Tag Archives: poetry

‘La notte nuda’ di Mariano Coreno

Il poeta Mariano Coreno sarà presente ad una serata di letture dal suo ultimo lavoro, La notte nuda, a 199 Faraday St, Carlton, martedì il 23 luglio, dalle 18.30 alle 20.00. Nato in Italia nel 1939 e residente in Australia dal 1956, Mariano Coreno collabora a svariati giornali e riviste in Italia e in Australia. Tra il 2001 e il 2017 ha pubblicato cinque raccolte di poesie (Stelle passanti; Sotto le stelle; L’ombra delle rose; Un albero per ombrello; Canto la vita mia). Dagli anni 70 in poi i suoi versi sono stati inclusi in antologie inglesi, italiane e australiane. La serata sarà introdotta da Gregoria Manzin (La Trobe University), autrice di Torn Identities: Life Stories at the Border of Italian Literature (Trobadour, 2013) e di pubblicazioni su argomenti di traduzione, studi di genere e studi migranti, postcoloniali e transnazionali.

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‘A sort of Roman saint’

250px-giuseppe_gioachino_belli‘The greatest poet of the 19th century’ (1976) …. ‘one of the three major revelations of my later life’ (1990) … ‘to read the entire corpus is to be overwhelmed. One dares to speak about greatness’ (1992). Who can this poet be? Aha .. ‘aromatic Roman speech haloed by a sonnet’ (1977). That’s a clue – except that the poet himself corrected anyone who described his language as ‘Roman’ – ‘no, it’s romanesco’. This isn’t a competition so the cast can be revealed. The poet is Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791-1863) and the writer praising him is Anthony Burgess (1917-1993). The novelist is quoted by Paul Howard in this week’s TLS  (22 Feb, p.15) in a long introduction to an apparently unpublished essay by Burgess entitled ‘Belli into English’ (ibid., p.16). Overcoming his initial shock at Belli’s obscenity and blasphemy, Burgess had made translations of a selection from GGB’s s 2279 sonnets for his novel Abba Abba. But, acknowledging that the poet was ‘a sort of Roman saint’, Burgess found the work of translating him very hard: ‘Belli remains as one of the proofs that poetry is fundamentally untranslatable’.

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The weather in the Roman streets

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(C) Alessandro Prada @ Flickr

Glimpsed a classical fashion icon as you sipped your cappuccino in Piazza Navona? Been queue-jumped at the ticket office by a louche member of the Mount Olympus club? Had a funny thing happen to you on the way to the forum? Travis McKenna has been making poetry out of such encounters ….

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Vale, Giorgio Orelli (1921-2013)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

orelligiorgioItalian literature has lost a unique and much loved voice, with the death this morning of Swiss poet Giorgio Orelli, at the age of 92. Orelli was born in 1921 in Airolo, in the Canton of Ticino, and made his debut as a poet with the collection Né bianco né viola in 1944. He studied at Freiburg im Breisgau under Gianfranco Contini and made a career teaching literature in Switzerland and Italy. He published fiction (Un giorno della vita, 1960) and criticism (most recently La qualità del senso, in 2012), but it was in the domain of poetry that he produced his most inspired work, in collections that displayed his gift for rich, concentrated and emotional descriptions of nature: L’ora del tempo (1962), Sinopie (1977), Spiracoli (1989), Il collo dell’anitra (2001) and most recently L’orlo della vita.

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Quaderno poetico #6: Going behind the scenes (II) – Archives

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

220px-Stipula_fountain_pen

This is the first of two posts about working in archives, where so many of us spend so much our time, in Italy and elsewhere. My work concentrates on the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari and I will have more to say about working on his archival materials later, as well as talking about the technical questions involved – transcribing handwriting, handling old paper and  so on. First, though, I have found myself reflecting on archival work in general, the fascination, frustrations, fun and fanaticism that surround it. I’m interested to hear other people’s archival stories and philosophies, particularly if they disagree with mine. Archival work often makes you feel that you’re the only one in the world doing what you’re doing (a chosen one, even!) but of course we’re never alone. The Renaissance scholar Gene Brucker has called himself an ‘archive junkie.’ There must be more out there. Be proud of it.  

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Quaderno poetico #4: How the poetry works (II)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

What do you notice about these two samples of poetry?

“…se il vento rintocca nelle corti / come un rullo sordo e opaco di tamburo, / un ululo fedele accanto al muro / del padrone addormentato.”

