Ether Sea Projects

About the Book

Attanasio - CoverAmnesia of the Movement of Clouds & Of Red and Black Verse

Maria Attanasio

Translated by Carla Billitteri

February 2014 • 140 pp. • $18.00
ISBN: 978-1-933959-42-9
Cover art by Thomas Flechtner




“In juxtaposing individuality and collectively experienced events, direct and second-hand experiences, Attanasio retains a sense of proportion, and, indeed, recognizes a difference between the obstructed memory of personal loss and the ethical lethargy that sets historical losses at a safe remove. Her poems create a tension between the singularity of our own experience and the generality of history, often arriving at a precise rendering of the political paralysis created by the gap between public and private.”

— from the introduction by Carla Billitteri

Amnesia of the Movement of Clouds & Of Red and Black Verse, two books published in a single volume, is the first full-length English translation of work by contemporary Sicilian poet Maria Attanasio. Drawing on her training as a philosopher and deep reader of German Expressionist and French Surrealist poetry, her visionary work dwells on contemporary selfhood in a technologically driven age, reflecting how such selfhood is set against the desolate political and existential void of a new century, one she describes as “the god of … indifference,” “the great amnesia.” Attanasio’s landscapes are as dreamlike as they are realistic, darkened by poverty, death, inequality and illegal immigration, carved by a sculptural language that seeks to uncover the historical and political strata of everyday life.



“These spiked, analytic lyrics are coiled against the turbulence of everyday life: talismans of acidic cognition against a culture that rewards forgetting. In this bilingual edition of two books of Maria Attanasio, Carla Billitteri hews to the poet’s knotted chiaroscuro, giving us a labyrinthine series of viscerally charged, haunted studies.”

— Charles Bernstein

“Carla Billitteri’s confident translations of Amnesia of the Movement of Clouds and Of Red and Black Verse, two of Maria Attanasio’s most recent collections of poetry, offer English language readers the verses of a poet whose eyes see the sound of verse and feel its dispersal. The expression of impermanence communicated by these poems is balanced by the acuity of a language that is poetic exactly because it is amnesiatic. The pairing of Amnesia and Of Red and Black Verse sheds light onto our daily struggles with sense, memory, perception, and ‘disobedient writing’ in translations that complement the originals.”

— Pasquale Verdicchio

“Attanasio’s poems are succinct but wide-ranging condensations, and these inventive versions by Carla Billitteri are welcome additions to the body of contemporary Italian poetry in English.”

— Geoffrey Brock



I do not know where you are lost tongue
once upon a time you spoke a thousand dialects
now you stutter and stumble
fax hissing in vain in the room
secret rustle that in the night
without signs of acknowledgment pushes
through atonal dunes, the implacable wind.


It Was Mine …

It was mine, in the uncorrupted sphere of Parmenides
the river wave the anonymous hand that in the dream
strokes you: dark symmetry of fire and water
unconscious rustle of neurons.
It was disagreement
the swarmy overflowing in apricot flesh, divided
in the cosmogony of night from the deep flow
of particles exchanges from the blind seeking of electrons
to the synthesis, here, among the merchants and the hungry,
Kafka’s beetle consciousness that dies.


Each Tentacle an Eye …

Each tentacle an eye
each scale a paw
present time of rubble of transit of clouds
without addressee beyond the low hills the plain
of pomegranate trees and obsidian where refugees
camp in a fiction of stasis
dragon snake
between breath and mouth.

Amnesia of the movement of the clouds
darkness of spent encephalus.



© Litmus Press. All rights reserved.

Maria Attanasio

Maria Attanasio

Maria Attanasio was born in Caltagirone, Italy, in 1943, where she still lives, writes, and teaches philosophy. Attanasio is the author of five collections of poetry and four works of historical fiction. Her latest work, Il Falsario di Caltagirone (The Forger of Caltagirone), has been the recipient of the prestigious Premio Viottorini. Her books of poetry are Interni (Interiors) (Milano: Guanda 1979), Nero barocco nero (Black Baroque Black) (Caltanissetta: Sciascia 1985), Eros e mente (Eros and Mind) (Milano: La Vita Felice 1996), Ludica mente (Ludic Mind, or Ludically) (Roma: Avagliano 2000), and Amnesia del movimento delle nuvole (Amnesia of the Movement of Clouds) (Milano: La Vita Felice 2003). Her works in prose include Correva l'anno 1698 e nella citta' avvenne il fatto memorabile (It Was the Year 1698 and in the City the Memorable Fact Occurred) (Palermo: Sellerio 1994) and Di Concetta e le sue donne (Of Concetta and Her Women) (Palermo: Sellerio 1999). Amnesia of the Movement of Clouds & Of Red and Black Verse is the first full-length publication in English of Attanasio's work.

Carla Billitteri

Carla Billitteri was born and educated in Italy, and holds a Ph.D. from the Poetics Program at the University of Buffalo. She is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Maine and a member of the editorial collective of the National Poetry Foundation. She has been active as a translator of contemporary Italian poetry since 1995, with work in Aufgabe, Boundary2, How2, Fascicle, and Rif/t. An edition of her translations from Alda Merini’s aphorisms, I Am a Furious Little Bee, was published by Hooke Press in 2008. She is also the author of a critical study, Language and the Renewal of Society in Walt Whitman, Laura (Riding) Jackson and Charles Olson (Palgrave, 2009), and of numerous essays on English- and Italian-language poetry.