The Little Book-cover (1)
A Bilingual edition (Italian/English)

The Little Book of Passage

The Bitter Oleander Press, 2018

The Little Book of Passage is the story of the crossing of an inner fault line, a travel diary through the territories of the psyche: presences close to disappearing and dreamlike atmospheres act as a deforming mirror in regard to the gestures and happenstances of everyday life. Allusiveness and precision, density and evanescence, are juxtaposed and integrated in this continuous attempt to focus on and pronounce the world. As in a rite of passage, Franca Mancinelli, who lets herself be visited by shadows, recomposes the fragments of an open identity, which has never abandoned the origin.

John Taylor’s English translation of Libretto di transito (Amos Edizioni, 2018).

It’s not just packing a suitcase. It’s primping and preening oneself. Entering into the exact size of the sorrow. All acts aimed at a single destination. Wearing shoes that have never pressed down on the earth, we will sleep at the center of the gaze, like newborn children.


In the evening, a cigarette between his fingers, watching the sky darken like moistened soil, my father waters his garden. When he’s standing down there in the farthest corner, hidden by the tomato plants, I can hear the water pouring from the well, streaming down between the dirt clods to the roots awaiting it. Here, where the flow has trickled out, sprout plants with poisonous fruit, stiff stalks of grass with tiny flowers. I haven’t succeeded in hoeing them away, in repairing the water table.


As if I always had another number, another size, every morning I force myself to put on clothes, shoes. I still grow in the darkness, like a plant drinking from black soil. Getting dressed demands losing the branches extending into sleep, their most tender leaves open. You can suddenly feel them falling like an unexpected winter. At the same time you also lose the tail and the wings you had. You feel it happening somewhere in your body. You’re not bleeding, this is a deprivation to which they have accustomed you. Now you only need to look for your clothes. To glide like a sunray, until the light dims.


Unfinished sentences remain ruins. You’re supporting inside yourself an entire village in danger of collapsing. You know the pain of every tile, every brick. A dull thud in the clearing of your chest. Perhaps it’s someone’s constant love, a calm chore resounding in the depths of the woods. You who are unpacking your suitcase, you forget to leave.


There is a small fault line in your chest. When I hug your chest or place my head on it there is this puff of air. It has a woodsy moistness and an earthy smell to it. The nearby mountains with their frozen torrents. Ever since I have heard it, I cannot help but recognize it. Even when high-soaring birds fly one after the other through your voice, marking out a route in the clear sky. The fault line is inside you, it is widening. A chilly gust of wind blows through your ribs and is decomposing you. You no longer have an ear. Your neck has vanished. Between one shoulder and the other one opens a darkness peopled with shivers, with voices calling out from branch to branch, on a sheer slope uncrossed by human steps.

Mancinelli explores the fault lines (faglie) across which religions attempt to build bridges that philosophers would remove, using the third way, of poetry. Deploying the uncertainties and ambiguities of language, she attempts to construct bridges of meaning that might at any time prove illusory. “Unfinished sentences remain ruins. You’re supporting inside yourself an entire village in danger of collapsing”. For a true poet, wich Mancinelli undoubtedly is, the quest goes beyond simple philosophical questioning. It is an existential struggle.

(Mark Glanville, The Times Literary Supplement)


One of Mancinelli’s two epigraphs is by Emily Dickinson: “To fill a Gap / Insert the Thing that caused it.” “Gaps” inspire several prose poems: the distance between two places or two human beings; a breach in a continuity that must be sealed, perhaps by the “clay” that a human being applies to the “broken, empty places” of another human being; an abyss, modest or more dramatic, that suddenly gapes open […]. Mancinelli confronts other disunities as well: mankind and nature, the inner world of sensibility and the outer world of brute facts. […] all the pieces in this book, taken one after another, seemingly sketch out a single movement, through writing, towards a kind of healing or renewal. 

(John Taylor, The Times Literary Supplement)



The Little Book of Passage […] exemplifies the best possibilities of the prose-poem form. […] Mancinelli makes excellent use of this legacy, rooted in Baudelaire and the symbolists, to create a captivating account of consciousness moving back and forth across the borders of the self. […] 

Throughout the book, images of water and of motion suggest a decentering of selfhood, a fluid consciousness. […] Mancinelli writes movingly of loss and its effect on one’s sense of self. That each poem is brief but engrossing and that the book itself is attractive and compact make The Little Book of Passage an ideal traveling companion. 

(Benjamin Myers, World Literature Today


The Little Book of Passage […] seems a perfect manifestation of the full prose-poem concept. This is because it enacts a constant tension between stasis and movement. […]It consists of a sequence of 33 prose-poems in four parts, each delineating an enigmatic and disconnected moment or event in the life of the speaker in relation to ”you” which is never entirely told. It is a kind of inner event, an event from which any reason for the pervasive sense of loss is omitted; “you” is present but lurks in the past or future, a forgotten or possible meeting. 

(Peter Riley, )


Introspective, bordering on biography, but only touching the untouchable. These poems sway like waves, back and forth, between water and shore. At times, you can pick things out floating along these waves that seem familiar, lost. 

(Paul B. Roth) 


A story both gliding through and over the ephemeral existing of things and life. Kind of saying hello and goodbye at the same time. 

(Jerker Safgors) 


This is a psychic journey of deep observation and awareness — self-reflection not done well would be self-absorption — but Mancinelli’s work is intentionality made pure. Genuine thought fullness is the common thread from page to page with remembrances through imagery and sentience. Clean, clear, and true writing. 

(Grace Cavalieri, Washington Independent Review of Books


There is a restlessness, a yearning in these poems. Movement, travel, transience. But to where or to what, even the poet seems uncertain. Or content to leave connections unresolved. The precision of her prose casts sideways glances at implied, inferred, unspeakable sensations. […] 

Life is a series of passages. Arrivals, leavings and transitions. We often make allusions to one kind, even a profound passage like birth or death, to speak to another. This series of delicate poetic prose pieces invites you hold each one, like a shard of glass, and allow it to refract and distort reflected light and meaning. 

(Joseph Screiber,


If this is a book of travel, it is a book of fitful travel, the kind of oneiric travel that makes a dog twitch in its sleep. There are start points and endpoints, assuredly, but like a wormhole Mancinelli’s verse is liable to spit you out in any manner of place or time. […] 

The poems of The Little Book of Passage are poems of contradiction: paralysis and travel, free association and narrative, broken earth and reparative clay—they are both the Gap and the thing to fill it. 

(Todd Portnowitz,


These are poems of passage, as the tittle suggests, road signs or signals we pass in our journeys, signals that we may or may not absorb. […] One catches the scent of them as the lines waft in and out of our consciousness. As if we are traveling really fast and the world outside is within our lens for a moment and the vanishes. […]

There is a sacredness in her conjoining of nature and human which gives rise to the description of being-ness of life, or life-as-it-is in the now, experienced in the moment. Language becomes a net that manages to grasp at this fluidity and offer us momentary insights. 

(Pramila Venkateswaran, The Enchanting Verses