“Le corti fiorentine / rintoccano a morto in una cupa vanità / come una pelle tesa di tamburo, / le ardesie soffocate di polvere quassù in alto…”

The quotations come from two separate poems, “La notte fiorentina,” written on the 27th of February 1946, and “Inverno arido,” written a few days later on the 3rd and 4th of March. But yes, the thing you notice is the repetition. Different poems, same material: the courtyards reverberating with a menacing, drumhead sound. The last post ended with the suggestion that Bigongiari’s writing unfolded through a process of elaboration, treating certain phrases, words or situations as motifs, to be taken up from previous poems and recoloured in new ones. What you see here is an example of elaboration in action.

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Quaderno poetico #3: How the poetry works (I)

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

Once the historical labels are removed, the project of getting to know Piero Bigongiari arrives at the biggest question: if the idea of ermetismo is not the key to defining his work, then what is?Bigongiari photo Bigongiari’s poetry is often deeply abstract; it can be highly charged with emotion, but without a clear reason or point of reference; it sometimes plays odd games with internal rhymes and repetitions. Furthermore, the poems are presented in chronological order and their dates of composition are given in the table of contents. How do we discuss this coherently and sympathetically? And how do we draw philosophical conclusions from it?

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Quaderno poetico #2: Peeling off the labels

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

When you write about authors who aren’t household names, the first thing you’re expected to do is place them somewhere in history, otherwise their writing won’t make sense. In Piero Bigongiari’s case this seems easy, as the job has been done for you by decades of common sense. The standard line is to say that Bigongiari was one of the terza generazione of ermetici. That is, he belonged to a group of poets who followed Ungaretti and Montale, dwelling on the abstract, the dreamlike and the mysterious. Other members of the terza generazione were Mario Luzi, Alessandro Parronchi and Alfonso Gatto, along with the critics Carlo Bo and Oreste Macrì. They all met as students in Florence in the 1930s, gathered in cafes for fervent discussion, and enjoyed one flowering of pure, apolitical poetic creativity (ignored by the Fascist regime, which didn’t get poetry) before the post-war shift leftwards in Italy’s cultural scene. Their moment was interesting while it lasted, but circumstances and politics turned taste elsewhere. This seems foolproof: the terza generazione come as a boxed set labelled Montale’s Friends, which fills out the library but which you pass over to read bigger things.

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Quaderno poetico #1: Our man Bigongiari

Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

bigongiariThe eyes follow you. They have been following me for six years. They belong to the Florentine poet Piero Bigongiari (1914-1997), one of the so-called terza generazione of ermeticiI wrote my doctorate on Bigongiari and am turning my research into a book. ACIS has kindly given me the opportunity to keep a diary of the project, and over the next several months I will be posting snippets and vignettes from the desk.

This will not be so much “writing about writing” as a reflection on Bigongiari as a subject and as a presence:  someone whose poems I read alongside his diaries and letters, whose voice I hear in recordings, whose loose and sometimes messy handwriting I have learned to decipher, and whose quirks and habits of mind are now very familiar to me, but who is not actually there. Few book subjects are, but there is still a feeling that they keep you company. How do you make your figure of interest seem real on the page? Bigongiari’s work may seem out-of-the-way, strange or difficult, but what are its real merits? What can it mean to us today? What is Bigongiari’s relationship to other poets of the last century, and what light do they shed on one another? And how, sometimes, do you manage to look away from those eyes that are following you all the time, and put your own opinion freely on the page?

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A ‘Contrappasso’ against the decline in literary publishing


Theodore Ell   University of Sydney

With publishing and reading as we know them ceding ground to electronics (bookshops are closing – Florence just lost Edison and Libreria Martelli), the last thing you might expect anyone to do is found a journal for new writing.contrappasso1_frontcover_tn Last year, on the initiative of the writer Matthew Asprey, I helped to do just that. I curate the poetry, Matthew the prose. We are often told that we are brave to do this and even sometimes that we are insane, but to us it is a matter of simple necessity, indeed opportunity. To quote our founding statement, Instead of a Manifesto, “The fear of the decline of intelligent reading is so widespread that it proves what a huge audience is really there, primed and waiting for something new—publications with no particular agenda beyond helping writers and readers find each other.”

We called our publication Contrappasso Magazine, after the punishments meted out to souls in Inferno and Purgatorio: the equal, opposite and meaningful responses to the wrongs committed. The title suggests an Italian focus and the journal has already made some strong Italian connections, but its outlook is international. Continue reading

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