The title of this potent collection of verse offers a tension: the immovable hardness of marble and the fluid action of a wave. A similar tension drives the poetry inside, which is often beset by productive contradictions. Foremost among them is the poet’s balance between his language’s narrow precision and the remarkable breadth of his frame of reference. There is some of Emily Dickinson in his style, and like the belle of Amherst, he writes brief poems; few stretch past 60 or 70 words, and most fit into a handful of concise stanzas, but they pack a punch. The entirety of one untitled piece reads, “When only a tree be left and grief / Has shaved the head and eyes of man / In the godly twilight / A silent cloud will trap moonlight / Until on eyes of stone / From cracked skies / dawn breaks.” There’s much to admire in such economical diction, from the grief that uncannily shears not only a head, but also “eyes,” to the enticing mystery of “godly twilight.” Mandolini-Pesaresi has a Ph.D. in Italian literature, and his broad knowledge base lends his writing a rich, allusive texture. In “Safinah,” for example, he quotes the dying words of the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who requests passage on the ship Aphinar: “`Aphinar, ‘Aphinar … / Lonely name in the dreamer’s eyes / Vague as a half-forgiven memory.” Elsewhere, in “The Cup-bearer Girl,” he closes with a mention of Shams-e Tabrîzî, the lover and mentor of the Sufi poet Rumi: “Nowhere to hide the breeze / Effendi of hoisted hopes, / Hailéd at last, Shams-e Tabrîzî.” Such a broad purview gives the author many fallow fields from which to draw material; he digs deep, unearthing satisfyingly weighty poetry.
Fine literature from a literary critic.