Review of Dom Gabrielli’s The Parallel Body.

Review by M.L. Moro-Huber.

Dom Gabrielli’s collection, The Parallel Body, was published by Ziggurat Books International and recently went into its second printing –

every poem
is a moment
trying to escape time
(from poem 3)

Gabrielli’s collection includes drawings from artist Piers Faccini, whose rough sketches of the human body in nude form parallel the nakedness of the poetic form Gabrielli uses in his writing. A triptych parallelism, if you will, the words in the poems sprinkle a dash of meta, just enough for one to notice the poetic dexterity of the poet but not so much that the reader loses the feeling of being caught up in the poem, and as the poet catches us in his finite language (reading in the present moment) so also are we caught in that other-world of dreamscape and memory, an infinite mode of communication beyond language, which Gabrielli has attempted to capture through the written word.

The syntax Gabrielli presents is sparse, direct, and without adornments. There are no titles, no punctuation, no words wasted. The poet uses his adjectives with precision and his line breaks are subtle, elegant guides that serve instead of the comma, period, or the em-dash we see used so copiously in contemporary poetry.

The “body” of poems in this collection also parallels the bodies of dreamscape and reality confronting the physical bodies which house the “Self.”  It is this “I” this “self” which separates us and makes us individual, one of many, alone. Yet through Gabrielli’s exploration of “you,” these poems reconcile the individual “I” with the many, the other, the “you.”  The tribulations and the triumphs that are universally common are uniquely presented through the “you” perspective. His use of the “you” and “I” becomes less of a dichotomy and more of a singularity. Gabrielli expresses one of the noblest intentions of poetry, to touch or uplift another through words. He continually returns to and struggles with the concept that somehow words can be bestowed as a blessing, and the act of capturing them on the page is a type of magic which can undo harm and assuage pain recalled through memory.

I have broken the bars
I have learnt to travel in and out
of what they rigidly call my person
I will come back to help you
when the demons recite their ugly partition
I will guide you to safety
(from poem 19)

Above we see how the narrator is taking on the role of guide: the “I” is speaking directly to “you.”  Although the “you” likely refers to a specific person from a specific memory, Gabrielli uses this technique throughout to address the reader in such a way to allow for a silent participation in the events unfolding. He invites this participation here, very aware of the reader as he shares:

words can sing now
words from so far
in a moment of you
moments wish to leave
beg to depart
to live their own lives as bridges
between our crystal skins.
(from poem 3)

That words used in poetry can form a “bridge” between “moments” to provide us with a connection through time so we may relate to the lives of other people and be affected by those lives, those other memories – is somewhat of a miracle. Gabrielli has captured this longing for unity and this recognition of the miracle of language, as he compels the reader to “cross over” the “bridge” of his words to experience the reality of which he writes.

And further:

each moment knows when it must be lived
and sometimes moments can remain inert
longer than the lives which could be living them
(from poem 29)

Here it seems Gabrielli accepts the constraints of language, those moments which happen beyond the page. “Each moment knows when it must be lived” recalls to my mind Shakespeare’s sonnet 16:

“Why seek you not a mightier way/ Make war upon this bloody tyrant, time.”**  In his collection Gabrielli constantly pushes up against those walls of communication, fighting to capture what moments time keeps taking away, even though, in his grappling, he acknowledges: “books can no longer save you” (poem 12).

The collection as a whole becomes a rallying cry to live life, to use poetry as a war upon that “tyrant, time,” and he attempts to move poetic language beyond its inert state on the page to create a book that can be viewed as a living vibrant testimony. This poetry requires a lot from the reader, there is a desperate, almost demanding sort of intimacy exposed in these lines, and yet the poet remains self-aware enough to understand that the sense of intimacy he creates through language is limited, as intimacy itself is often transitory in the “I” and “you” construct of existence: “and the more I touch you/ the more you become untouchable” (poem 29).

I imagine, for him, the war continues.

I clamor for revolt
I cannot win I cannot even try
I brought you down knowing all this and more
I called you to battle with the lizards and the weeds
knowing the chimera of victory is the goalless lure of beauty
(from poem 24)

And from the introduction:

These pieces ask questions, many of which have no
answer. In these most difficult times, poetry and song,
thought and beauty, are vital to our spiritual survival.
Poetry is our resistance to emotional tyranny.
It manifests our love of beautiful things and feelings.
But it is also simply courage, the courage to speak up and say:
if we lose these words, we lose everything.

**Shakespeare’s sonnet 16 admonished the reader for wasting time reading poems instead of living life, while Gabrielli’s poems seem to point towards the opposite, that writing and reading poems can and do conquer time and capture moments and thus create a life beyond the singular moment, and a life more fully lived.

Dom Gabrielli studied literature at Edinburgh University and prepared for his doctorate in Paris and New York. In Paris, Gabrielli’s passion for French literature and thought led him to begin writing, translating, and teaching. His published work includes translations of Battaille and Leiris. In the early 1990’s, he left the academic world to travel and devote himself to writing, while pursuing various business ventures. The Eyes of a Man, his first book of poetry, was published by Ziggurat Books International in 2009. Gabrielli currently lives in Paris and the Salento region of Southern Italy.

Piers Faccini studied painting at the Beaux Arts in Paris between 1988 and 1990. He has been represented by Galleria Spicchi dell’Est, Rome and by Lucy B. Campbell Fine Art, London. In 1996, Faccini formed the band  Charley Marlowe before embarking on a solo career in 2002. He has recorded three critically acclaimed albums: Leave No Trace (2003), Tearing Sky (2006), and Two Grains of Sand (2009). Faccini has also recorded soundtracks for the BBC, Channel 4, and the South Bank Show.

Melanie Lynn Moro-Huber has written several reviews because she reads way too much poetry for her own good. Also, she often wears socks that don’t match. She believes these issues are closely related. Essays, reviews, interviews and poems of hers appear or are forthcoming in the New York Quarterly, Savvy Verse & Wit, Red Room Review, Scattered Light, and Mortal Corkscrew.