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More than a century has now passed since F.T. Marinetti's famous "Futurist Manifesto" slammed the door on the nineteenth century and trumpeted the arrival of modernity in Europe and beyond. Since then, against the backdrop of two world wars and several radical social upheavals whose effects continue to be felt, Italian poets have explored the possibilities of verse in a modern age, creating in the process one of the great bodies of twentieth-century poetry.
Even before Marinetti, poets such as Giovanni Pascoli had begun to clear the weedy rhetoric and withered diction from the once-glorious but by then decadent grounds of Italian poetry. And their winter labors led to an extraordinary spring: Giuseppe Ungaretti's wartime distillations and Eugenio Montale's "astringent music"; Umberto Saba's song of himself and Salvatore Quasimodo's hermetic involutions. After World War II, new generations—including such marvelously diverse poets as Sandro Penna, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Amelia Rosselli, Vittorio Sereni, and Raffaello Baldini—extended the enormous promise of the prewar era into our time.
A surprising and illuminating collection, The FSG Book of 20th-Century Italian Poetry invites the reader to examine the works of these and other poets—seventy-five in all, presented in Italian and in English—in context and conversation with one another. Edited by the poet and translator Geoffrey Brock, these poems have been beautifully rendered into English by some of our finest English-language poets, including Seamus Heaney, Robert Lowell, Ezra Pound, Paul Muldoon, and many exciting younger voices.
"Geoffrey Brock, editor of the elegantly conceived FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry . . . does everything he can to force his readers to hear the translations he’s assembled as English-language poems . . . The poems gathered in The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry are similarly adept performances in the English language . . . To read through the anthology, poet by poet, is to be struck immediately by the fact that over the last hundred years Italian poetry has not developed so much by successive generations . . . as within generations: everything seems to be happening at once . . . Few anthologies . . . are so thoughtfully conceived that the experience of reading them feels like the experience of reading an intricate novel; you don’t want to skip anything, even if you know it well, because the pleasure lies in the buried narrative created by the anthologist’s choices. The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Italian Poetry is such an anthology."—James Longenbach, The Nation
"The rich harvest of modern Italian poetry includes the metaphysical . . . questing intellectualism . . . bittersweet odes . . . Also biting social commentary."—Benjamin Ivry, The Star-Ledger
"Even before it brought political revolutions, the twentieth century birthed literary revolutions throughout the West, if not, indeed, the world. The first and archetypal poetic movement, the Futurists, arose in Italy, reacting to the insufficient break with the past it descried in the work of two foremost poets, Giovanni Pascoli and Gabriele d’Annunzio, samplings of which begin this marvelous dual-language anthology. Representative Futurists’ work follows, and then those of such other movements or groups as the world-weary Crepuscularists, the "difficult" Hermeticists, the linea lombarda poets, the Neorealists, the Neoavantgardists, and the Gruppa 63. Then, after 1968, editor Brock points out in the excellent introduction, there are no more movements, though at last women show up more than very occasionally in Italy’s poetry and several poets elect to write in vanishing regional dialects. All along, poets who wrote outside the movements, including some of the very greatest—Umberto Saba, Dino Campana, Sandro Penna, Cesare Pavese—were also active. Appearing here in translations by Anglophone poets and translators of legendary status, they all seem brilliant, all quintessentially Italian in their resplendent gaiety, gusto, and, more often, haunting, umber somberness."—Ray Olson, Booklist
Geoffrey Brock is the author of Weighing Light and the translator of numerous volumes from the Italian, including Cesare Pavese's Disaffections: Complete Poems 1930–1950. His awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the New York Public Library's Cullman Center. He teaches in the MFA Program in creative writing and translation at the University of Arkansas.