Italian poems about love, loss and the sea translated by Amy Newman

Love of Distance

I remember when I was in my mother’s house,
in the middle of the plain,
I had a window that looked out
over the meadows; at the end, the woody embankment
hid the Ticino and, beyond that,
there was a dark strip of hills.
Then I hadn’t seen the sea
but that one time, but I kept for it
a fierce nostalgia of the lover.
Toward evening I used to stare at the horizon;
I’d narrow my eyes a little; caress
the contours and the colors between my eyelashes;
and the strips of hills would stretch out,
flickering, blue: it seemed to me the sea
and I liked it more than the true sea.

Milan, 24 April, 1929

Moonlight

O great winter sky
o white moon
o stars
solitary, veiled–
o eternal flowers of deep darkness–
what snow water was ever
so clear in the mouth
as your serene light
in the night of the heart?

The soul whitens in the moonlight-
like a tomb–
but under the stone the ruined garden
is reborn, enchanted.

The trampled grasses spring up
the dead trees live again
drinking–in clear sips
the cold celestial dew–

Dreams wake
from the long drowse–
the ancient silvery song awakens–

alas–it is the weeping
of a buried
cradle.

13 February 1933

In a War Cemetery

The blanket of snow above you
so white and untouched
that I don’t dare leave a mark of my footsteps
after such much walking
on the earth.
For you from above its womb
of ice and rocks
the Cimon della Pala dissolves
a slow cover of clouds.
For you the roads are silent
the spruce forest quiet
extinguishing along the valley
every flight of wind.
From the canopy of pine
I tear a branch in the shape of a cross:
I put it inside the gate
for all the graves.
But from the gate
locked
against the bars from my pain of being alive
I remain
and only in peace with your peace
is the dream
of final rest.

(S. Martino) – Milano, 12 January 1933

Time

I

While you sleep
the seasons pass
on the mountain.

The snow at the top
melting gives life
to the wind:
behind the house the meadow speaks,
the light
drinks traces of rain along the paths.

While you sleep
years of sun pass
between the tops of the larches
and the clouds.

28 May 1935

II

I can gather the lilies of the valley
while you sleep
because I know where they grow.
And let my real home
with its doors and its stones
be far away
and may I not find it again,
but instead go wandering
through the woods
forever –
while you sleep
and the lilies grow
without rest.

18 May 1935

Fable

You go to a windy realm,
carefully bearing
on your head a garland
of primroses.

Among the trees women
with green hair,
in the waterfalls gnomes
who know the future–

pale warriors among the branches,
girls who die
for want of sun—

and the abandoned huts
among the forget-me-nots,
the plains
of asphodel on the rocks–

doors thrown open
on buried treasure,
rainbows that lie
shattered in the lakes–

You go up the blue moraine,
between rows of gray spires:
you carry on your shoulders
a sleeping child.

18 February 1935

Amore di lontananza

Ricordo che, quand’ero nella casa
della mia mamma, in mezzo alla pianura,
avevo una finestra che guardava
sui prati; in fondo, l’argine boscoso
nascondeva il Ticino e, ancor più in fondo,
c’era una striscia scura di colline.
Io allora non avevo visto il mare
che una sol volta, ma ne conservavo
un’aspra nostalgia da innamorata.
Verso sera fissavo l’orizzonte;
socchiudevo un po’ gli occhi; accarezzavo
i contorni e i colori tra le ciglia:
e la striscia dei colli si spianava,
tremula, azzurra: a me pareva il mare
e mi piaceva più del mare vero.

Milano, 24 aprile 1929

Lume di luna

O grande cielo invernale
o luna bianca
o stelle
solitarie, velate –
o fiori eterni della tenebra fonda –
quale acqua di neve fu mai
così chiara alla bocca
com’è il vostro lume sereno
alla notte del cuore?

Biancheggia l’anima al raggio
lunare – come una tomba –
ma sotto la pietra rinasce d’incanto –
il giardino distrutto.

