3 out of 4 stars
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In the Twilight by Bernard Kuckuck is a collection of poems that are simultaneously miscellaneous as well as united by a common thread. These poems transport the reader back to the late Renaissance period of Florence and praise the city with the highest regard. The central themes of this collection are reflection and love—reflection into a bygone era, filled with drama, celebration, and a hint of tragedy; and love that conquers all. All the poems (except for some English translations) have been shown to be creations of Filippo Oraiosieri, a fictional character conceived by Kuckuck. The other "poets" featured in the book include Filoraios and Phil Oraios—also Kuckuck's creations.
The poems are steeped in history and talk about a variety of topics. At times a poem describes the rehearsals for the courtly opera based on Orpheus and Eurydice (spelt Euridice in the poems) while at other times a poem refers to the quest for a letter written by Dante to his muse Beatrice. One of my favorite lines displays the longing with which Oraiosieri awaits the coming of Beatrice: “Awakening before sunrise, looking down to the vale for the arrival of Beatrice on the steps of Teatro Romano was just a flight of fancy, daydreaming about seeing her: vestita d’oriental colore.”
Many poems give us the feeling that we are walking down the streets of Florence with words that talk about famous pieces of Renaissance art such as Expulsion from Paradise and beautiful places in the area such as Giardino di Boboli (Boboli Gardens). These poems might show a group of angels whose presence resonates throughout the land, might repeatedly call out to Beatrice to emerge and let her voice be heard again, might talk about the wonder and light of spring, or might appreciate nature’s glorious manifestation on a balmy summer day. Whether explicit or implicit, the central themes are apparent in each and every poem.
What’s more interesting about the book is the fact that these poems showcase variations in style. While certain verses utilize rhyme and follow familiar rhythm patterns, certain other verses were fully free verse. I treasure reading poetry chiefly as it teaches us how to express emotions, deep feelings, and aesthetics, and appreciate the beauty around us. The poems in the book do not disappoint in this regard. The generous scattering of mentions of Tuscan history also encourage the reader to research more on these events, places, and people and further our knowledge on these facets to help us understand the poems better.
Adding to the quality of the poems themselves is a brief Foreword that explains the poet’s thought process behind this collection. The fact that this section is not extremely wordy makes us better understand what is coming up in the book without being put off by a monotonous soliloquy.
The poet seems to have a strong grasp of multiple languages—Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Latin—in addition to English. We can see a few words or phrases in one of these non-English languages inserted into an English poem quite often in this book. This adds to the rhythm and beauty of the poems as European languages are almost musical to one’s ears. However, there are sometimes entire poems in the book that are in one of these languages. Though these have been translated to English on the next page, I felt these foreign-language poems were pointless as most of the readers would have picked up the collection to enjoy the poet’s work in English and would feel the urge to just skip these poems and head over to their translations instead. In my opinion, the poet should have just restricted himself to inserting phrases in these languages in between the English poems.
As I deliberated about the rating and recommendation, I hashed over in my mind the fineness of individual poems against the frailty of the few that lost their impact by being too long or in a language that most of us might not be comfortable with. In the end, I’ve decided to rate In the Twilight 3 out of 4 stars. Any seasoned poetry lover might enjoy at least some of these poems, and the lion’s share of the poems in this collection is well worth reading.
In the Twilight
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