That Fabio Pusterla comes from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland — he is a citizen of both Switzerland and Italy — is evident in the flinty landscapes of his earlier work, as exemplified here by “Irrigation Ditch” and “The Poet on Native Ground,” which appear in his collection Pietra Sangue (Marcos y Marcos, 1999). In both poems, the poet scavenges language in a negative space, an alpine landscape that reeks of “piss and money, lumber.” The landscapes are haunted by historical memory — bricklayers, Jeanne Moreau, someone named Maurizio — and the poet’s imagination, not unlike an irrigation ditch, supplies dry land with water.
A high school teacher and contributor to many newspapers and magazines, Pusterla also writes about the plights of the working class and immigrants, and recent work like “Twilit Stanzas” shows his continued interest in historical and political subjects.
I am grateful to the poet Moira Egan and translator Damiano Abeni for introducing me to Pusterla’s poetry. They brought him up in conversation one night in Stonington, Connecticut, where they were in residence at the James Merrill House. Enchanted, not haunted, strikes me as being the right word to describe Merrill’s third floor apartment on Water Street. “A miniature pleasure palace,” his biographer Langdon Hammer calls it. In any case, poetic spirits — however far-flung — seemed to hang in the air that night.
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