Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

"The Faber book of 20th-century Italian poems" by Jamie McKendrick (ed) (Faber and Faber 2004)

In his introduction McKendrick points out that "Twentieth-century Italian poetry is still largely known in the English-speaking world via Montale" and that Italian poetry is more inter-textual than English; poets allude to other poet's poems.

Translators include Michael Donaghy, Kenneth Kock, Robert Lowell, Edwin Morgan, Paul Muldoon, Tom Paulin, Christopher Reid, etc. 44 poets are represented. I've heard of 13 of them. An Italian I know who did literature in Italy until she was 18 has heard of 10 of them, which is probably more than a typical English person would recognise from a comparable English anthology.

In the 2nd poem, D'Annunzio writes "The mouth of woman never was to me so full of pleasure in the ways of love ... as the pale opening out, the silent lips of this small stream that springs in Falterona" which I can't take seriously, and yet I'd be happy to read "My mind's a jellyfish" in a recent work. One's tolerance to hyperbole is time/culture-dependent I suppose.

Here are some soundbites -

  • "a suburb that always/ looks/ like the day they dismantle a fairground" (Ungaretti)
  • "lifeless as a circus/ between performances" (Ungaretti)
  • "then the lightning makes trees and walls/ famous for a moment" (Montale)
  • "Snowflakes ... An expert in meteorological matters would call it a falling in love but me, an expert in these things I'd say perhaps that it's an ambush!" (Rosselli)
  • "The Moroccans with the carpets/ seem like saints/ but they're salesmen" (Cavalli)
  • "Behold the earth, this hapless aircraft/ held hostage by an armed passenger" (Magrelli)

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  1. Dear Tim

    Ezra Pound and TS Eliot were heavily influenced by French poetry but I find the current British Poetry Establishment unbelievably insular. Considering poems from other cultures can only be a good thing.

    Best wishes from Simon R Gladdish

  2. There was a burst of US influence, and Eastern-european was fashionable for a while. The current crop of young hopefuls don't seem very outward-looking, except when exploring their cultural roots.