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Antonio Riccardi: “Our roots are still part of us”

The progressive abandon of the country – says the poet – has been for many the abandon of a lifestyle, seen as outdated with respect to modernity, as immobile, perpetual and of great fatigue

Born in Parma in 1962, Riccardi lives in Sesto San Giovanni, in Lombardy. He published Il profitto domestico (Mondadori) in 1996, Gli impianti del dovere e della guerra (Garzanti) in 2000 and Acquarama e altre poesie d’amore (Garzanti) in 2009.

Antonio Riccardi

The reference to nature is continuous in your poetry. How is your personal relationship with nature? What is your idea of nature?
It is a weird relationship. I am very interested in nature which emerges inside the city. The city is full with symbols of nature, man works who recall nature, mimick it, reproduce it. On the other hand, many corners of nature try to resist and force the urban environment. This aspect interests me much, because it expresses a weird and complicated nature. Nature completely takes back its space furiously, in the moment when the industrial areas or civil buildings are abandoned. This is an old and traditional theme, the nature that submerges the ruins of a more or less glorious past. There is also a nature idealized in its own reference places, like in my hometown on the Apennines South of Parma: this is a nature that doesn’t lose its character of toughness. I consider it a tremendous place, where there is blazing beauty, just on top of the surface of a ferocious and hopeless world.

Will there be a space for the rural world in the future?
I cannot tell, I cannot foresee social and political scenarios, because I am not able to do it. It is true that our rural roots, from our ancient rural past, still has life, still sends pulses. It seems to me that the farming world entered the industrial world, between 1800 and 1900, remaining into it since not long ago. I was born in 1962, but I remember farmers with which I had to do during my Summer vacation. That rural world, its extreme influence, the pale vision of that world, are still clearly in my mind. The generation before mine still has much to do with that lifestyle; not those who were born in the big urban areas. Once out of it, it is apparent that the rural world strongly affects the daily horizon of people. I still think that a declining industry, as we traditionally know it, and the new technologies and the financial powers-that-be, sent that world a step further back; still, that root is hard to erase, and that would be a shame. When you bring a child in the country who only lived in the city, you immediately see that root in him when he sees a cow in a cowshed, which gives him a great ancestral impulse that brings him back to the rural world. This is a very distant world, that was hastily abandoned, thus leading to the abandon of a lifestyle, seen as immobile, perpetual, of great fatigue, outdated with respect to modernity. The rural world is a violent and strenuous world, because nature “is” violent. Tools and devices change, but the archaic root doesn’t. It has been seen. In the sixties and seventies people fled the countries for the cities, to run after the things that the world proposed as better and simpler, to build a better daily life. It mean, theoretically not precisely, to flee a world of suffer, pain, limits; it was like escaping from a world perpetually anchored at the origin of time, beat by seasons and by the perpetual presence of work. The rural work does not schedule a break from work, and this gives me great discomfort. I am not at all for a rural work, but I am very happy when I spend time in the country, although I cannot accept an idea of life enclosed in the working horizon of a farmer. Our generation changed the course of agriculture, sure. When the rural dynamics combine with the advanced tertiary, this is an easy task.

Which book would you recommend to those who live and work in the country?
I think Italo Calvino’s Barone rampante. This book proposes a re-immersion in the nature. It is the story of a kid who get on a tree and decides not to get down anytime in his life.

by Luigi Caricato
05 october 2009, Food Notes > Miscellanea