In The Honeymoon Wilderness (Mansfield, 2002), Pier Giorgio Di Cicco writes the kind of poetry that traces the cartography of the ordinary acts of living and how they make contact with our existential questions and the soul's longings. Di Cicco's voice attains a dazzling level of lyrical and spiritual power in this book of new poems, since he broke his publishing silence with Living in Paradise (Mansfield, 2001) - an anthology of earlier works. The Honeymoon Wilderness is a deeply insightful work exploring reflective moments of Di Cicco's inner journey since he retreated into the contemplative silence of a monastery in l986 and later joined the priesthood.
In The Honeymoon Wilderness we encounter a restless and intimate metaphysics in which the poet alternately quibbles, rages or makes peace with the heart's needs and the longings of spirit. Echoing the mystical voice of a Rumi or Dante, the poet finds himself poised between the emotional and intellectual struggle with his place on earth and the shifting liminality of the call of spirit - his depression and restlessness as visible elements of the journey: "i am omega-climber, job, the thief on the cross; / I am many personifications, without the lesson / learned."
Di Cicco's elegant use of syntax, allusion and metaphor still startles and tantalizes. Written in lower case letters and sparsely punctuated, the poems reveal a lyrical vision expressed in the tonality of prayer: " ... an orange moon, a train whistle, / hotshot stars, myself, a face in the / windowpane, God, electrons up and down / my fingers enumerating death / abyss."
His sprawling themes draping over their own edges straddle the boundaries of the introverted, transpersonal self in search of divine connection and consolation - the poet/priest always visible: "being married to you is not much different / from being married to a woman, really. / you have your good days and your bad days".
Di Cicco attends to ordinary moments of suffering, mercy and endurance in prayer-like poems that exude the scent of the divine clothed in human forms of loss, longing, love and solitude. The "wilderness" is the metaphorical space between the uncharted borderlands of his years of silence and the soul's journey reaching for its innate wholeness on earth. For Di Cicco, love is the vibrant passion uniting our human yearnings with the grace of suffering. Transcendence occurs at the site of the heart - the bridge to the ineffable: "I will say anything / to make the human stop and linger until the / end of time, until we face each other, the moment like / a simple breeze between us."
The book, in four parts, reads like a sacred play. The preamble reports Di Cicco's early experiences in the monastery - the imagistic "honeymoon" into the heart of a divine "wilderness," with its attendant nostalgia: "I want to go back, like a loonie. / not made for this." The central suite of poems in "Marrying God" sounds like a rant with a deity whose presence illuminates and consoles the poet's uneasy, lonely heart: " ... he sees your misery / and opens the windows, lets some clean air in, heals / your rheumatism, maybe a phone call from a friend or a shard / of hope. "Nights in the Country" underscores the poet's energetic engagement with musings about the life-giving breath of creativity and the uses of love: "
look, how I have / one arm too few to embrace you / my denizens, you, my heart, / in need." In "The Simple Breeze in the Willow," we uncover the alert sensibility of a man still engaged in a spiritual quest, willing to share its many arduous circumambulations. Di Cicco makes no bones about the depth of his suffering and the breadth of his faith. In "Imbiancato" he whispers: " ... and that nocturnal conversation between us / where I offer you my tears / and you raise them like a river between stars and stars."
Here is a man rising phoenix-like from the ashes of a turbulent, inner quest, whose will to write resuscitates the human face of an examined life. Di Cicco's poetic mission may well be to use poetry as prayer, opening our eyes to the essential need for using creativity to ride out the world's waves of growing madness.
Toronto writer, poet, editor and independent scholar, Isabella Colalillo Katz is the author of Tasting Fire (l999).