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Campari Smiles: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli

Campari Smiles: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli



You often
seem to smile
even when asleep,
light wrinkles on your
forehead, a barely audible
hiss from your nose. Your smile,
by night as by day, emanates not just
from your lips and gaze, but also from your
chin, cheeks and temples, from how your whole
body lies on the bed or moves around. It goes beyond
corporeity, is smoothly metaphysical, and metamental. Your
smile, and your letting me draw so heavily and freely from it, as if
you wished that I stored in me as much as possible of it, for me to smile at
you in turn, is the greatest gift I’ve ever received. It’s why I wake up every night
to stare at you, and I rest my eyes on you each time I can unseen, your smiling face being
all and only what I feel I have been always yearning for. My life’s wallpaper, and my sole world.




It’s so muggy and unpleasant but
there’s time for sunshine to vanish.
Lying, between darkness and lines,
running short of gas, on the fringes
of wildness, waiting for my curber.
All the years behind don’t count a
minute, a minute ahead counts
who knows how many years.
The orange slice’s slowly
turning sour among
the rocks and so
is anything
that may
still be
so sodden—
it’s so damn easy to say that I had
always known that but didn’t care.




Before the last shaft
was intercepted
by the lowering bank
of murky nimbostrata
the color of pewter,
the pallid moorland
had already gone dark,
blurred in the distance,
all sounds had faded out
to unnatural silence,
and the sharp contour
of the imposing…
Well, my dear reader,
I beg you to finish this,
’cause the clock just rang
and my lasagna’s ready.



Copyright© 2020 by Alessio Zanelli. All Rights Reserved.

Alessio Zanelli is an Italian poet who writes in English and whose work has appeared in some 180 literary journals from 16 countries. His fifth original collection, titled “The Secret Of Archery”, was published in 2019 by Greenwich Exchange (London). For more information please visit

The Way of the Harvest

The Way of the Harvest

Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The Harvesters, 1565

Spinozablue welcomes in the month of October with new poetry from Alessio Zanelli, Kyle Hemmings and Joshua Bocher.  


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Hilary Sideris, one of our contributors, has a new book of poems out. It’s called Sweet Flag, and you can purchase it through Finishing Line Press. Congratulations, Hilary!



Alessio Zanelli: Of Leaps and old Booksellers

Alessio Zanelli: Of Leaps and old Booksellers

White Mulberries


One Indian file resists the advance of pylons and smokestacks,
right at the bottom of the hollow between the main embankments.

Forsaken sentries captive at home,
ashy relics of earth, air, water and fire.

This land has forgotten that once it teemed with countless arrays.
They know and strive to last till worms return to claim what’s theirs.


Of Leaps And Old Booksellers


Did you notice the limper?
It could leap, but hardly walk.
And the beached whale?
What a disgrace! It wanted to be a shell,
for someone to pick up and hold in their hand.
So it leapt onto the shore.
How unfair this world turns out to be.
And Einstein? What did Einstein say?
That space and time are relative?
Inertial observers? What do you know of inertia?
Whoever grasped anything of all that?
Life is made of leaps:
those of faith and those of rashness.
See, in the end the limper is not that disadvantaged,
and whales not that ingenuous,
and Einstein not so beyond comprehension.
Actually, they weren’t fond of leaps at all.
But we’d better set off now,
for we’re not limpers,
and we’re not whales,
and we’re not relativists.
The old bookseller is waiting for us in the backshop,
you know how he is: he doesn’t stand latecomers,
gets angry for the slightest thing.
Yes, he can really catch fire under water.
He’ll give us some more dusty book to read,
who knows, maybe on limpers,
or disorientated whales,
or half-crazed theoreticians.
He never gives us books for common people.
Come on, let’s go, are you not curious?
No, don’t tell me! You’re afraid of the old bookseller?
Of what may finish in your hand?
Brace up.
You’re pretty fit,
and it’s only a little leap.


