Roberto Bertoldo

Victim's Cram
Selected poems 1965-2015

Translated by Steven Grieco-Rathgeb


ISBN 978-0-9861061-4-9
Italian-English, 291 pages

Author Biography | Read Selection

Available through Small Press Distribution


ROBERTO BERTOLDO was born in Chivasso in 1957, grew up in Turin and earned his degree in Letters and Philosophy at the University there in 1981 with a thesis on Petrarch. After a long period of reflection and private writing, he emerged in 1996 to found an international literary review, Hebenon, and to begin a prolific career in three fields.

As a philosopher, he has published seven books, including Sui fondamenti dell'amore / On the Foundations of Love (Milan: Guerini, 2006), Anarchismo senza anarchia: Idee per una democrazia anarchica / Anarchism Without Anarchy: Ideas For an Anarchistic Democracy (Milan: Mimesis, 2009) and La profundità della letteratura / The Profundity of Literature (Milan: Mimesis, 2016).

As a prosaist, he has published five novels, including Il Lucifero di Wittenberg - Anschluss / Lucifer of Wittenberg - Anschluss (Milan: Asefi-Terziaria, 1998), Ladyboy (Milan: Mimesis, 2009) and Satio (Turin: Achille, 2015).

As a poet, he has published seven collections of verse: Nuvole in agonia / Clouds in Agony (1976-1984), Pan-Demonio / Pan-Demonium (1985-1994), Il rododenro / The Rhododendron (1994-1999), Il calvario delle gru / Calvary of the Storks (1998-2000), L'Archivio delle bestemmie / The Registry of Blasphemies (2004-2005), Pergamena dei Ribelli / The Rebel's Scroll (2009-2010) and Il popolo che sono / The People I Am (2012-2015). All these collections, plus some youthful poems ((1965-1976) are represented in the present Chelsea Edition.

Bertoldo lives and teaches in Burolo, near Turin.

STEVEN GRIECO-RATHGEB is a Swiss-born poet and translator who writes in Italian and English. Previously he has translated Giorgio Linguaglossa, Three Stills in The Frame: Selected Poems, 1986-2014 for Chelsea Editions.

"Bertoldo's poetic production may... be seen as a long series of lucid attempts to break up the 'weak' style of poetry. His is, however, very much an insider's job: he stands inside the house, and uses, reuses, and processes the materials he finds there. His apparent attempts to put these together into some coherent whole always meet with failure: he always allows the fabric to be rent by the outside world, which powerfully encroaches on this cozy little place with its strident and meaningless cacophony, but also with its urgent wake-up calls. Any temptation the poet may have to slide backwards into lyricism is wiped out by his own harsh rhythms, the clusters of distorted, dissonant words and phrases often made up of broken conversations overheard at poetry readings, coffee shops, supermarkets, intellectual gatherings, church homilies."

~ From the Foreword by Steven Grieco-Rathgeb.






Selections from
Victim's Cram




Poet Roberto Bertoldo


From Pan-Demonio / Pan-Demonium (1985-1994)

Il bene malato

Ê un cigno all'atra rive
sulla giostra dell'acqua di fiume
compagno di vermi e puzzo.
E mentre vanno le piume al mare
come parole d'amore sussurrate
la sera sotterra per qualche ora
il cumulo di carni putrefatte.

The Ailing Good

It's a swan on the far shore
on the merry-go-round of river water
companion to worms and stench.
And while the feathers go to sea
like whispered words of love
evening buries for a few hours
the heap of putrefied flesh.

Bassa marea

Quasi il mare fuggito con nitrito
di puledro da sotto il pontile
verso il fondale di laminarie,
it tuo corpo striato di gocce ritiri
dal branco dei cavalli di sale.
E nuda resti sulla rena gialla
a cavalcare come amazzone guerriera
il dorso del male.

Low Tide

Almost the sea fleeing with a foal's
whinny from under the pier
towards the depth of sea-tangle,
your body streaked with drops you withdraw
from the herd of horses of salt.
And naked lie on the yellow sand,
riding the hump of evil
like an Amazon warrior.

From Il calvario delle gru / Calvary of the Storks (1998-2000)

Sera a Sarajevo

E a volte le sere hanno questo spettro di silenzi,
a festone di beccafichi, sulle canape, a nastro.
E qualche farfalla, rara, e le rondini, a macchie,
siu fili. Ad ascoltare tenui affetti,
come un funerale che ascolta i morti,
a grappolo, il loro canto ebbro tra le cicale
e i caprimulgi. A volte le sere stranano
inguirie, non altro che inguirie, di morti,
la gruma del vino, l'ultima melodia. Di questo
è il vento che tace.

Evening in Sarajevo

And sometimes evenings have this spectrum of silence,
like a festoon of warblers, on the hemp, ribbon-like.
And a butterfly or so, rare, and the swallows, in patches,
on the wires. Listening to frail affections,
like a funeral that listens to the dead,
in a bunch, their drunken song amid the cicadas
and the goatsuckers. Sometimes the evenings unearth
injuries, nothing but injuries, of dead people,
wine's sediment, the ultimate melody. It's the wind
that is silent about this.

From Pergamena dei Ribelli / The Rebel's Scroll (2009-2010)

Arrendersi è una forza eretica,
dai monti anche il sole
dichiara la sua bestemmia.
È irrisorio screziare il cielo
con il nostro ultimo sangue
e se versiamo nel mare la chioma
che ha il verbo del cuore
venti gabbiani cancellano la devozione.

Surrender is a heretical force,
from the mountains even the sun
declares its profanity.
It's laughable to speckle the sky
with our last blood
and if we pour into the sea the flowing hair
that has the Word of the heart
twenty seagulls erase devotion.

From Il Popolo Che Sono / The People I Am (2012-2015)

I popoli

Spesso i popoli sono di sabbia efferata,
sbriciolati dalle brezze del tramonto non valgono
che il frastuono dei loro applausi più vili.
Sono popoli addomesticati dal disonore
e hanno mani di carta assorbente.
Che me ne faccio io di tutte le macchie
che vedo sulle strade e delle altre che creo?
Lenisco il paradiso perché voglio l'inferno
anche nelle mete e negli spiccioli dei sogni.
E conteggio ogni carriola che ho spinto
come fosse una croce.


Peoples are often made of brutal sand,
pulverized by the sunset breezes they're only worth
the din of their most cowardly applause.
They're peoples tamed by disgrace,
and they have blotting-paper hands.
What am I supposed to do with all the stains
I see in the streets and the others which I create?
I soothe paradise because I want hell
even in the aims and pennies of dreams.
And I count up every wheelbarrow I've pushed
as though it were a cross.

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