Wednesday, February 3, 2010


DVD: Franco Beltrametti / SUONI E IMMAGINI
4 videos di Claudio Tettamanti
Edizione 2009

Chance is like an intersecting angel

Franco Beltrametti

Maybe you have a friend in Italy, like I do. Maybe that friend is a very good friend, like mine, and sends you a DVD of the artist, poet and performer Franco Beltrametti. What makes this a good friend is I didn't even ask for the film. I didn't even know of the film. This friend was thinking of me. Franco would like that because Franco was much like that, thinking with and for others. I only met him a few times — and we corresponded and exchanged gifts, too — but each time was in the right company, always with a close mutual friend. Walls were already down. We could reach for the horizon.

In 1965, from his home in Switzerland, Franco hatched this idea, maybe sprung from Cendrars? to get aboard the Siberian Express and travel to Japan where he would meet for the first time Cid Corman, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen, American poets all. In the spring of 1967 he arrived on the west coast aboard the freighter Washington Bear where he was met by Jim Koller, and friendships would ensue from there with Koller, Joanne Kyger and others. They, of course, all put their tribal heads together and by the 70s Franco began to play a pivotal role in bringing many of these poets over to Europe. He would first warm up the audience at home by including these poets in many anthologies published in the neighborhood, mainly in Italy. Then later in the decade Franco invited many of these same poets to participate in the One World Poetry festivals held in Venice & Amsterdam. Strong international friendships were bonded to this day.

The only time Franco came to our house in Vermont, he actually showed Susan and me his etchings. It's true, artists will seduce you with their etchings, and if the etchings are this fine and involving and true to the moment, then seduce away. Often within Franco's art, his poems will be.

Many knew Franco much better than I. Friends like those mentioned above, and Stefan Hyner, Rita Degli Esposti and Louise Landes Levi. A good bunch. When one of these friends brought Franco to our house we had a warm meal waiting, a big yard of flowers growing, and a bed to sleep in. Before we retired we sat down and watched Kirk Douglas in the film Lonely Are the Brave. Italians love films, Franco knew this film, and he knew the American west where this film was coming from. So all our little audience was nodding and smiling and not saying much, but watching & listening.

In this DVD we have Franco at home in Switzerland, talking amongst his as-if stone layered stacks of books, and I mean many thousands — some carefully shelved in floor to ceiling bookcases, decorated with art work, postcards, postings from friends, found objects, twigs & seeds. This is a man who flows like air between indoors and outdoors, and while the interview carries on we are taken outdoors with Franco and then we come back indoors and talk some more. Here he chain smokes, goes quiet and thinks, talks some more. He's talking to someone he likes or wants to like. This is a very thoughtful and friendly man. Of the quartet of portraits in this DVD this is the only part where you will be helped along with English subtitles.

The remaining three portraits are on the move with Franco catching a train with Jim Koller, or in a museum exhibit of Franco's work with many people in many rooms, always talking, lively faces, what's being said isn't always important. There's some moments with his friends Jean Monod or Tom Raworth or the musician Steve Lacy, and with Lacy there is a background collage of music/conversation just happening. At another event Franco reads with Dario Villa and people mill around while the poets mill around and once again in the background much is happening — now artists are painting the walls. When Franco is done reading he takes a spray can and goes into the painting and adds his two-cents, while Dario is reading. When Dario is done, Franco is back to read and Dario goes and takes a look at the painting. Talks to the painter. The painter is working with a ten foot pole and maybe there isn't a brush on the end of that's stick painting. In America where they have to call everything something, they'd call this activity "multi-tasking". In Italy they call it another day.

Here is where you can try to find the DVD. The information I have is all in Italian. There is also Franco's website run by his family and supported by all these friends. You see, Franco Beltrametti died way too young in 1995. He was 57 years old. So his friends like to live like he's still here. Because he is.

for more information please contact:

Fondazione Franco Beltrametti Foundation
Via dell'Inglese 3
6826 Riva San Vitale

or: or at

Franco Beltrametti & James Koller, Vermont 1989

photo © bob arnold