Risorgono l’erbe calpeste –
rivivono gli alberi morti
bevendo – a limpidi sorsi
la fredda rugiada celeste –

Si destano i sogni
dal lungo sopore – si desta
l’antico argenteo canto –

ahimé–ch’esso è un pianto
di culla
sepolto.

13 febbraio 1933

In un cimitero di guerra

Così bianca ed intatta è la coltre
di neve
su voi
che segnarla del mio passo non oso
dopo tanto cammino
sopra le vie di terra.
Per voi dall’alto suo grembo
di ghiacci e pietra discioglie
un lento manto di nubi
il Cimon della Pala.
Per voi taccion le strade
e tace il bosco d’abeti
spegnendo
lungo la valle
ogni volo di vento.
Io strappo alla chioma di un pino
un ramo in forma di croce:
di là dal cancello lo infiggo
per tutte le tombe.
Ma di qua dal cancello
serrata
contro le sbarre
dalla mia profonda
pena d’esser viva
rimango
e solo è in pace
con la vostra paceil sogno
dell’estremo giacere.

(S. Martino) – Milano, 12 gennaio 1933

Tempo

I

Mentre tu dormi
le stagioni passano
sulla montagna.

La neve in alto
struggendosi dà vita
al :
dietro la casa il prato parla,
la luce
beve orme di pioggia sui sentieri.

Mentre tu dormi
anni di sole passano
fra le cime dei làrici
e le nubi.

8 maggio 1935

II

Io posso cogliere i mughetti
mentre tu dormi
perché so dove crescono.
E la mia vera casa
con le sue porte e le sue pietre
sia lontana,
né io più la ritrovi,
ma vada errando
pei boschi
eternamente –mentre tu dormi
ed i mughetti crescono
senza tregua.

28 maggio 1935

Fiabe

Vai a un reame di vento,
cauta rechi
sul capo una ghirlanda
di primule.

Sugli alberi le donne
con i capelli verdi,
nelle cascate i nani
che sanno il destino –

i pallidi guerrieri fra le barance,
le fanciulle che muoiono
per desiderio di sole –

e le capanne abbandonate
fra le miosotidi,
le pianure
d’asfodeli in cima alle rocce –

porte che si spalancano
su tesori sepolti,
arcobaleni che giacciono
infranti nei laghi –

Sali per la morena azzurra,
tra filari di guglie grigie:
porti sulle spalle
un bambino
addormentato.

18 febbraio 1935


About the translator:

Amy Newman is the author of five poetry collections, most recently On This Day in Poetry History (Persea Books, 2016). Her feminist revision of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl,” first published in Poetry, was recently published in chapbook form by dancing girl press. Her translations of the poems of Antonia Pozzi appear in The Bennington Review, The Laurel Review, Cagibi, Interim, Mantis, River Styx, and elsewhere; her translation of Pozzi’s letters to Antonio Maria Cervi came out in Delos this summer. She teaches in the Department of English at Northern Illinois University.


The copyright of these poems belong to the “Carlo Cattaneo” and “Giulio Preti” International Insubric Center for the Philosophy, Epistestemology, Cognitive Sciences and the History of the Science and Techniques of the University of Insubria.


Read more translations on our website here.

About the author

Antonia Pozzi, born in Milan in 1912, lived a brief life, dying by suicide in 1938; none of her poetry was published during her lifetime. Her work is significantly underrepresented in translation, and her omission from the 2004 Faber Book of 20th Century Italian Poems has been called “the most obvious lacuna." Pozzi’s poetry was posthumously altered by her father Roberto Pozzi to reshape her public image; he scrubbed any evidence of his daughter’s passionate love affairs and her doubts about religion. In 1955, Nora Wydenbruck’s translations of these posthumously revised poems —translated with the help and under the close surveillance of Roberto Pozzi—reproduced a sanitized edition of the original work for English readers. In 1989 editors Alessandra Cenni and Onorina Dino restored the poems to their original form in Parole.

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