The cause of earthquakes; and the foree that makesrnOcean heavernBreaking its barriers now, now sinking in its allottedrnbasin;rnWh- it is that Winter’s suns hasten so to dip themselvesrnBeneath the sea; and what delay detains the tardy nights.rnThv countryside and all Thy running streamsrnBe mv delight, sweet Goddesses; and let me lovernTh waters and secluded woods.rnWhat is most intriguing about this obscure character fromrnancient historv is that, although born in A.D. 390, he was notrnconceived until the late 1940’s—in Russell’s fecund imagination.rnI ,ike John Shade in Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, Quintiliusrnis a fictional poet, originally inspired by poet and philosopherrnGeorge Santayana (also the inspiration for WallacernStevens’ “Old Philosopher in Rome”). With Russell’s attentionrnto scholady detail—including a fabricated biographer—Quintiliusrnis a brilliantly developed and executed artistic ruse; andrnfor someone whose preferred models for poetry are Dante, Petrarch,rnand the ancient Greeks, he is the perfect poetic exercisernas well.rnAlthough Quintilius is an invention of Russell’s fancy, onerncannot really say that Russell writes these poems: they are,rnrather, an unusual sort of creative translation, where Quintiliusrnis the brash, uninhibited, pleasure-seeking poet of Russell’s id,rnas “translated” bv Russell’s ego. Words flow “from the pen ofrnQuintilius,” not from Russell himself—in fact, in the preface tornThe Elegies of Quintilius, we are told that “the translator hasrnfound it necessary to exscind several lines which are too rawrne-en for these relaxed davs.” It is difficult to imagine whatrnthese lines might contain, considering the extreme explicitnessrnof some of the ones he has chosen to “leave in.” A bit of coarsernlanguage, however, should not affect one’s judgment of thernqualit’ of these poems, which are imaginative, intelligent, andrncreated with good humor. At times, their creed is reminiscentrnof Pound’s Canto XIV, in which the true “perverters of language”rnare defined as those “who have set money-lust / Beforernthe pleasures of the senses.” A crime, indeed, that neitherrnQuintilius nor Russell could ever seriously be accused of.rnIn recent ‘ears, Peter Russell has faced more than his share ofrnhardships. In March 1990, a fire damaged Russell’s Tuscanrnfarmhouse, razing the poet’s vast personal archive of rare books,rndiaries, essays, and manuscripts, as well as holographs by Montale,rnQuasimodo, Ungaretti, Pound, and Eliot. Uninsured andrnimpo’erished, Russell moved to a converted turbine shed—^lovingh’rnreferred to as “La Turbina”—with his teenage son, PeterrnGeorge. In the fall of 1992, while Russell was attending a poetrrnseminar in Salzburg, torrential rains and mudslides floodedrnhis new home, destroying the remains of his library, hisrnmanuscripts, and the copies of numerous early volumes of hisrnwork that he had reprinted cariicr that year. In a recent inter-rniew with William Oxley, Russell took a surprisingly philosophicalrnapproach to his recurrent losses: “The Muses have done mernthe favour of abstracting, or burning, or flooding much of whatrnr c written. They have permitted me to finish off a certain proportionrnof what I’v’c done, and I’m thankful for that.”rnFor a few months, Russell and his mud-clogged typewriterrnfound shelter in a small spare room in the home of the villagernpriest, while Peter George was cared for by a local family. Butrnthe absence of his son, combined with a general sense of displacement,rnsoon made such accommodations unbearable, andrnRussell returned with Peter George to La Turbina eady in 1993,rneven though its rooms were still buried under several inches ofrnmud.rnIt is from here that Russell writes his poems, as well as preparesrnand produces Marginalia, “an occasional review combiningrnlyric and satiric poetry with acerbic observations on thernanti-poetic scene.” Conceived in 1990, Marginalia’s circulationrnhas grown from a few dozen to 2,000 copies, which Russellrnsends out to friends and admirers gratis (donations appreciated)rneven though he rarely has enough money to cover the costrnof production and postage.rnAs paradoxical as Russell’s editorial generosity may seem givenrnhis shaky economic footing, it is actually more shrewd thanrnirresponsible: Marginalia—which regulariy includes a list of thernpoet’s books available for purchase—is Russell’s way of keepingrnin touch with the poetry scene, keeping his ideas and poemsrncirculating, if only in a small way. For although Russell may berna respected, prize-winning poet in Italy, he and his work have,rnover the years, been unjustly neglected by the English-speakingrnworld.rnThere is, however, an even stronger force motivating Russell:rnsimply put, writing, especially writing poetry, is something thatrnRussell not only loves, but needs to do. Says Russell, “Poetry isrnto do with breathing. Breathing is life, anima, pneuma.” Hernelaborates on this vital relationship in “Breaking Up?”:rnIt is the final end of living.rnIt is the only thing that counts;rnIt is the finest form of giving—rnGive it your final ounce.rnWhen broached by Russell’s alter ego, this passionate commitmentrnto the art seems more of a burden than a blessing:rnFor me, I must ply the vowed toils of the dedicated poet,rnScholar and devotee of every Art and Science,rnAnd at all time attendant to the visiting Muse,rn—Knocked senseless and left hungry as I may bernBy hostile Fates and the murderous hands of men.rnIt is hard to say which better typifies Russell’s point of view;rndoubtless, considering all he has endured over the years, bothrnplay a role. One can only hope that both man and the fates willrneventually reverse their position and bestow upon Russell thernrecognition he deserves, while he is still able to enjoy it.