By: Giuseppe Ungaretti
Format/Source: Paperback; my purchase
Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970) was a pioneer of the Modernist movement in Italian poetry and is widely regarded as one of the leading Italian poets of the twentieth century. His verse is renowned and loved for its powerful insight and emotion, and its exquisite music. Yet, unlike many of his peers, Ungaretti has never been adequately presented to English readers. This large bilingual selection, translated with great sensitivity and fidelity by Andrew Frisardi, captures Ungaretti in all of his phases: from his early poems, written in the trenches of northern Italy during World War I, to the finely crafted erotic and religious poetry of his second period, to the visceral, elegiac poetry of the years following the death of his son and the occupation of Rome during World War II, to the love poems of the poet’s old age.
Frisardi’s in-depth introduction details the world in which Ungaretti’s work took shape and exerted its influence. In addition to the poet’s own annotations, an autobiographical afterword, “Ungaretti on Ungaretti,” further illuminates the poet’s life and art. Here is a compelling, rewarding, and comprehensive version of the work of one of the greatest modern European poets.
I honestly don’t remember now how I first came across Giuseppe Ungretti’s poetry. What I do remember was that the moment I did come across his poems, I knew I had to check out more. Not a lot of his poetry is available in English but I was fortunate enough to pick up a copy of this collection featuring some of his selected works.
Now funny story, I did read this collection last year and thought I had typed up a review for it to be posted…Apparently not. Oops. So the following post will be a lot shorter than it was originally intended to be, which is too bad because I really did enjoy this collection.
I think the reason why I like his poetry so much is because he reminds me of Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, particularly with his early poetry. There’s something about the use of imagery in his poetry that just evokes a lot of imagery and feeling; it’s just my kind of poetry, really. He writes a lot about the First World War and about Italy, you could feel the sentiments about his country coming out of his poems. So I definitely enjoyed his early poetry, I really connected with it. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy his later poems, they were interesting enough and you can watch his progression as he experiments with form and style–they got a bit longer, certainly!–but it didn’t evoke the same amount of emotion as it did with his earlier works.
Overall I really enjoyed this collection of his poetry. I wish all of his poetry had been translated for an English audience as I think he’s quite an astounding poet. Maybe all the more reason I should brush up on my Italian 😉 But I highly recommend checking out his work if you’re into poetry and are looking to expand to reading more European poets.