Friday, July 13, 2012

New Poetry

The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry, edited by Geoffrey Brock

This is the second large volume of Twentieth-Century Poetry in translation that Farrar, Straus, and Giroux has published in the last few years; the first one (previously reviewed in this blog) was a compendium of Latin American poetry. Apparently one of the advantages that the publisher has in putting out an edition of this sort is that many of the fine translations here have been done by major poets who are regularly published by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, and so obtaining permissions and copyrights may be a less formidable task than it might otherwise be. As in the Latin American compendium, the poems here are presented in their original language on the left-hand side of the page and in translation on the right. In addition to the poetry itself, one can imagine that speakers of both Italian and English, and also English-speaking students learning Italian (or vice-versa for that matter) would find this an especially enjoyable volume to peruse. There is representative work by more than 73 different Italian poets here. A short biography of each poet can be found at the back of the book. The editor has avoided long narrative poems for the most part. The entries here are generally short and evocatively imagistic, a fine selection of luminous and memorable poems.

To My Brother

One grievous day
clothes the infinite circle of the hills
in a waning light,
and already there overflows across the plain
a whole autumn of leaves.

Colder the sunset now unfurls
its shadowy ensigns:
a bright lamp is lit
where you in your gentleness are missing
from the ancient ceremony of evening.

                                 Attilio Bertolucci
                                 (translation, Charles Tomlinson)

There’s silence between one page and another.
The long stretch of the land up to the woods
where gathered
shadows escape the day
and nights show through
discrete and precious
like fruit on branches.
In this luminous
and geographic frenzy
I am still unsure
whether to be the landscape I am crossing
or the journey I am making there.

                               Valerio Magrelli
                               (translation, Jonathan Galassi)

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