A post-surrealistic experiment juxtaposing visual artworks and literary sources that apparently have nothing in common

WORDS BY AMELIA ROSSELLI - PHOTOS BY PETER HUJAR
Translations by Tijana Mamula

Peter Hujar, Robert Bending, 1977; courtesy of the Peter Hujar Archive


[Untitled]
from Variazioni belliche 

The mystique of the brain. The devil’s light raised dust
in the impure eyes of my fecundity. I shook with envy

but the ray of sun also raised love stories tenuous
like the pear tree with its enchanted flowers, like the bread that
nightly ingrains itself in our affairs of love and compassion
and hunger and squaring of the wicked circle that we elevate
above all knowledge.
Incautious I turned to the beyond but was quickly seared by
envious hands. My own hands brought me back to earth
my own nails raised from earth the star of
happiness. The saints and wise men carry the light in their hands, in their
minds the negroes and the schoolteachers and the girls returning
from the agriculture schools.
Doomed to pretend I raised myself from the dust soon enough
and knelt down at the fountain of the prosperous. By then the protestants
no longer prevailed upon my ingenuous youth and in
all candor I forgave the boors, for ancient fasts. Fasting
heart, step away from anger and remain a powerful
lord.


Peter Hujar, Divine, 1975; courtesy of the Peter Hujar Archive 

Peter Hujar, Self-Portrait, Cindy Sherman Suite, 1982; courtesy of the Peter Hujar Archive 


There’s something like pain in the room
from Documento(1966-73) 

There’s something like pain in the room, and
it’s partly overcome: but the weight

of objects wins, in meaning
weight and deprivation. 

There’s something like red in the tree, but it’s
the orange of the lamp base

bought in places I don’t want to remember
because they also carry weight. 

As I can know nothing of your hunger
precise in their will

are the stylized fountains
well placeable is the overturning of a destiny
of men divided by oblique noise.


Peter Hujar, H.M. Koutoukas, 1979; courtesy of the Peter Hujar Archive



[Untitled]

from Variazioni belliche

In the grip of a brutal shock, wretched
and close to your heart I sent smells of incense into
the circles under your eyes. The Ardeatine caves combined beliefs
and dreams – I had left, you had come back – death
was a crescendo of violences that didn’t vent
in your head of delusion. The black waters of
my disillusion were burnished by your happiness and by
my having you in hand, close and far away like the surge
of the summer stars. The night wind went
and dreamt great things: I rhymed within my powers
and took part in the void. The backbone of
your sins fuelled the crowd: the train stopped
and it was in its talk that the truth paused.
In the encounter with the fairytale the bandits dwelled.


Peter Hujar, Paul Thek on Zebra, 1965; courtesy of the Peter Hujar Archive


The flowers come as gifts
from Documento(1966-73) 

The flowers come as gifts and they dilate
silenced by a sharp surveillance

never get tired of gifts.

The world is an extracted tooth
don’t ask me why

I’m so old today
the rain is sterile.

Aiming for the blighted seeds
you were the withered union I was looking for
steal someone else’s heart to then use it.

Hope is a possibly definitive injury
the coins ring harsh in the marble
of the hand. 

I was convincing the monster to withdraw
to the clean rooms of an imaginary hotel

there were tiny embalmed vipers out in the woods. 

I made myself up as priest of poetry
but I was dead to life

the viscera getting lost
in a brawl
you die of it swept aside by science.

The world is thin and flat:
a few elephants wander it, dull.


Peter Hujar (1934-1987) is an american photographer. He was a leading figure in the group of artists, musicians, writers, and performers at the forefront of the cultural scene in downtown New York in the 1970s and early 80s. He is most associated with his black-and-white portraits but his subjects also include nudes, animals and the streets of night-time Manhattan. 

Amelia Rosselli (1930-1996) was a poet and musician, part of the so-called “Thirties generation” alongside some of the most important names in twentieth-century Italian literature. Pier Paolo Pasolini defined her writing as a “poetics of lapsus.” She herself said that “the language in which I write is a single one, while my aural experience follows an associative logic that belongs to all people and is reflected in all languages​​.” Her poetry collections include Variazioni belliche (Garzanti, 1964), Serie ospedaliera (Il Saggiatore, 1969), Documento (1966-1973)(Garzanti, 1976). Rosselli committed suicide on February 11, 1996, in Rome.