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Albert Russo

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Books
· The Quatuor of African Novels in a single ebook

· Zapinette Baguette and Tagliatelle

· Eur-African Exiles

· Leodine of the Belgian Congo

· Adopted by an American Homosexual in the Belgian Congo

· Princes and Gods

· I-sraeli Syndrome

· Rome, my sibling, my empress

· Ode to Mamica mia, Mother beloved

· Mother beloved, Mamica mia


Short Stories
· The age of the pearl

· Lebensborn

· New York Bonus

· The spell of Mayaland

· Fast food Lisette

· Souk Secrets

· Spirit of Tar


Articles
· The writer as a chameleon - bilingualism in three continents

· Crisis and creativity in the new literatures in English


Poetry
· To my fellow poets

· Pixel power, from his book, CWS2

· Lost identity

· Emotionally trashed

· Remembrance of a corrected past

· The little things that add up in life

· Cormorant of Yangshuo, from his book Futureyes

· Call of the Falasha, from his book Futureyes

· Now, then and forever, from his book CWS2

· Choo-choo boy, from his book CWS2 (The Crowded World of Solitude, volume2)

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The Crowded World of Solitude, volume 2, the collected poems
by Albert Russo   


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Books by Albert Russo     View all 67
· The Quatuor of African Novels in a single ebook
· Adopted by an American Homosexual in the Belgian Congo
· Princes and Gods


Category: 

Poetry

Publisher:  Xlibris ISBN-10:  1413470181
Pages: 

537

Copyright:  2005


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The Crowded World of Solitude, volume 2, the collected poems

PEDESTAL MAGAZINE:

It is one of that rarest of books, one which seems to contain a hearty cross-section of the writer’s output over the past several years,its themes are just as ambitious as its size; in the book’s more than five hundred pages, Russo writes on such eternal subjects as the vicissitudes of love, the impersonality of modern living, and man’s inhumanity toward man. He also tackles smaller, more immediate subjects, including Aesop-like animal fables, odes to female beauty, even complaints about the unfairness of publishers and literary critics.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE


They call me Gianni
They call me Jim
But also Dominic
In both genders
In every guise

Whether it be Gianni, Jim or Dominic
In the present tense as in the past
First or third person
We're talking of the same person
With the difference that each one
Speaks in another tongue
Confounding strangers
Claims the spiteful gossip

At times Gianni and Jim will be one and the same
At times they will oppose each other
Sometimes they might act as total strangers
And so it goes for both Dominics

The distance between them may be paper thin
Or else wide as the ocean
That which separates two languages
Or lies, mute, within the blood cells




DRAMATIS PERSONAE


Mon nom est Gianni
Mon nom est Jim
Mais aussi Dominique
Dans les deux sens
Et donc dans tous les sens

Que se soit Gianni, Jim ou Dominique
Au present comme au passé
A la première personne ou à la troisième
Il s'agit de la même personne
A ceci près que chacune d'entre elles
Est marquée par le sceau d'une langue
L'assaut, diront les esprits chagrins

Tantôt Gianni et Jim se confondront
Tantôt ils s'opposeront
Tantôt ils ne se reconnaîtront plus
Et il en sera de même avec les deux Dominique

Parfois l’écart entre eux sera infime
Ou alors aussi vaste qu'un océan
Celui qui sépare les idiomes
Ou se mesure à la mixité du Sang




DISSOLVING THE MASQUERADE


for some mysterious reason,
in the middle of the pedestrian square,
they felt their clothes loosen and fray
like dandelions caught by a storm
and, averting each other's eyes
as that mute and invisible alien
stripped them to the skin,
they suddenly stopped running about

in the middle of the square
never had there been such a sight
hands twirling like mad dervishes
hands that spun more swiftly
than the windmills of Friesland
hands which played legerdemain
for an unpaying and bedazzled audience

in the middle of the square
the people had all but vanished
leaving in their stead
the only possession they had
which could claim true authenticity
THEIR OWN BARE HANDS

in the middle of the square
there were long diaphanous hands
hands thick and veined as chipolatas
gnarled hands that cried for solace
craftman's hands mottled with splinters
hands whose fingers knew the printed word
so intimately, the whorls could be read in italics
and whilst all hands are pure and innocent
some of them, lovingly manicured
belonged to high class thieves
others, downy as a foal's nape
glinted with particles of cocaine dust

the birds that nested under the awnings of the square
feasted their eyes upon this choreography in Hands Major
twittering to their hearts' delight
as surely they must have eons ago
long, long before their biped cousins
had invented the art of masquerade

in the middle of the square
through the whims of gods
for a fraction of eternity
man had only nature to clothe his soul




