Sunday, April 1, 2012


Poetry and the Roma People in Italy:

"The Silence of the Violins" by Paul Polansky and Roberto Malini

Rome, April 1, 2012. Poetry and Human Rights.

Paul Polansky and Roberto Malini have published a book of poems called “The Silence of the Violins”.

The book contains both Italian and English versions of each poem, and is published in Italy.

The foreword of the book is by Ian Hancock and the introduction by Viktoria Mohacsi.

The two poets are also human rights defenders engaged in defending the rights of the Roma people. Malini and Polansky's poems describe life in the Italian Roma community, the persecution by the authorities, the tragedies that hit these people due to the discrimination they are subjected to daily. Malini and Polansky have also met many survivors of the Porrajmos, and their poems reflect the stories of the Holocaust and the Roma and Sinti people's experiences.

"Both Paul Polansky and Roberto Malini are well known for their activism on behalf of our Romani people. In this moving volume our hearts and minds are touched by their exceptional skills as poets, and it is fitting that they have reached out through literary art, for it is through art that Roma have made their most enduring contribution to the world."

Ian Hancock, from the preface to "The Silence of the Violins"

Off the same boat

by Paul Polansky

In the legal camps
We all have caravans.

We buy our own,
Also our own trucks
To collect scrap iron.

That’s what we have
After living in Italy
For more than 600 years.

But many Roma
Who have come
During and after
The Balkan wars
Are in illegal camps
With shacks
Built out of tin
And cardboard
They found in the local
Garbage dumps.

They build their hovels
Under bridges
Next to abandoned buildings
Out of view, out of sight.

The cops still find them.
Still bulldoze them down
Then tell the Roma
They are parasites.

I heard Italians
Used to be called
Parasites, thieves,
Mafia, uneducated
With no culture
When they escaped
From Italy to NY
A hundred years ago.

Why can’t Italians see
The Balkan Roma today
Are off the same boat?
Orpheus and Toma

by Roberto Malini

If Orpheus's advice
and his demiurgic song
inspired the Argonauts
when they set out to look for
the Golden Fleece,
Toma's common sense
and his accordion
guided the Ciuraru family
in the just as difficult feat
for survival.

Jason and his companions
were heroes, but the son of Calliope
enjoyed the favour
of all immortals, a privilege
that made his band invincible.

But no god seemed
at all interested
in old Toma,
unless you count a moon,
cold and motionless,
that looked on, distracted,
at his life
without lifting a finger.

But that moon was enough for the old man
because he was convinced
that even a god who was indifferent
to his children
was better than no god at all.

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