Douglas Reid Skinner South African poet

Work > The Secret Ambition

The Secret Ambition, 2015

A writer of restless enquiry and breadth of learning, Valerio Magrelli bids fair to be the most important poet of his generation in Italy, as witnessed by the critical attention that his work has received and the major prizes it has garnered. The Secret Ambition presents a singular mind exploring the predicaments of being alive in a world mediated by language—by turns inquisitive, contemplative, philosophical, vexed, melancholic and witty. For him, all writing is a kind of translating, and playing with language is a serious occupation, a painstaking process of coming to understand writing through writing itself. These are poems that echo with the reader long after the reading.

  • The Packer

  • What is translation? On a platter
  • A poet’s pale and glaring head.
  • Vladimir Nabakov
  • The packer who bends
  • emptying my room
  • does the same work as I do.
  • I, too, make
  • words relocate,
  • words I do not own,
  • putting my hand to what
  • is unknown, not understanding
  • what I am moving.
  • I am moving myself,
  • translating the past into the present
  • that travels, sealed,
  • enclosed in pages
  • or in boxes labelled
  • ‘Fragile’, not knowing what’s in them.
  • This is the future, the shuttle, the metaphor,
  • time labouring here and over there,
  • transfer and trope,
  • the removals firm.