It is our pleasure to bring you an interview with Gaetano Camillo, a fabulous poet, who was nominated for the Nobel Prize. The interview was conducted by Virginia Mateias https://twitter.com/MateiasVirginia, poet and journalist, living in Montreal, Canada.
Gaetano Camillo has been living in Rome for over 90 years. He has been a football player, a coach, a lyricist. In 1995 Gaetano Camillo was nominated for the Nobel Prize for literature. He was designated by L’UNIPAX as “The Peace Messenger Poet,” and called “Mr Poetry,” or “The Poet of Love.”
He kindly accepted to give Virginia Mateias an interview for our Literary Revelations Journal. We are honored to publish the interview.
V.M.: I’m glad to meet you again, Gaetano. I think that the wisdom and the beauty of the poems you have written are keys to the inner light we all need. However, let’s first talk about the long journey to becoming a poet. You were born in Rome, and, when the Second World War started, you were just 7 years old. How was your childhood in a war-torn city? What did you dream of as a child? What impressed you at that time?
G.C.: First, I would like to thank you for still remembering me after almost 29 years since I had the honor to meet you. I was born in Rome, in a modest family. We lived near the football field where my father was a caretaker. So football was my first toy. The only toy, I can say. When the war started, the bombings, the death, the raids, the 100-gram bread daily ration, deeply marked me at an age when playing should have been my only concern. My dreams as a child… peace, serenity, smiling faces, and the possibility that one day I shall play football on the field I helped my father to tend to.
V.M.: Adolescence is mainly the age of searching for one’s identity. You were a football player and then a coach. How did you turn from a sportsman into a poet? How did poetry appear in your life? Was this the time when your friends called you “Mister Poeta”?
G.C.: When the war ended, poverty forced me to work to help my family. But finally football matches were played again on “my field” and I was there, first as a mascot and then as a player on the same team with those I looked up to. As years went by, my job and my football playing became one. Together with my family, they became the cardinal points of my life. As one cannot be a football player forever, after my retirement I started training almost all the football teams around Rome (Castelli Romani). At that time I had a wish: to write lyrics for the tunes I was humming during the training. I was lucky to meet some people who introduced me to a new “job,” that of a lyricist. In time, showbiz proved a disappointment to me, so I started writing poetry. This proved to be my calling and got me the ”Mister Poeta” nickname.
V.M.: Your poetry has been compared to King Solomon’s “Canticle of Canticles“; to Rabindranath Tagore’s poems; to the great Japanese poetry. Personally, I associate you with Kahlil Gibran. Your poetry, just like Gibran’s, synthesizes eternal human endeavors. Your style is quite elegant in its simplicity. Which of these comparisons do you find to be best?
G.C.: To be honest, I don’t know what to say. I ‘met’ Tagore, Japanese poetry, and Gibran after I had my first books published, when critics compared my poetry to theirs. I cannot say which one I feel closer to because what I write comes from the depth of my soul. In fact, the last poem in “The Song of Nature” – “My poetry is written by the Universe/I just copy it.” .” („La mia poesia la scrive l’Universo / io non faccio che copiare.”) – expresses my “reality” most genuinely.
V.M.: “The Song of Nature” brought you the nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995. You have received numerous national and international prizes since then. You are considered one of the great modern Italian poets. What is the social role of the poet in the early 21st century?
G.C.: For some time now poetry has been of a secondary importance for people. There are fewer and fewer poetry readers, poetry lovers. In the age of speed, of time spent in front of TV, or on social media, I feel that poetry does not find a place in the readers’ heart as it used to. Nevertheless, I still think that the poet’s role is to write about all those things that give life a sense, about love, about friendship, and never to lose hope.
V.M.: What are the poetic themes you find challenging? Which ones do you love most?
G.C. Love, freedom, and nature. In fact, on the internet, I am often called “The Poet of Love.”
V.M.: Although both your personality and your work embrace the whole world, there are two places that are precious to you: India and Romania. Would you tell us why do you hold these two countries so dear to your heart?
G.C. First there was India, a country that I visited many times, which entered my soul with all her colors and contrasts. The result? In 1992 I had “A Flower from India” published in Hindu and translated in English. Then, after 1998, I had two poetry books translated and published in Romania: “The Flute of Silence” and “The Tree of the Wise Man.” I went to Bucharest for the release of the books, and I got to know a country and people that I felt close to my heart. On that occasion I met my wife, Doina.
