REVIEW: Drifting Away by Martina Lunardelli

 Reviewed by Gabino Iglesias

Something happens to poetry when it’s translated. The change is only noticeable to those who know both languages really well. However, the simple process of translating things from one language into another becomes a profound part of the writing process when it happens in the poet’s brain before the verses make onto the sheet or screen. In the case of Martina Lunardelli, an Italian freelance translator and interpreter, writing in English shaped her poetry into a concise, minimalist celebration of life, light, and nature.

Drifting Away, Lunardelli’s first book of poetry in English, is a journal full of experiences and feelings. Besides Italy and the U.S., the author has worked in countries like Libya, Algeria and Iraq. The scenes and cultures she came across also play a role in her writing. The poems that are born from these experiences. “Algiers” offers a perfect example of Lunardelli’s straight, minimalist approach:

Salt on my skin
Sun on the clouds
Upside down world
Absolute inner freedom
In the prison outside

While some poems read like portions of a travelogue and other more like happy musings born of an afternoon spent enjoying a cup of coffee, the collection does have an underlying theme that keeps coming up and permeates the entire book: nature. The author pays attention and constantly celebrates what nature has to offer: leafs, the wind, grass, trees, a clear sky. However, the best part about this collection is that Lunardelli is able to apply her sense of beauty to a plethora of situations. Finding something to celebrate in a gorgeous meadow is not too hard, but that changes when you’re talking about Iraq and the remnants of war, like she does in “Goodnight Erbil”:

Goodnight to you, so paradoxically
roadblocks and
ruins. His fortress,
so far but still living in your thoughts.
Abandoned tanks
pulsing deadly life
standing admonition for humanity.
Goodnight Iraq.
We’ll meet soon.

This constant changing between anger and happiness, beauty and pain is what makes Drifting Away a recommended read. When taken separately, some of the poems might be seem as too simple, but when read as a collection that spans a few years, the depth and range of Lunardelli’s writing comes through. There are poems here about walking barefoot on the grass, but they’re often quickly followed by something darker, like a poem about holding onto the remnants of our existence with bleeding nails and teeth.

Ultimately, Drifting Away works because the short verses work both as a celebration of nature and the power of language. While many writers fill pages upon pages trying to get their thoughts out, Lunardelli somehow cuts to the epicenter of what she’s trying to say while using the least amount of words possible. The result is a book that can be read in half an hour and where not a single word is wasted. If you want to read that which stands at the opposite end of long-winded academic poetry, check this one out.

Drifting Away
Martina Lunardelli
84 pp., $5.60 print

Gabino Iglesias is a writer and journalist currently living in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Austin Post, Business Today, San Antonio Magazine, Bizarro Central, Paragraph Line, Surreal Grotesque, CultureMap Austin, Divergent Magazine, MicroHorror, El Nuevo Dia and a few anthologies. He’s also a book reviewer for HorrorTalk, Horrorphilia, Zouch Magazine, Buzzy Mag, Verbicide, the Lovecraft eZine and most recently joined Black Heart Magazine as its new Poetry Editor. He can be reached at or via Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.