Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Giuseppe Ungaretti

Giuseppe Ungaretti (8 February 1888 – 2 June 1970) was an Italian modernist poet, journalist, essayist, critic and academic. A leading representative of the experimental trend known as ermetismo, he was one of the most prominent contributors to 20th century Italian literature. Influenced by symbolism, he was briefly aligned with futurism. Like many futurists, he took an irredentist position during World War I. Ungaretti debuted as a poet while fighting in the trenches, publishing one of his best-known pieces, L'allegria ("The Joy").

During the interwar period, Ungaretti was a collaborator of Benito Mussolini (whom he met during his socialist accession), as well as a foreign-based correspondent for Il Popolo d'Italia and La Gazzetta del Popolo. While briefly associated with the Dadaists, he developed ermetismo as a personal take on poetry. After spending several years in Brazil, he returned home during World War II, and was assigned a teaching post at the University of Rome, where he spent the final decades of his life and career. His fascist past was the subject of controversy.

Ungaretti, considered the father of Hermetic poetry, presents beautifully terse lyrics that sing loud, despite their brevity. Here's a beautiful excerpt:

Time is silent among motionless rushes...

Far from moorings drifted a canoe...

Exhausted and sluggish the oarsman...The heavens
Already Fallen into abysses of smoke...

Stretched out in vain at the edge of memory,
It may be falling was mercy...

He did not know

It is the same illusion world and mind,
That in the mystery of its own waves
Every earthly voice is shipwrecked
He doesn't write for a reader, nor does he care if a reader responds to his work. Note the lack of popular allusions. Note the lack of interplay between writer and reader. This is a personal meditation, devoid of extension or concern for the critic. 
Many thanks to Francesco Lafiandra, who introduced me to this beret-wearing poet

1 comment:

  1. This is for me one of his most beautiful poetry and is dedicated to one of the finest figures close to all of us: the Mother!

    And when the heart beat of a final
    that will drop the wall of shadow
    take me to, Mother, until the Lord
    as once you give me your hand.

    On your knees, determined,
    you will be a statue before the Lord,
    As you already saw
    when you were still alive.

    Get up trembling old hands,
    as when spirasti
    saying, My God, here I am.

    And only when you possess me forgiven,
    You will want to look.

    Memories of me as expected,
    and you eyes a quick sigh."

    E il cuore quando d’un ultimo battito
    avrà fatto cadere il muro d’ombra,
    per condurmi, Madre, sino al Signore,
    come una volta mi darai la mano.

    In ginocchio, decisa,
    sarai una statua davanti all’Eterno,
    come già ti vedeva
    quando eri ancora in vita.

    Alzerai tremante le vecchie braccia,
    come quando spirasti
    dicendo: Mio Dio, eccomi.

    E solo quando m’avrà perdonato,
    ti verrà desiderio di guardarmi.

    Ricorderai d’avermi atteso tanto,
    e avrai negli occhi un rapido sospiro.