Dana Gioia


Stamperia Ampersand, 1987


Designed and printed by Alessandro Zanella and Linda Samson-Talleur at Stamperia Ampersand, Verona, Italy.

Published in an edition of 50 copies.


My posts must seem a little narrow in scope of late, what with a few Dana Gioia items appearing, but there is good reason. In becoming hugely taken with Gioia’s writing, I have been acquiring a great deal of his work for my shelves, much of which has been published in superb fine press editions. Of all these beautiful items that I now own, my much loved Journeys in Sunlight, printed by Richard-Gabriel Rummonds, remains my favourite. It is unlikely to be topped, but coming pretty close is this handsome edition of Two Poems / Due Poesie that has just joined my shelves.

This beautifully printed volume was a collaboration between master printer Alessandro Zanella (one time printing partner with Richard-Gabriel Rummonds) and printer/printmaker Linda Samson-Talleur, who was on a Fulbright Fellowship to study with Zanella. This publication was Samson-Talleur’s second major book and followed her debut volume, Callisto, which had caused a stir in American fine press circles.

Two Poems is similar in size to Journeys in Sunlight. It is also set in Dante and printed on what looks like the same gorgeous Magnani handmade paper. What makes it quite distinct are Samson-Talleur’s wonderful pair of two colour linocut illustrations (plus a single colour cut of the author’s name on the title page). They add a completely different visual feel to the book, compared to the etchings from Journeys. Bold and striking, but in a muted palette that keeps them from being brash, they make a fine complement to the text.

Both poems (Equations of the Light’ and Maze without a Minotaur’) are fine examples of Gioia’s work. Equations’ is typical in its ability to richly set a scene with pinpoint clarity, in this case a romantically picturesque street discovered during a walk with a loved one on a late summer evening. Then, with Maze without a Minotaur’, Gioia changes the tone, with a darker piece of no direct narrative. Again, it is potently descriptive, with such exquisite lines as the hoarded wine turned dark and sour’ portraying far more than such a handful of words should be capable of. Maze’ is masterful, and makes a superb counterpoint to the first poem; an exquisitely wrought dark to the other’s light. In addition to the English text, each poems is also presented in Italian, with the translations by Massimo Bacigalupo, the noted Italian translator of Ezra Pound and Wallace Stevens.

The binding style is simple, yet unusual. The text block has been saddle-stitched in cloth, then boards covered in a brushed paste paper have been attached to the front and back only, leaving the spine as is. I have just a handful of items bound like this, with the others from Martyn Ould at Old School Press, who was taught the binding by Zanella.

This is a superb edition and I’m extremely pleased to have found a copy since there were just fifty printed. I had previously seen reference to one other copy in a book dealers catalogue from 2009 at a horrendously high price that left me thinking that I’d never be able to get one. But in mid-December 2017 I found a copy in Italy for a fraction of the expected cost. I immediately bought it, doing that internal jump for joy that all bookish folk must do when they discover a real bargain!     



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