THE PRISONS OF LOVE


what is it that makes love so uncharitable
turning the heart into a time bomb
and you into a gentle-faced terrorist?
feel how it scuds along the arteries
like churning breakers
while the silence of permafrost
wells inside your bones
how everything jumbles up in the head
where the seasons have lost their bearings
and the memory cells refuse to connect
you used to marvel at nature's discoveries
but now understand that man's quest for infinity
is an ongoing battle against his own imperfections
why else would he spend his resources
trying to tame matter and antimatter
quelling the fires that set our planet ablaze
and that which spills out of the sun
it is love he wishes to domesticate
that most treacherous and uncontrollable quantity
which, for God knows what reason,
originates in the heart and wreaks so much havoc
you then close your eyes and, suddenly, start melting
before the smile of a little boy




REVENGE BY PROXY


she pounded the rag doll with her tiny gnarled fists
then, grabbing it by its foot, slapped it hard
against the tree trunk, again and again
calling her 'you dirty little slut, will you ever learn?'

then she whimpered and stuttered
'if ... if ... I hurt you so, it is...
because I have no one else.'

for a while, her attention was drawn by the distant cooing
of a bird and she searched for it above her head
spinning it every which way she could
in the hope it would land on the palm of her hand
and keep her company, but the cooing went on
and still the caller remained invisible

her heart shrivelled with despair and remembering
the existence of the rag doll, hanging from her fingers,
she walked around the clearing and picked up a thorn
which she ruthlessly stuck between its eyes
then through its nostrils and finally,
with a lurid twinkle in her look, inside its vagina
'here, so that you will never be able to have a baby,
you nasty piece of work, you ozone destroyer.'

from where the cooing had originated now she heard
the twitter of nestlings, how many could they be,
maybe four, maybe as many as a whole score?
and again she stood puzzled
they kept up their racket for a long time
'their parents must have flown away to fetch them
some food, worms and flies and other insects'
then of a sudden silence fell over the wooded cliff

'I'm getting hungry,' she thought and rummaged among
the underbrush until she found berries
or what looked like berries, so fleshy and red they were
‘you can starve!' she said to the rag doll
as she began popping the beautiful round fruits into her mouth
and while she ate, her mouth dripping with juice,
she rubbed a berry along the rag doll, smearing it first
all over the face and then fiercely between its legs
‘momma never wanted me as a child’, she said
in a garbled voice 'so why should I be kind to you?'

the little girl and her rag doll were found dead the next morning




PIXEL POWER


a trillion heartbeats for those videolips
telegems that fade subliminally
fimbriating the outer reaches
of your shadow memories
a taste of cinders at the root of your tongue

teledreams seep into the bloodstream
initiating rituals whose mysteries
will forever remain buried
like so many aborted thoughts
which could otherwise have been cloned

anguish refuses to be measured
you nonetheless challenge it
feigning resignation or indifference
giving up your existence
in exchange of theirs, the golden, the gritty

Out in the streets you suddenly wonder
why everything seems so static
when still in your ears
lingers the drone of a space-chopper squadron
and question the pavement as though it were alive.

before you just allowed the color box
to misinform or entertain you
until your office became fitted with computers
and the Asian-made portables followed you
from doorstep to car, from taxi to plane