The Road Eater


Knight’s heart, blade’s tenacity, breaker’s rush—
crammed into a puny body, wan like wrinkled fruit.
Furrows of thousands of miles from soles up to forehead.
Each square inch of skin tells of dusty roads, impossible paths,
snow and slush, salt-filled and glacier-skimming thin air.
Each face wrinkle bears breath-sucking ascent’s and
knee-cracking descent’s stretches, timeless and
spaceless days, without a stop and without a home,
full but of solitude. Unending lengths under blazing sun,
through soupy fogs greedy for effort and sweat, by the clearest
freeze’s sharp and shimmering light and the most stifling
sultriness’s fuzzy glow. Past this and more his short
steps have pushed him in front of the ultimate
challenger. There where the roads end, where he’d
anyway arrived whatever route he might have taken. For
the only defiance he could have never avoided. And what seas
and mountain ranges, steppes and deserts, asphalt rivers
and intricate mazes, hailstorms and rushing squalls
couldn’t do, neither could his breath’s draining
rhythm nor his pace’s obsessive beat—a little cloud
could. Pure and harmless, but fixed and non-bypassable,
up there, just a touch higher than the summits in the distance,
to filch the setting sun’s feeble late beams. At the last the
knight loses the single combat, the blade snaps off,
the breaker slackens and looks for some easier  
landing place on the even shore. The little foam left
disappears from view in the sand. The cloudlet dissolves.


— by Alessio Zanelli


Copyright ©2012, by Alessio Zanelli. All Rights Reserved.


Alessio Zanelli, Italian, has long adopted English as his literary language and his work has appeared widely in magazines from 12 countries including, in the USA, California Quarterly, Concho River Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Italian Americana, Potomac Review and World Literature Today. His fourth collection, Over Misty Plains, was published by Indigo Dreams in early 2012. He is the poetry editor of Private Photo Review and the Italian Stanza Representative for the Poetry Society of London.


New Poetry and a Short Film

New Poetry and a Short Film

We have some new poetry on tap from Sheema Kalbasi, Alessio Zanelli and Tony Jones. Sheema also tipped me off to a very good short film and hopes our readers will view the movie here.

The filmmaker in question, Hossein Martin Fazeli, is also a poet. One I hope to publish here soon.



If I had another life to live, I think I would be a filmmaker. The ability to make art that way, to combine prose, poetry, music, soundscapes, landscapes, paintings, photography, motion. It has it all. And I don’t think that “all” has been fully exploited. One could do a life of a poet, a musician, a novelist, a painter, a philosopher. One could utilize most of our senses and hint at the rest. He or she could create a world and go beyond any one form of art by itself.

Of course, it can not match the sustained connection between reader and writer provoked by the greatest works of literature, or focus our attention on one image like the greatest paintings and sculptures, but it could place and replace words on the screen to stir different emotions and links. It could and should provoke us to experience the multiplicity of art forms in a single sitting. Never to be the end all and be all. But one more catalyst. One more outreach program. One more initiation experience to beat the band.


The Shriek: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli

The Shriek: New Poems by Alessio Zanelli

The Shriek

On the edge of her lip, like a car
balanced on the brink of a precipice,
the shriek has halted, swaying.
Just one spasm, and all of her anger
would gush down noisily, sweeping
sighs and placid thoughts away.
We could try to rescue those inside
the shaky car before it plunges
to the bottom of the crag, but nothing
curable is in that mouthful of vibrations.
And the force of a thousand hurricanes
locked in a chest then suddenly released
would not suffice to wash such evil.
In the end what is unavoidable befalls,
and the tenacity of her facial muscles
is not worth the trouble. Ineffectual,
however long she strives, to hold her breath.
No human can contain a lifetime’s pain.