V.M.: What brings you joy, and what brings you sadness nowadays?
G.C.: During the last two years there have been, unfortunately, a lot of things that have saddened me: this pandemic that has brought about so much death, climate changes causing disasters all over the world (remember what happened in the Western Europe, in Germany,) the wars in the Middle East, the migrants who died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, animals killed as a trophy, forests foolishly felled. Daily there are people, children, dying of starvation. And there are people who pay millions just for space tourism.
The things that fill my heart with joy are fewer and simpler: a scientific breakthrough which can save lives, a peace treaty, children playing in a park, a field with flowers, the health of the people I know, and, last but not least, Italy winning the UEFA.
V.M. One of my favorite books of poetry is “The Tree of the Wise Man.” In 1998 you wrote: “The earth is bleeding…/All living beings are weeping. / Woods are weeping/Rivers are weeping/The man would weep/But he cannot find his tears.” When I read this I thought that empathy is a must for an accomplished poet.
G.C.: Since I was a child, the hardships during the war caused me to pay attention to everything around me, to suffer not only for my family but also for those less fortunate than us. As I’ve grown older, this attention to the world surrounding me kept growing in me, and more than once I’ve put the common good above my own personal good. You are right. I think that, in order to offer full, universal love, it is important to enter the heart and the soul of those around you, to understand their feelings and their trials.
V.M.: Trees have always fascinated us. Where does this magic come from? The art critic Carlo Savini said that your book “Love in the Shadow of the Linden Tree” (Sempre Publishing House, 2001) is “a stone of light.”
G.C.: For me, the trees are sons of Mother Earth just as we are. Their green leaves are full of hope because they know they will be reborn every spring.
V.M.: If you could be reincarnated as a tree, what would you choose? Would you be a fruit tree, a scented tree, or a beautiful blossom tree?
G.C.: That’s easy. If possible, I would be a blossom tree with the scent of the future fruit.
V.M.: Thank you, Gaetano Camillo for the richness and the beauty of the verses you have offered us. I would also like to thank Mrs. Doina Sanda for her help and for being by your side.
A poem by Gaetano Camillo
Love is a zero without walls
“When you see
turn into a tear,
I’ll be there.
When you see
a little flower
smiling in the sun,
I’ll be there.
When you close your eyes
to look for my light
behind your lids,
I’ll be there. “
Gaetano Camillo – Selected Publications
Roma in saccoccia (1980, 1982, 1984)
Roma pazzo pazzo amore (1989)
Amore e spicchi de pallone (1990)
Spicchi de pallone (1990, 1992)
L’amore e uno zero senza pareti (1992)
Une fiore dall »India (1992)
Il canto della natura (1994)
Quando il calcio diventa amore (1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006, 2011)
L’amore sotto l’albero del tiglio (2001, 2002, 2009)
Il pentathlon della vita (2003)
Il flauto del silenzio (1998)
L’albero del saggio (1999, 2000, 2005, 2006, 2007)
Giochi di colore (2002)
A flower from India (2002)
Mejo de me solo io (2011)
Amate l’amore – Riflessioni dell’animo (2011)
16 thoughts on “Interview with Gaetano Camillo Nobel Prize Nominee”
This interview was a beautiful journey and an absolute pleasure to read. I believe we would all choose to be blossom trees which leads me to speculate on what sort of poetry do trees compose. ☺️🤍👏
Thank you so much for your beautiful comment Andra. Indeed ” What sort of poetry do trees compose”?
Thank you so much dearest Dawn.
Love this interview Gaetano Camillo gave. I also love his poem you included “Love is a zero without walls.” Emotionally charged and powerful! 😊💖🤗
Thank you so much Kim. Truly glad you enjoyed it. Have a beautiful rest of the day.
You are so very welcome. My pleasure! 😘💖🥰
Just read this interview, very insightful and encouraging.
Thank you Cassa. I am glad you enjoyed the interview.
‘Love is a zero without walls’ the relative complexity of the title, the compelling simplicity of the verse, couple beyond words – a poem to pause a life to think – this more than an interview, an insight to poet, to a life – thank you – I feel privileged to have read this.
My pleasure. I am deeply grateful for your wonderful comment.