Italian Poems

Eugenio_MontaleI’ve always enjoyed Italian Poetry, whether is it form some new, modern poet or one of the many classical poets. Much of the Italian poetry which I’m fond if includes much of domestic life — the day in and day out activities in the typical Italian community. One Italian poet how I have found great please in his work is the well respected Eugenio Montale. The spent many of his summers living in the Cinque Terre, which is a very picturesque and typical Italian village. Two of his peoms, Le Occasioni and Ossi di sepie have both been referred to as the peak of Twentieth Century poetry from Italy. He was a contemporary poet of T. S. Elliot, and the two were actually quite good friends. Montale’s poetry, for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize for Poetry in 1975, is so moving as to sear one’s very soul. Montale could quite easily be included with the other noted existential poets, but he has always avoided those particular boundaries. Montale’s writing includes echoes of the complete Italian poetry tradition. He encompasses his work in a collection of writings which are dedicated to a very well loved woman, which is a traditional form used by many Italian writers and poets since the days of Petrarch. Furthermore, Montale is tirelessly inventive with his application of various vocabulary, along with his methods of manipulating the rhyming traditionally found in Italian writings. He does all of this in an effort to define a realistic and authentic voice for his period in time, his vision, and his location.

Ossi di sepia (An excerpt)
By Eugenio Montale

From a different perspective, it seems that Italian poets have a tendency for involvement in social causes. Diana di Prima is an American-born Italian poet from Brooklyn, New York. She was a student at Swarthmore College for a few years before she relocated to Greenwich Village to become involved in the new “beat” movement. While she was living there in that popular Manhattan community, she became acquainted with other notables of the era, such as Audre Lorde, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. She participated in Timothy Leary’s controversial intentional community located in upstate New York. Later, she moved to live in a similar community in San Francisco.
The poetry of Di Prima tends to be a mixture of attention to form with elements of stream-of-consciousness, co-joining spiritual practice with politics.

“she is the wind…”
by Diana di Prima

While di Prima provides us with some interesting perspectives, the challenges of translating from Italian to English is a much demanding one. Eugenio Montale was one of those people who enjoyed using certain vocal tones in his poetry, and he was, admittedly envious of the English language, as it uses naturally the very tones he sought to produce in Italian. Here is an example of one of Montale’s works which has been translated into the English by Jonathan Galassi, a noted poet in his own right, as well as the primary translator who worked with Montale’s translations.

The Lemons (an excerpt)
by Eugenio Montale



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