Edited by Geoffrey Brock
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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—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 . . . A 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. Dip into it, if you like; look for a particular poet, listen for a particular translator. But for the most rewarding experience, read the whole book slowly, page by page.” —James Longenbach, The Nation
“To edit an anthology of modern poetry in translation is no easy task: not only must individual poets and poems from a broad time period be selected, but the editor must also find available translations of enduring quality. Geoffrey Brock resourcefully resolves the challenge in part by doing his own translations of a significant number of poems, a job for which he meets the criteria set in his translator’s note—‘translators must also be poets’—by being himself an accomplished translator and poet. He has also assembled an unusually varied group of translators who are themselves practicing poets, including already familiar names—Ezra Pound, Ted Hughes, W. S. Di Piero, and Jonathan Galassi—along with somewhat less familiar ones, such as Susan Stewart, Rina Ferrarelli, and Alan Williamson. Additionally, Brock invigorates the collection by presenting established poets like Pavese, Penna, and Pasolini alongside less-established poets like Alfredo de Palchi or virtually unknown ones like Saturno Montanari. The result is a book with a dazzlingly eclectic sweep, a collection with authoritative artistic breadth and an unusual tonal unity within individual poems . . . a rich anthology that will encourage rereading for years to come.” —Rita Signorelli-Pappas, World Literature Today
“The rich harvest of modern Italian poetry includes the metaphysical . . . questing intellectualism . . . bittersweet odes . . . Also biting social commentary.” —Benjamin Ivry, Newark 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 worldweary 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 (Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Samuel Beckett, James Merrill, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, William Weaver), they all seem brilliant, all quintessentially Italian in their resplendent gaiety, gusto, and, more often, haunting, umber somberness. This is the one big Italian poetry anthology for virtually all Anglophone libraries.” —Ray Olson, Booklist