Gnessulógo: Andrea Zanzotto and the space in between

The moltitudine each of us is made of embraces not only a plurality of selves, but also a community of others spread across the time and space dimensions. After all, we are a scrap, a part of the infinite process of creation and destruction, war relicts resurrected to new life. And yet,  at  the same time each of us is opened up to a principium individuationis in order to emerge from the unconscious, speachless presence and bloom – for a day, a year, who knows? -with words and fragile attempts to detect a sense of this coexistence of wealth and lack.

This poem by Andrea Zanzotto sounds like an irriverent ode to this process. We offer here our translation.

The Montello Wood – with its ossuaries filled with the remains of the soldiers fallen here during the WW1 – is the setting of Zanzotto’s book Il Galateo in Bosco (first published in 1978) as well as of its opening poem Noplace.
Gnessulógo, a dialect word here used as an adverb (still a “milky safety”, even if here not in “mente” –  see Epilogo, IX Ecloghe), unveils the hidden stream of this place, which is at the same time enchanting and terrible like the river Piave, Acheron flowing at its foot. The Wood as a symbolic womb in the space in between life and death, creation and dissolution, a noplace where we take place.

Cover Photo: Doline on Montello hill called the “valley of the dead men”: countless lives end here in June 1918



Amidst all the silly glory

made available

to the sucking and suckled green

of typical Montellian glades

ascending and descending circles, and – like ribbons –

saplings vines byways there and here

bundled and then spread out

in the mildest impracticality   ah

ah   true sighs just suggested and yet more than completed

happiness but not too much

like a wine tasted and left – zich – half finished

by the connoisseur who instantly bucks off

elusiveness yet certainly intertwined

with tacks and triangulations,

of arpeggios             and then woody embraces

(it is thus that you cultivate woods and non-woods in silent madness)

And it is thus that you feel nowhere, noplace (adverb)

while without allusions

from nothing to nothing distills itself (inverse)

and in vain because                                 noplace

is never equivalent to noplace and

because precisely here

there is only invitation-to-place there is a fine chain

of wealth and lack      here and there            there and here

– and who will live will see –

invitation not without divine blarney

in which everyone’ll must

find oneself

as with hands (vine leaves) folded  inserted

as much as uninserted

so as to become, at the last test of sucking

and of drilling suck,

become secretion, a droplet of point-of-view

typical of the infinite when it is thus humbly enmeshed…

Ribbons, byways, silly glories, spring virtues…

U-conversion granted





Tra tutta la gloria
messa a disposizione
del succhiante e succhiellato verde 
   di radura tipicamente montelliana
   circhi in ascese e discese e – come gale – 
        arboscelli vitigni stradine là e qui
        affastellate e poi sciorinate
              in una soavissima impraticità      ah
ah veri sospiri appena accennati eppur più che completi
      lietezza ma non troppa
              come un vino assaggiato e lasciato – zich – a metà
              dall’intenditore che subito via sgroppa
      vaghezza ma certo intrecciata
                                    di imbastiture e triangolazione,
              di arpeggi        e poi amplessi boschivi
(è così che bosco e non-bosco in quieta pazzia tu coltivi)

Ed è così che ti senti nessunluogo, gnessulógo (avverbio)
   mentre senza sottintesi
        di niente in niente distilla se stesso (diverbio)
             e invano perché gnessulógo 
                 mai a gnessulógo è equivalente e 
                 perché qui propriamente
                 c’è solo invito-a-luogo c’è catenina
                 di ricchezze e carenze       qua e lì       lì e là
                                               – e chi vivrà vedrà – 
                 invito non privo di divine moine
                 in cui ognuno dovrà
                 come a mani (pampini) giunte inserito
                 e altrettanto disinserito 
                 per potersi fare, in ultimo test di succhio
                                                             e di succhiello,
                 farsi yalina caccola, gocciolo di punto-di-vista
tipico dell’infinito quando è così umilmente irretito…
                 Gale, stradine, gloriole, primaverili virtù…
                 Ammessa conversione a U