Lelio Porreca: A Real Example
By Teresa Madonna
On the 30th May 1995 the "Vincenzo Bellini" Middle School of Torricella Peligna named its main hall after Lelio Porreca, journalist, writer, novelist, ecologist and poet.
This special, highly significant ceremony took place in the presence of civil, military and religious authorities, Italian Alpine Troops of Torricella and many friends who loved and esteemed Lelio Porreca. His widow, his children, his brother and all relatives present were extremely moved by this demonstration of affection and especially for the way their relative’s work had been appreciated. During the ceremony the depths of Porreca’s soul emerged from his book "Poems" in which strong paternal and filial sentiments are expressed side by side with those of love for the beauties of nature and for his "sweet village with the few houses stretched out on the hillside/ a wide main road with only two or three churches, a fountain which becomes quiet at night."
In his own way the poet happily savoured the village’s warmth, the many streams of its lands, the rocks dominated by the mother Majella, whilst he felt at one with other creatures' feelings, suffering with them, but rejoicing at the infinite range of love.
Song is also reflected glowingly in his stories, especially in the lyrics of “The Voice of the Centuries” ("La voce dei secoli"). “Stones breathe closed” where “shards erupt/ memories of dreams/ of art and love/ of compassion for affection” whilst the mute theatre at Juvanum breathes “under the white moon/ like cemeteries breathe at night.” Thus the past returns, losing itself “in the mystery of life and love”. It is a synthetic expression that we can consider as final in his book “Senility” (Senilità): “I begin to die in the present/ to survive in memories” from the past like a drama yet at the same time like an elegy with bucolic Virgilian echoes.
Similar feelings appear in the anthology collection "19 Torricellan Songs", fruit of Porreca’s filial attachment to his village of birth. Amongst other things there are sincere displays of choral cordiality that recur in the daily life of the people towards whom these songs are directed. The small volume "A Clump of My Soil" belongs to this same "climate" from which an anxiety breathes, a desire to bring the heart of the Abruzzo to its emigrants, in as much as, in transcribing the places, the feelings of devotion which they inspire emerges. The forests and the rocks belong to the realm of the eternal soul, because the earth remains, whilst the seasons and men pass on. His love for nature, described in various ways, with colours and sounds, is also found in the collection of prose entitled "The Hen Lays Golden Eggs", where there is no lack of the author’s ethical and social motivation, side by side with memories of family life, in a style which shuns any attempts at being rhetorical, but which demonstrates clarity with the same tone as do his poems.
Whilst Porreca wrote - notes about customs, studies of working class traditions, historical research and about tourism - in the daily newspapers and in periodicals, at the same time he also used to dedicate himself to recovering archaeological finds dating as far back as the 6th Century BC, such as the bronze helmet of Torricella Peligna, kept at the National Museum of Chieti. The first resumption of systematic excavation at Juvanum in the territory of Montenerodomo is due to Porreca.
The satirical small volume "Small Portrait of a Political Career-ist" published in 1961 serves as a reminder of that incandescent political period. Since then Porreca has identified the causes of political degeneration and the emergence of the disease, "protagonism", which makes people desirous only of satisfying their own interests whilst controlling the will of the electors, as a response to the complex demands of society. We should go back and read those pages again, to remind ourselves about fulfilling these needs, because they have largely been forgotten about, in the years since they were written. Thus it would be advisable to find one of the last articles Porreca wrote, addressed to intellectuals. It would take too long to go over all his publications, but we must mention the one called "A Walk in Abruzzo" where we meet: the call to religion from the earth; the reference to historical roots in the phases of civil development and subsequent decadence; modification of customs but also traditions preserved. Thus, whilst the author speaks about present-day realities, he also subjects the images to a continual decline, which moves between memories of the past to expectations and hope in the future. Meanwhile he deduces that the streets of Abruzzo can draw out the means of survival from the beauties of nature and from the charms of history. Thus the localities appear to be alive, Guardiagrele, Gessopalena, Torricella Peligna, Montenerodomo, Majella, the National Park of Abruzzo and the Cavallone Grotto.
Finally we must remember Porreca’s work called "Once Upon a Time There Was the Sky", edited in 1982; it is a novel set in Agnone.(1) In it he writes both of the vicissitudes of the last war and also about the rebirth of hope and of love. In this work Porreca’s art has reached maturity in his use of expressive methods capable of interpreting even the slightest wisps of thought and the most hidden movement’s of the soul.
To complete this picture of Lelio Porreca we recall that he was a founder of "Pro-Loco" (2) of Torricella Peligna and as its president he was the guiding spirit of so many events held to promote and develop tourism in the entire region. He organised the Congress "Let us Save the Majella" in January 1971 which aroused great interest at the National Level because of its ecological ideas concerning protection of mountain zones, earning the approval of Indiro Montanelli in one of his editorials entitled "Civismo" (3) which appeared in the "Corriera della Sera".(4)
In defence of nature Porreca intervened to block the advances of a stone quarry which was destroying "La Morgia" a majestic limestone mass of natural panoramic beauty, which rises between Gessopalena and Torricella Peligna.
For having produced so much literature, Lelio Porreca will live on in the hearts and souls of all those who read his many works and share his message of love for nature, for history, for ideals and values, by which he lived cohesively both as a man and as a citizen.
(1) Agnone is a town in northwest Molise known for producing and supplying church bells to the Vatican.
(2) local branch of a National tourism organisation
(3) "Civismo" means - the characteristics of a good citizen
(4) Corriera della Sera is an Italian National Newspaper
© Amici di Torricella
Translation courtesy of Dr. Marion Apley Porreca
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