Introduction to a series of remembrances about poet and Vito Marcantonio Forum co-founder Gil Fagiani, for the current edition of “Italian American Review,” which is created by the City University of New York’s Calandra Italian American Institute and published by University of Illinois Press:
Gil Fagiani: Objectively Speaking
The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre asserted two modes of being: consciousness (pour-soi) and object (en-soi). The former, Sartre asserted, requires the latter; consciousness exists only in its relation to the objective world.
Consciousness implies the objective world and its own existence as a question.
The questions Gil Fagiani asked, in an effort to know himself and give his existence meaning, can be sought in the ample and elevated body of work he left behind, as writer and poet, upon passing on April 12, 2018.
Provincial Italy, New Left politics, addiction, redemption, romance, Latin-spiced urban streetscapes, are rendered in flavors only realizable in a man striving to understand the relationship between his consciousness and the objective world, a dialectic Sartre considered the foundation of knowledge and action.
In this collection of remembrances, we make contact with Fagiani’s en-soi, his consciousness as it existed to those around him -- remembrances confirming Sartre’s contention that “there can be no free pour-soi save as engagement in a resistant world.”
For engaged the poet and activist was.
Here we have Fagiani’s lifelong friend, Genie Bild, recalling New York City’s anarchic 1970s, when the pair worked with the activist group White Lightning. Professor Gerald Meyer reviews a thirty-year friendship and collaboration rooted in recuperating the memory of radical Italian American Congressman Vito Marcantonio. Roger Harris harkens back to Manhattan’s riotous ‘60s and his work with Fagiani and the East Harlem Tenants Council, remarking on his comrade’s fateful link to the neighborhood. James Tracy’s research on a book brought Fagiani into his life, and in time he came to know “the multitudes within him.”
For Sartre, death was not annihilation but the lapse of one’s subjectivity out of the world. The meanings we leave behind are modified at the hands of others. Our consciousness exists, finally and solely, in the minds of those who perceive and remember us.
In these writings of four men who can claim to have known him well, Gil Fagiani is not annihilated; rather, he exists and changes and endures.
Volume II, Number I of “Italian American Review” can be purchased here:
https://www.press.uillinois.edu/journals/iar.html. or from Clydette at firstname.lastname@example.org