Translated from by

Published: 10/6/2020


ISBN: 9781939810649 eISBN: 9781939810656

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Book Description

Famed for his brevity, Giuseppe Ungaretti’s early poems swing nimbly from the coarse matter of tram wires, alleyways, quails in bushes, and hotel landladies to the mystic shiver of pure abstraction. These are the kinds of poems that, through their numinous clarity and shifting intimations, can make a poetry-lover of the most stone-faced non-believer. Ungaretti won multiple prizes for his poetry, including the 1970 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He was a major proponent of the Hermetic style, which proposed a poetry in which the sounds of words were of equal import to their meanings. This auditory awareness echoes through Brock’s hair-raising translations, where a man holding vigil with his dead, open-mouthed comrade, says, “I have never felt / so fastened / to life.”

What a joy to have this new translation of Ungaretti, a great lyric poet so masterly translated by Geoffrey Brock. I will buy any book of poetry that Brock has translated. He is simply that good. But it is especially clear here, in the pages of Allegria, where the shortish lines test the translator’s ability to deliver nuance with light touch, precision, and almost Mozartian grace. The poems themselves praise the fleeting moment in the middle of crisis, praise the spark of tenderness in the time of misfortune, praise the breadcrumbs of rememberings in the hungriest of times, when no one remembers and everyone zigzags around the room, around the street, around one’s heart. This book will give you ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’ It is a beautiful gift.
Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa

One of the most authentic poets of Western Europe.
T.S. Eliot

In their comparative abstraction, melancholy timbre and interest in the passing of time, Ungaretti’s early poems are in the tradition of Leopardi . . . his decisive novelty in Italian - the tiny lines, the absence of punctuation, the consequent focus on each individual word - owes more to the stimulus of Mallarmé and Apollinaire ... His crystalline poems often emerged from a process of cutting; in his work . . . the placing of words has an almost pictorial suggestiveness.
Matthew Reynolds, London Review of Books

Ungaretti’s poetry, born in the ordeal of World War I and its trenches . . . marked a turning point in modern Italian literature.
Glauco Cambon

Ungaretti purged the language of all that was but ornament, of all that was too approximate for the precise tension of his line. Through force of tone and sentiment, and a syntax stripped to its essential sinews, he compelled words to their primal power.
Allen Mandelbaum

Every poem is open, and not closed, to all the winds of the spirit and the world; and the poetry of Ungaretti has always communicated to me a freshness, a free air, of boundless light and the persuasion of a voice both moved and moving . . . so sober, so precise with his phrases, so concise amidst the silences of white spaces.
Jorge Guillén