How perfectly you then seemed to have adapted!
You even coined new words which were universally understood
when wishing not to be interrupted
it was: "tele-you-mind?"
When the kids had to go to bed,
You insisted they stop their 'teleantics'

oo db
db db
screen power pixels insatiable
x
x ab ab

snatching away your every breath
till you're left utterly

T E LE VOID BUNGLED




THE ROUNDNESS OF YOU


I want to say it in a thousand tongues
yet none said it better than my own
and since you are no longer in the flesh
it is everywhere that I want you to be,

like now, at Franco’s deli
where I have just bought some Parmesan cheese
grainy and slightly moist, piangente
the way you always insisted,
it melts in my mouth
and I savor the roundness of you

tondo, tondo, liscio come una luna d’avorio

I needed you to go for a while
then you misunderstood me and left, you thought, forever
but you didn’t count with that roundness of you
with which my whole being was besotted
how you would laugh when I sang the marvels of your skin

dans tes rondeurs encore je me glisse

this evening I asked the confectioner's
for your favorite marzipan chocolate
and I ate it on my way home,
then again that whiff
and the ineffable roundness of you

gold auf weiss, rund herum wie deine feurigen Augen

half asleep, my lips drunk with your milk
whilst a hand cupped your buttocks
as if God had no other designs for it

la redondez de tus pies

oh I couldn't resist that pair of blue suede shoes
and had the pretty blonde attendant try them,
remember, the one with whom you shared the same size?
she sold them to me for a song

I could go on and on
exhausting Babel
and its myriad tongues to evoke the roundness of you,
which indeed I shall do, for that taste of eternity


Excerpt

DRAMATIS PERSONAE


They call me Gianni
They call me Jim
But also Dominic
In both genders
In every guise

Whether it be Gianni, Jim or Dominic
In the present tense as in the past
First or third person
We're talking of the same person
With the difference that each one
Speaks in another tongue
Confounding strangers
Claims the spiteful gossip

At times Gianni and Jim will be one and the same
At times they will oppose each other
Sometimes they might act as total strangers
And so it goes for both Dominics

The distance between them may be paper thin
Or else wide as the ocean
That which separates two languages
Or lies, mute, within the blood cells

Professional Reviews
REACH magazine (UK)
Reviewed by Ronnie Goodyer in issue 105 of Reach magazine (UK)

THE CROWDED WORLD OF SOLITUDE - ALBERT RUSSO - ISBN 1-4134-7018-1 Order on net WHSmith in the UK: www.whsmith.co.uk/whs/go.asp
£14 pounds, (hardback £23)

Make no mistake, this is a BIG book. A full 540 pages of Albert Russo' s collected poems, including a bilingual section. A long-time Reach subscriber, Russo speaks 5 languages fluently and has lived on 3 continents. He writes in both Eng1ish and French, bis two 'mother tangues'. The confines and priorities of Reach mean that a full review just isn't possible here, but this is a collection of the finest contemporary poetry. I like reviews that stand aIone wim the poet's words, and his wide experience means that there is a 'roundness' to this volume as a whole. He doesn't shy away from any subject but enters with utter enthusiasm as readers may have noticed from his published work in this and other magazines. Here's a sample from 'Virtual Haikus'

she smoothens her hair
lets her fingers twist a curl
her childhood unfolds

How holistic is that. And writing of one of his idols

his name nowadays spells beauty,
passion and sensuality: RIMBAUD
two syllab!es as contagious as ever

l'm a long-time admirer of the way he puts you into the scene, avoiding the sense of voyeur. l feel l'm there at the 'Day of the Opening':

a skinny girl with jet black hair
cropped à la garçon
eyes shadowed in mauve
to match her brass-studded suit
and the polish of her nails
helps a mustachoed man
hang the last two paintings of the exhibition.

From that opening we come to a typically uncompromising close:

As she comes nearer to him
his hardon shrinks away
and is left orphaned
between skull-shaped testicles

This collection is totaIly to my taste, courting beauty and controversy, but always with the essential quality of the poetic. If you fancy world travel on a roller coaster, buy this. With my love of Greece and Crete though, l'Il have to leave you, with these two gems, these two 'Cretan Glimpses':

sand so hot
your feet burn as if on embers
mocking waves

behind dark glasses
the sun plays its symphony over the foam


PEDESTAL Magazine (USA)
Albert Russo's The Crowded World of Solitude, Volume II...
reviewed by JoSelle Vanderhooft
The Crowded World of Solitude, Volume II
Albert Russo
Xlibris Corporation
ISBN Number: Hardcover, 1-4134-7019-X
Softcover, 1-4134-7018-1
Reviewer: JoSelle Vanderhooft - April 2006 issue of Pedestal magazine (USA)

