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Home for Difficult Children by Daniele Pantano

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Home for Difficult Children is a book based on personal and familial experiences and memories of exile, trauma, migration, immigration, refugeeism, translingualism, transitoriness, social justice, and writing one’s way home. Daniele Pantano writes with remarkable empathy and uncommon beauty. It is a book in defiance of solipsism. It is a book for us all.



PRAISE for Home for Difficult Children:


“We sing – because we are lost.” Employing a staccato chorus of fractured, disturbing and strangely beautiful voices, Daniele Pantano’s Home for Difficult Children unearths those secrets we cannot bear to reveal lest they shatter the stories of our lives. The voices sing of ancient wrongs which haunt us still, maiming our ability to love one another, to be vulnerable again. The language – always concise, clear, vivid – varies from the brightly lyrical to the darkly fairy-tale, through to the chilly vocabulary of documentary and bureaucratic lists. The poems may be bleak in their truths, but it is through these voices, if we have the body, heart and spirit to be open to their beauty and terror, that we may be blessed with the vision of a more authentic way to live and love.

— Ian Seed, The Underground Cabaret


Daniele Pantano writes something we might call confessional conceptual writing, with its lyrical listing, forensic fairytales. His poems often present inventive inventories of mysterious actions in a menacing world, a world of deadly serious playgrounds, playscripts for isolated dancers. We need them. His preference for errata and marginalia, his refusal to write the kind of poem “that famous poets on twitter write these days and publish in the new yorker. a poem about tears” does not preclude lyric poems with the pain of its momentary selfhood, precisely a poem about tears. His essentially pan-European sensibility finds him toppling in and out of English, finding the other side of exile in a painful homecoming. All of this is related in sharply delineated forms, pieced together with a clarity that burns and shines. We need these poems to relate the complexities of our moment. 

— Robert Sheppard, The English Strain


Reading Home for Difficult Children feels a little like happening on the aftermath of an investigation, an interrogation, which may also be the crime scene itself: files scattered, tapes unspooled. Even the titles of these poems – shadowed in parentheses by their own alternatives, Gestalt switches to other readings – undercut the possibility of any singular meaning. English is unsettled by German and French, pushed through various mechanisms and transformations, so that the things it might have resisted saying (both personal and historical) rise to the surface in unexpected ways: “this other thing / we cannot name pleading // to speak again.” There is a dark pleasure here in the images of ballerinas under interrogation, of the wrong side of a children’s birthday party, “the shrieks of cotton candy and love hearts,” of poetry itself as a Rabenmutter, a bad mother, unleashing onto these pages “the orphans locked up in our dark playgrounds.” 

— Helen Tookey, City of Departures


One of the poems in Home for Difficult Children contains the line you still cannot find what you know – and that’s the terrain one travels as one works through this dark, troubled collection. Pantano’s poems contain Georg Trakl’s dark forests, Robert Walser’s cities and sanatoriums, Paul Celan’s collapsed/condensed interiors, and Andrei Tarkovsky’s shrouded landscapes. These disturbing, moving poems climb over a great deal of 20th century European culture – often feeling like Super 8 movies of a disappeared world. But here’s the thing. It’s 2022 – and in the intensity of their dark light, they also, suddenly, feel terrifyingly contemporary.
— Tim Atkins, On Fathers < On Daughtyrs


In Daniele Pantano we have found an heir to Czeslaw Milosz.
— John Domini, twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction


Daniele Pantano is one of the most interesting and versatile English-language poets of his generation.

— Neue Zürcher Zeitung


Now that’s real poetry alright.

— Franz Wright, 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry


Daniele Pantano is one of Europe’s most exciting poets.

— Southbank Centre



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