The Effort

Moon shines while billions
of corpses rot
beneath earth’s crust.
—Shinkichi Takahashi

Man’s sight is dim.
Man’s look is squint.
Man’s eye is corrupt.
Man is the end.
Man is the end.
Not machines, not profit.
Man’s effort
cannot be vain.
Man is no means.
Man is the end.
Man is the end.
Not machines, not profit.
Man has to last
until the stars
decree the end.


Alessio Zanelli is an Italian poet who has long adopted English as his writing language and his work has appeared in over 100 literary magazines from 12 countries including, in the USA, Antietam Review, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Concho River Review, The Iconoclast, Italian Americana, Main Street Rag, Poesia, Poesy and Potomac Review. He is the author of three collections, most recently Straight Astray, the poetry editor of Private Photo Review, an international magazine of b/w photography and short writings, and a featured poet in the 2006 edition of Poet’s Market. Alessio’s website is here.
Copyright© 2008, by Alessio Zanelli. All Rights Reserved.

Quick Note

Quick Note

The Poet Anacreon with his Muses. 1890

We have a new interview on tap below. This time with Alessio Zanelli, an Italian poet who has graced our pages before. It’s often interesting to get a sense of the working methods and inspiraton behind contemporary artists, and interviews are a good way of doing that. I also think it’s important to support them. So many of us choose to read great works of writers long gone, and fail to see the art right in front of our noses.


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Reading Stefan Zweig’s excellent The Post-Office Girl right now. Will do a review shortly. Also will post about one of my favorite books, The Ginger Man, by J.P. Donleavy. A true classic. Brilliant. Funny. Unforgettable.

An Interview with Alessio Zanelli

An Interview with Alessio Zanelli

Alan Corkish interviews Alessio Zanelli . . . You can visit the Erbacce Poetry Journal here.
Alan: Hy Alessio and welcome to erbacce … I just typed into google the words ‘Alessio Zanelli poet’ and got swamped with hits, I gave up counting how many hits after I reached the 200 mark. Most of what I got is detail about your work, where you live in Italy, how English is your adopted literary tongue etc., but what erbacce readers really want to know is about you, as a human-being, as a political animal, as a man of ideas; tell me about the real Alessio Zanelli …

Alessio: The ‘real’ me is a simple man quite absorbed in his little world, but very attentive and sensitive to everything happening outside its limited boundaries. From some perspective, it would be wonderful to be able to live completely isolated, but it would also be utterly useless! The way one is affected by the world ‘outside’ is mirrored not only in how one acts, but also in what one writes. Therefore, although my writing is strongly symbolic and metaphoric, so much that it often seems completely abstract, deep down it always reflects the real world as I perceive it and my views on everything that meets my eye, my ear, my heart and my mind. Today most editors are desperately seeking ‘honest and concrete’ poetry, by such adjectives meaning poetry about real people, real places, real facts, but in so doing they forget that often reality can be better described and conveyed to readers by means of imagination and allegory, in other words, of apparent fiction. I rarely write ‘concrete’ (referred to subject matters and not to visual features of the lines on the page), or ‘barely factual’, or ‘minimalistic’ poetry, but be assured that everything I write is intimately linked to the real world in which I breathe and move. My poems are never the mere result of what in Italian is called a volo pindarico (a simple flight on the wings of fantasy). I spend my days doing what most people do: working or having fun, straining my body and mind or relaxing, loving and hating, etc., but I never miss a chance of observing what’s going on anywhere around me (be it either a step or a thousand miles away) and of thinking how to make a poem out of it, not even when at work or during my long and solitary runs in the countryside. So, I can’t reply to all the issues you touched in your question, you’d need to be more specific, but I certainly am an animal human (or a human animal?), and a ‘political’ subject in my own way.

Alan: Imagination and allegory equal ‘apparent fiction’? Is that right? I mean is that what you are saying because I’m not at all sure I agree. It’s the word ‘apparent’ that throws me a little I guess … is this the Zanelli’s mischievous sense of humour? Are you speaking with your tongue in your cheek?