Multilingual poet and novelist Albert Russo’s most recent poetry collection, The Crowded World of Solitude, Volume II (which followed the first volume’s issue by a matter of months) is one of that rarest of books, one which seems to contain a hearty cross-section of the writer’s output over the past several years. Frequently its themes are just as ambitious as its size; in the book’s more than five hundred pages, Russo writes on such eternal subjects as the vicissitudes of love, the impersonality of modern living, and man’s inhumanity toward man. He also tackles smaller, more immediate subjects, including Aesop-like animal fables, odes to female beauty, even complaints about the unfairness of publishers and literary critics. Merely seen as a retrospective of an artist’s output, the collection is as interesting as it is unusual, as the work of most contemporary poets is not typically available in such a large volume. However, its success as a collection is fairly mixed.

The Crowded World of Solitude, Volume II contains many rich, unusual and moving poems, particularly in its first section—a multilingual selection written primarily in English and French, Russo’s two native tongues. Russo gets the collection off to a powerful start with poems like “Dramatis Personae" and “Dissolving the Masquerade"—two separate and highly different looks at the mutability of human identity and the passion that lurks underneath the masks with which people adorn themselves (both literally and figuratively). But it is the startling and painful poem “Revenge by Proxy" which ties this section together. In this poem, a distraught little girl abuses a hapless rag doll by slamming it against tree trunks, calling it names, and stabbing it with thorns. Russo captures the reader’s attention by beginning with the strong image of the little girl harming the doll and then abruptly shifting tone and tempo:
then she whimpered and stuttered
‘if . . . if . . . I hurt you so, it is . . .
because I have no one else.’
for a while, her attention was drawn by the distant cooing
of a bird and she searched for it above her head
spinning it every which way she could
in the hope it would land on the palm of her hand
and keep her company, but the cooing went on
and still the caller remained invisible
her heart shrivelled [sic] with despair and remembering
the existence of the rag doll, hanging from her fingers,
she walked around the clearing and picked up a thorn
which she ruthlessly stuck between its eyes
then through its nostrils and finally,
with a lurid twinkle in her look, inside its vagina
‘here, so that you will never be able to have a baby,
you nasty piece of work, you ozone destroyer.’
Russo’s attention to detail is nothing short of remarkable. By showing his young protagonist abruptly switching her attention from the doll to the circling birds and back to the doll again, he gives the reader a highly realistic and believable portrait. Many children, after all, have a difficult time focusing on one task exclusively when in the presence of another distraction. Further, children’s moods can shift within seconds from kindness to cruelty, interest to aloofness, and back again.

The poem’s real surprise, however, comes toward the end, when the little girl speculates that the chirping birds are fledglings whose parents have flown away to find them food. Deciding she is hungry, the little girl scrabbles around the underbrush until she finds some bright red and fairly dangerous-looking berries. As she devours the “beautiful round fruits," she reveals a startling truth:
she rubbed a berry along the rag doll, smearing it first
all over the face and then fiercely between its legs
‘momma never wanted me as a child’, she said
in a garbled voice ‘so why should I be kind to you?’
the little girl and her rag doll were found dead the next morning
There is something refreshing about Russo’s portrayal of children in this poem. Instead of idealizing the girl, he gives the reader an unsentimental depiction of the way abuse, neglect and, perhaps, even something in her own nature lead to her undoing. Russo repeatedly returns to this theme of violence as humanity’s tragic flaw in poems such as “Forgetful Gods," “Sad Savage Society," “0 Armenia," “High Tech Genus," and “A Tutsi Tragedy" (one of his many poems dealing with genocide in Rwanda).

