Saturday, January 3, 2009

Poem by Antonia Pozzi

Love of Distance

I remember that, when I was in the house
of my mother, in the farmland,
I had a window that looked out
onto meadows; a distant wooded border
hid the Ticino and, farther away,
there was a dark strip of hills.
Then, I had seen the sea
just once, but I harbored
the bitter nostalgia of a lover.
Toward evening, I gazed at the horizon;
squinted my eyes; and with my eyelashes,
caressed edges and colors:
the strip of hills turned flat,
trembled, became blue: to me it seemed the sea
and I liked it better than the real one.

(24 April 1929)

Translated by Nicholas Benson
[also at the Project for Innovative Poetry, with another translation previously on Green Hill]

Biographical note: When Antonia Pozzi (1912-1938) took her own life at the age of twenty-six, she was virtually unknown, but the notebooks she left behind were filled with terse poems of astonishing power and controlled lyricism. Her verse places her alongside the ‘hermetic’ poets of her day – most notably Montale, Ungaretti, and Quasimodo – but her voice is solitary and unmistakable. Her poems are collected in the volume Parole (Garzanti, 1998), and a collection of prose has been published as Diari (Scheiwiller, 1988); a selection of her work has been published in English translation by Lawrence Venuti (Breath: Poems and Letters, Wesleyan UP, 2002).

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