Alessio: Alessio: No, no, no! (remember the song by Deep Purple?). Imagination and allegory (some call the mix of the two ‘imagery’) are not tools to invent stories or simply fantasize. Indeed, they’re powerful implements to describe, and sometimes interpret, the real world. Therefore, by ‘apparent’ I mean ‘seeming’ (and not ‘evident’ or ‘obvious’). To put it neatly and plainly, in my opinion good poetry should be about real events or feelings but leap out at the reader’s eye and mind as if it were a straight product of the poet’s fantasy. I hope this clarifies what I expounded before, and I’m sorry for the misunderstanding about the acceptation of ‘apparent’. That said, it should now be ‘apparent’ (here actually meaning ‘easily understood’) that I don’t like minimalist or bare poetry very much, except when the poet’s ability in employing and mastering the language is so great that he can picture anything he deals with by a few terse yet really powerful lines, or even words. Here’s my perfect example of such poetry (I translated it from the Italian original by Giuseppe Ungaretti):

We stand
as in autumn
on the trees
the leaves.

Unfortunately, the poets endowed with such a power are really few. Even more unfortunately, I’m not one of them.

Alan: Right! I see what you mean now. I too am impressed by people who can handle the short powerful poems well; good Haiku for example, but sadly that too is scarce as hen’s teeth. One thing that intrigues me: I am a huge fan of Joseph Conrad who, as you know, wrote in many other languages other than his native tongue. Is there a particular reason why you choose to write mainly in English?

Alessio: Well, it’s quite a long story to tell! I have never studied English at school, since the only foreign language I’ve ever studied is German. Anyway, when I was a youngster, like almost every teenager in the seventies, I was particularly fond of rock music, and the worldwide language of rock is English. It so happened I also used to be the singer in the local cover band, having to write the lyrics of original songs once in a while, when not aping the most famous British or American bands of the time. It all began there, since I soon fell in love with the language, so fascinating because of its sound, richness and malleability. Of course the leap from the lyrics of Smoke On The Water or Whole Lotta Love to the Proverbs Of Hell of Blake or the Sonnets of Shakespeare is a tremendous one, but things actually went like that! I began studying English as an autodidact and writing poems in that language in 1985, adding several journeys to the UK, the USA and Canada over the following years. I can’t say I master the language like a native, but English certainly is my second tongue and I use it whenever I can also as a spoken language. Today I own over 300 books of English poetry (of which I’ve read about 50%) and my personal library includes some 50 volumes on the English language: dictionaries, thesauruses, usage manuals and reference books of any kind, on style, punctuation, quotations, etc., as well as books on literature, poetry and poetics (any English Professor from Oxford or Cambridge would envy me such library). Furthermore, I try to read as many books of various genres as I can in English (often even translations from other languages, Italian included); also, my video library includes nearly 200 films, which I watch set-up in English of course. As to poetry, so far I’ve had over 200 works published in (usually small) literary magazines from 12 countries, mostly the UK and the USA. Ah, I hope you won’t take it amiss, but when writing I usually adopt the American spelling and usage.

Alan: Yes I had noticed the American spelling; but you are forgiven my son. I want to leave lots of room for your exceptional poetry but I personally am really curious as to how the poetry-scene fans-out in Italy! Liverpool is awash with poetry readings on any given night; what about where you are? And one presumes people read in Italian? Do you attend open-mike sessions and do you ‘perform’?

Alessio: The poetry scenario in Britain is much richer than in Italy, from whatever point of view you look at it. Whether you consider the number of literary magazines, or of poetry readings, or of whatever happenings related to poetry, there’s no contest! It may seem strange or even unbelievable, but yes, one of the countries of poetry and literature par excellence (mine) has quite less to offer to beginning or experienced poets than the most of other countries. There are poetry readings and competitions in Italy of course, but it’s nothing comparable to what happens in the UK (or the USA), as to both quantity and quality (as well as the number of people attending them!). Actually, I think that readings are a dimension of poetry fully to be discovered in Italy, but maybe first poetry itself should be rediscovered! So, I have attended a very few readings, either as a listener or a performer, and in most cases it’s been just on the occasion of the launch of my collections or of poetry competitions organized by foreign people who live in Italy (e. g. the beautiful Poetry On The Lake Festival, organized every autumn in an enchanting locality of Piedmont by my friend and fellow poet Gabriel Griffin).

