Tomorrow, so I am reliably informed, is both National Poetry Day and the eighth day of the London Review Bookshop’s Italy month. Author of the month, small press of the month and now country of the month – it’s all go round here. There was much talk at the last staff meeting as to how the two occasions might be integrated, and on occasions the meeting showed every sign of breaking up in disarray, until eventually Rachael raised a tentative hand. ‘What about showcasing some of the fine Italian poetry available in the shop? Perhaps with a blogpost and a booklist?’
The assembled throng paused in their brouhaha to stroke their chins and scratch their heads thoughtfully. ‘A showcase, eh? That just might work,’ said John.
OK, OK here it is.
John’s Top Three Italian Poetry Choices
Archipelago by Antonella Anedda
Jamie McKendrick has established himself as the UK’s leading translator of Italian poetry. His versions of Antonella Anedda give a good idea of why; they’re marvellously realised in English, and the parallel text allows the reader to see how clearly he brings across Anedda’s verbal music (‘Reghet su mele: limba e’lidone, gardu et sale’ / ‘Honey endures – a tongue of salt, arbutus, thistle’). Anedda is a fantastic poet who deserves a wide European readership – taut, intelligent, historically poised.
Collected Petrarch, by Tim Atkins
Petrarch as you’ve never come across him before, complaining about broadband connections, book sales, and unappealing takeaways, cribbing hints from the 1969 Poets Home Companion (ed. Carol Gallup), and noting that ‘Holes from hot seeds & bad handwriting / Don’t look good / On the CV of any serious professional’. Marvellous tricksy nonsense, now with added Petrarch and an introduction from Laird Hunt. Give us a ring to reserve a copy of this wonderful title from Crater Press.
Selected Poetry and Prose, by Andrea Zanzotto
Supremely heavygoing, Italian Prynne equivalent, the translations you will have to take on trust, the odd scribbles and fugitive punctuation and bizarre insertions and erasures likewise. ‘Rereadings of Topinambùr’ is a good place to start, or ‘In the Valley’:
In the valley doors and trapdoors
are creaking, in the valley
they’ve cooked me the dear meal
remade my bed
of raw endives and mistletoe.
Nella valle scricchiolano porte
e botole, nella valle
mi hanno preparato il caro pasto
hanno rifatto il mio letto
di cruda indivia e di vischio.