New York, 1910. Pasquale D’Angelo, a sixteen-year-old native of Abruzzo, arrives at Ellis Island together with his father and a group of their companions in search of a better life. The shock of the New World is brutal, one of the worst experienced by our emigrants; but at the same time, for Pasquale (who becomes Pascal) it’s powerfully attractive, electrifying. Unlike his buddies, whose sole aim is to improve their condition and to send some money back home to their families in Italy, Pascal develops a desire to become a writer, an American poet. In order to do so, he studies English assiduously, night and day, utilizing every free moment he gets during his merciless schedule at work as a stone cutter, a manual laborer, a pick and shovel man. With titanic amounts of perseverance and an indestructible faith in poetry, Pascal will carry on until he reaches the limit of his sufferings. Over time, he will become convinced of having a mission that he has been destined for since birth, with a responsibility to obey his internal voice in the face of the enormously difficult life circumstances and countless sacrifices he must bear, of a new language learned with a crumbling Webster’s Dictionary and with the help of sublime teachers like Keats and Shelley–teachers who light the way along his path and give him the strength to keep going. It’s a promethean struggle, made more difficult by crippling poverty, a struggle that will lead the young stone cutter to leave his friends after a long and exhausting stint of manual labor and to retreat in the end to a miserable hovel in Brooklyn in order to take on the challenge of New York City and the god that rules it.
Luigi Fontanella lives in New York and Florence, Italy. A professor of Italian Literature, he has been the chair of the Department of European Languages, Literatures, and Cultures at Stony Brook University. He has published collections of poetry, essays, and stories. Among the most recent titles are Pasolini rilegge Pasolini (Archinto, 2005, translated into several languages); L’angelo della neve. Poesie di viaggio (Mondadori, Almanacco dello Specchio, 2009); Bertgang (Moretti & Vitali 2012, winner of the Premio I Murazzi); Migrating Words: Italian Writers in the United States (Bordighera Press, 2012); Disunita ombra (Archinto, 2013, winner of the Premio Nazionale Frascati); L’adolescenza e la note (Passigli, 2015, Pref. by Paolo Lagazzi, Pascoli Prize, Viareggio-Giuria, Prize); La morte rosa (Stampa, 2015, Pref. by Maurizio Cucchi); Monte Stella (Passigli, 2020); Raccontare la poesia 1970-2020. Saggi, ricordi, testimonianze critiche (Moretti & Vitali, 2021); Tre passi nel desiderio. Tre Atti Unici (Neos, 2021).
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