Alan: Personally I feel performance-poetry will be the final nail in the coffin or poetry-as-art … but that’s me … I feel we’ve actually skirted around politics so one final question. Do you have any strong feelings about the current Gulf Wars? One way or another? And do you ever feel a need to express an ‘opinion’ in your poetry?

Alessio: I agree with you on performance-poetry only partly. It certainly is an important means to circulate poetry and allows poets to add a special dimension to their creative process, as they can interpret their own works and bring out what they consider most important: sound, rhythm, mood, ambience, emotion, you name it. At the same time, adhering to the classic conception of poetry, I think that the ‘intimist’ character of poetry, that private and silent relation between a poem on the page and each reader, is also of the utmost importance, so that written (thence silently read) poetry can well stand per se. Let me try to put it in simpler words: poetry readings and every other kind of performance-poetry are of great significance for the emotional involvement of the author, but not necessary, and should never add to nor subtract from the intrinsic value of a poem.

The Gulf Wars? Oh my God, I’ve changed my opinion on such dramatic events many times and it’s quite difficult to come up with something definitive. Anyway, here’s my point: the military invasion of Iraq had to be avoided, or at least carried out only after further negotiations, in case of a negative outcome, and only with the general approval of all the influential nations (those of NATO, plus Russia, China, Japan, etc.). Now that la frittata è fatta (havoc has been created), in all fairness I wouldn’t know what to suggest to fix the disastrous situation: the various ethnic and religious groups living in Iraq keep on affording indisputable proofs that they strongly hate each other, and that Saddam was the only bond keeping them together (i. e., keeping them from slaughtering each other). That said, I really don’t know what the consequence of the withdrawal of the international troops from Iraq could be, even if phased: would suicide bombings and killings de-escalate or would we witness an even fiercer rendering of accounts?

Social and political issues are present in my poetry, but only when spontaneously coming to the surface of my inspiration (I never force myself to treat such subject matters, but when it happens I really speak my mind!). Here’s an example of such poems (about the eternal fratricidal war between the Israelis and the Palestinians):

Thrice Holy Land

It’s on Time’s cover—again!
Allah’s bomb took twelve or so—
Starred tanks razed hovels to the ground.

Those bearing the Cross hold silent in between.

That way—men keep on going to the land
When on both sides there’d be need
For the land to go back to men.

The globe’s rulers attend.

It’s on TV right now—again!
This time the bomb took only ten—
Soon will endangered David take revenge.

first published in Poetry Monthly (UK)

Alessio Zanelli is an Italian poet who has long adopted English as his writing language and his work has appeared in over 100 literary magazines from 12 countries including, in the USA, Antietam Review, California Quarterly, Chiron Review, Concho River Review, The Iconoclast, Italian Americana, Main Street Rag, Poesia, Poesy and Potomac Review. He is the author of three collections, most recently Straight Astray, the poetry editor of Private Photo Review, an international magazine of b/w photography and short writings, and a featured poet in the 2006 edition of Poet’s Market. Alessio’s website can be found here:

Copyright© 2008, Alessio Zanelli. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.

Quick Update . . .

Quick Update . . .


Some new works to peruse: Rick Diguette’s amusing display of evolutionary erudition, plus new Poetry from Tony Jones and Alessio Zanelli.

Will be gearing up shortly for Bloom’s Day on the 16th, taking our readers as close as we can to Dublin, Ireland, without actually blogging from Dublin. James Joyce being one of the patron saints of this journal, whether he knows that or not . . . .

As always, please feel free to comment on any or all of the postings on tap.



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