Ultimately, Russo is at his best when writing poems that tell a story, much like “Revenge by Proxy" does—even if that story has nothing to do with people. Another excellent example of his work is the cleverly titled “Baublevision" (here reproduced in entirety), which uses everyday bric-a-brac to tell a story about the human need for isolation in an increasingly complex world.
essence of frangipani flower
in an oblong perfume flask
crowned by a cork dome
three-tiered onyx pyramid
which is really a clock
it ticks wearily
battery begs to be refueled
red plush devil
blinking his pink eye lids
with a heart-shaped pouch held between his hands
sporting the inscription ‘be mine’
two bees trapped in the pellucid glass paperweight
dotted with air bubbles
hover above a lush yellow rose
rusty bronze plaque portraying a pair of condors
one has blood dripping from its beak
with a caption that reads:
patience my ass, I’m gonna kill somebody
picture of an immaculate sailboat
set in an emerald creek
somewhere on the Spanish coast
outside, the whoosh of tires gliding on a wet street
and the globe keeps rotating
and these baubles stand guard like congealed dreams
Russo’s poetry, however, is less successful when it lacks these lush, concrete images. “The Menace," about the poet’s contempt for educated people who insist “there’s a cultural bond uniquely European/ not found on other continents," is one such poem.
look how well the Walloons understand the Flemings
or what some Corsicans—no, not Napoleon, not him—
think of contemporary France, the world’s last colonialist
and how these same Corsicans bomb resort homes
that belong to Parisians
or how the Viennese scoff at the Swiss Germans
and I purposefully will not insist on the tragedies
taking place in Northern Ireland or the Balkans
the arrogance of man, the sheer arrogance
no, he will never learn and his memory
is often now as fragmented as the zapped images
that settle on his retina in a flash
and disappear just as swiftly
Instead of relying on solid images as he did in previous poems, Russo turns here to declaration. While he makes salient points about the intellectual blindness of supposedly educated people, the effectiveness of his contentions does not come as eloquently in this form. Indeed, “The Menace" almost feels like an excerpt from a conversation, instead of a poem. This declarative, abstract quality can also be found in poems such as “Fettered Dreams," “Unfinished Business," and “Invoking Nature."

Similarly problematic are some of Russo’s haiku, of which the volume contains several sequences. Though some of them are quite excellent, others, such as the sequence “Haiku to Meditate," lack the central image which typically define a haiku and come across sounding like mere aphorisms.
look down or look up
that is not what’s important
so long as you look
a smile is as rare
as a fleckless diamond
when it’s innocent
the bible tells tales
some believe to be god’s truth
when they’re just stories
Rwanda or Bosnia
it is humanity’s loss
what’s worse, it is god’s
Still, there is enough good in The Crowded World of Solitude, Volume II to interest fans of Russo’s previous work and to entice new readers to give his work a try. For readers interested in learning more about Russo’s novels, the second volume also includes several book reviews and in-depth interviews with the author.


La Nef des Fous (France)
Whether through his novels, his short stories or his poems, Albert Russo approaches humankind in all its complexity; man’s doubts, his anguishes, his pleasures: nothing escapes the artist’s scrutiny.

His poetry is resolutely modern, even when it is anchored in history. His main concern is to delve into the anima in its globablity, i.e., studying the human being, both as an individual and in his environment. He never falls into the trap of pomposity when tackling man as a social being or becomes maudlin, when considered in his uniqueness. He is neither an ideologue nor an egocentric, which is often the case with second rate poets.

His poetry is original in that it almost always tells a story. Indeed, Albert Russo uses the narrative medium whilst at the same time the poem remains introspective. For above all, he’s a story teller, and the poem, in his hands, becomes a tale, a fable, a slice of life. Let me clarify things: it is of genuine verse that I am speaking, and not of some piece of writing disguised as poetry, for Albert Russo excells in the various genres he tackles, and he allows no confusion, even if at times, he plays around with them introducing poetry into a novel.

The style is free, sharp, pugnacious, it can also be caustic and humorous, or plainly humane. The story, no matter how brief, is always precise and full of empathy. Never gratuitous, it breathes life into the subject or the anecdote, yet never being anecdotal. He delves deeply into the human sould, even when the them appears in its lightness or its futility. The language - or rather, languages, since many of his poems are bilingual (in English and in French, with forays into Italian, Spanish and German - he uses is beautifully crafted and elegant, which doesn’t mean that he avoids neologisms or even slang. This is what I call mastery.

To illustrate what I mean, here are two poems in the author’s own English and French versions.

This hefty volume (537 pages) encompasses 30 years of Albert Russo’s work, which has appeared all over the world, on the five continents. It is a tribute to his humanistic sensibility and his concern for his fellow human beings, wherever they may hail from and at once it is an antidote to the hate, the fanaticism and the destructive powers of the enemies of freedom. Read and reread thes poems, you will feel enhanced by them.

Eric Tessier - La Nef des Fous



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