Tiziano Thomas Dossena’s collection of award-winning selected poetry is titled “Sunny Days and Sleepless Night,” a phrase that any poet past life’s midpoint (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita) and glancing backwards might ruefully utter, surprised to find a foundation of work indisputably present on the page as robust, poignant, and hard-earned as any “real” life he lived.
Dossena’s verse sets a bar for openness, frankness, and vulnerability few lives could ever match. In his work, the surprise of his “confessional life” is the one lived off the page, refracted through decades of his sorrowful, pensive, but vivid lines.
The solemnities of art can be, in Dossena’s writing, undermined by emotional exhaustion:
“Bittersweet memories / Erase all the powerful thoughts / Leaving a proven soul / Sighing in an exhausted body,” he writes in “Forgotten.” The passage somewhat echoes the familiar opening of Dante’s “Inferno” — where the narrator says that he does not remember how he lost his way, but he has wandered into a fearful place, a dark and tangled valley.
It is deeply characteristic of him that the most despairing moments are also his most revelational, renewing his own equanimity along with the reader’s.
Dossenas’s work has always been uncompromisingly frontal, a face-forward presentation of himself, simultaneously scrutinizing and vulnerable, writing that often contains the mutual reliance of spontaneity, confession, and calculation.
Many of his poems are chronicles of various barriers first anxiously feared but then crossed, and of the spiritual, physical, and sensual pleasures and pains that would inevitably follow. His realities on the page are a series of crossed thresholds as a lover, a friend, a father, a Roman Catholic. And his verses, so often about the ups and downs of having a keen sensitivity and an emotional depth, are themselves bodies, “anatomies” formed in the aftermath of transformation and transcendence.
Let me pause here and leave you to enjoy this fine work, in English and Italian, for yourself.