni Tempesta’s work is best described with his own words; it is “alive” and “resonant.” Tempesta writes of love, desire, passion, and compassion, inspired by the Italian lyrical tradition of Petrarch and his “waters,” clear, fresh, and sweet. Yet, as Professor Robert Harrison has noted, modernity has “left its muddy mark” on Tempesta’s work. Irony and nostalgia comingle in his writings, as celebrations of life exist alongside reflections on fear, rejection, realization, and resignation.
The complexities explored by Tempesta are both profound and profoundly human. The pieces in this showcase ask us to consider such questions as whether friendship demands illusion, and whether new life and new joy can emerge from surrender to aestheticized memories. Yet the greatness of Tempesta’s writing lies in its capacity to generate dialogue. The images and concepts within each work hold thoughtful discourse with each other. A reader must actively engage his texts, not to arbitrarily construct meaning, but to capture the abundance of subtlety and nuance that his work evokes. Tempesta’s poetry and prose do not ask to be received or decoded. Rather, they ask the reader to reflect on them and converse with them.
Tempesta commands the linguistic complexities of his native Italian, exhibiting a keen understanding of colloquial speech, high poetic convention, and the capacity for the two to compel one another. No translation can fully capture the stylistic potency of Tempesta’s original Italian, but readers of the English translations in the showcase will observe the intense awareness of history that Tempesta brings to bear in his reflections on contemporary emotion. The works in this showcase evoke, among other things, memories of Aelous, the swallows in the story of Philomel, the “vita nuova” of Dante, and General Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, the Procrastinator. Such explicit dialogue with history and literary tradition only further enriches the capacity of Tempesta’s work to hold intelligent and consequential discourse with its readers.
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