An Orchid Shining in the Hand
Selected Poems 1932-1960
Translated from the Italian by John Taylor





ISBN 978-0-9861061-2-5
Bilingual, 427 pages, $20


OUT OF PRINT (See SPD link below)

Author Bio | Reviews | Read Selection

Available through Small Press Distribution

THIS IS the first comprehensive translation of a long-neglected poet who lived most of his life in his home village in Calabria, experimented with new forms of expression and produced a body of work radiant with twilight mystery, scintillating perception and philosophical breadth. After his obscure and possibly self-inflicted death, Calogero (1910-1961) was gradually discovered, appreciated and published in prestigious editions. Today colloquia are being held on his works, old editions are being reissued and dormant notebooks are being culled for gems. John Taylor's dedicated translation, supported by a Raiziss-de Palchi Translation Fellowship, deftly handles the semantic leaps and disjunctions in these subtle but boldly original poems, and his introduction, informed by his visit to the village of Meliccucà and his association with the poet's relatives, offers the perfect guide into a private and renewed world.

An Orchid Shining in the Hand contains selections from 10 sources: 25 Poesie / 25 Poems (1932-1933), Poco Suono / Little Sound (1933-1935), Parole del Tempo / Words of Time (1933-1935), Quaderni del 1936/ Notebooks 1936, Avaro nel tuo Pensiero / Miserly in Your Thought (1955), Ma Questo / But This (1955), Come in Dittici / As in Diptychs (1956), Sogno Più Non Ricordo / A Dream I No Longer Remember (1956-1958), Quaderni del 1957 / Notebooks 1957, and Quaderni di Villa Nuccia / The Villa Nuccia Notebooks (1959-1960), plus a fragment, Struttura delle mie poesie / Structure of my poems (1936).

JOHN TAYLOR, in addition to Lorenzo Calogero, has translated three contemporary French poets for Chelsea Editions: Philippe Jaccottet, Louis Calaferte and Pierre-Albert Jourdan. He writes the "Poetry Today" column for the Antioch Review and has long been a contributor to the Times Literary Supplement. His essays have been collected in A Little Tour Through European Poetry, Into the Heart of European Poetry and the three-volume Paths to Contemporary French Literature. He has published three poetic memoirs: The Apocalypse Tapestries (Xenos Books, 2004), Now the Summer Came to Pass (Xenos, 2012) and If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander, 2012).



"These translations of Calogero’s poems are extremely precise, polished, and adhere to the linguistic and expressive spirit that generated the original texts; by subtly transposing the corresponding English lexical and grammatical texture, [Taylor] provides finely-turned mimetic re-creations, as it were, and very often manages to render the Italian poet’s melancholy mood toward life. [. . .] Taylor’s praiseworthy translation not only offers English readers the work of a poet who is still forgotten and unknown in his homeland but also meets the challenge [. . .] in a poetic genre where the hand that transfers the force of one language into another must, at the same time, be that of a surgeon or a pianist." ~ Bruno Nacci, Samgha, 29 February 2016

“To dip into this volume, with its splendid translator’s introduction, is first to connect with a vital Italian poetic tradition. [. . .] John Taylor has labored admirably to retain the poet’s fluid, intellectually striking elisions, the syntactic mutations among lines, which show so well an advanced mind grappling into a metaphysics of poetic thought. [. . .] This book serves to reestablish the legacy of a significant twentieth-century Italian, indeed European poet. It belongs in our collective literary soul—and in our libraries.” ~ World Literature Today, March 2016. (To read the whole review click here.)

“Calogero’s poetry leads us into an inaccessible zone, on the border that separates the ego from a total symbiosis with the world, before any kind of consciousness, experienced nonetheless with an adult man’s love and pain. It is almost a journey into another dimension, which John Taylor, with knowledge and sensitivity, helps us to carry out in a book that deserves to be read not only by American readers.” ~ Donatella Bisutti, Poesia, January 2016

"Calogero felt the silence that had befallen him (or that he had sought?) as a disaster, as the sum of his misfortunes: he listened to it, analyzed it, wholly filled it with a dense web of meanings and subliminal thoughts at the very limits of vertigo ..." ~ Mario Luzi

"[His] authentic and nobel message is that of a despair by now so elevated and calm that it retains no traces of romantic sorrow, or existential dismay or anxiety." ~ Giorgio Caproni

"What is unusual in Calogero's language is its plasticity and the extreme attention paid to a syntax of indirect logic, perhaps acquired from his study of mathematics... or through his reading of modern philosophy... The most surprising gift of this ancient-modern poet is the wealth of violent, risk-taking metaphors. Sometimes he seemingly experiments in the surrealist sense of the term; those techniques he has mastered and surpassed, and his experimentation involves varied, more intricate, and conscious techniques." ~ Amelia Rosselli



from An Orchid Shining in the Hand


Poet Lorenzo Calogero


Vedo angeli vaganti e una chiarità lunare

Vedo angeli vaganti e una chiarità lunare.
S'immerge una marea e sono grappoli
i suoni sui colori. Splendente
corre l'alito nel volo assiduo. Ferma,
rimasta indietro, lenta era l'origine
della luce tacita e, se trattengo,
in un dito, il tuo moto reso vivo
e visivo dentro un cerchio di immobile
spendore, trattengo anche il mio respiro
sulla vana superficie, resa desta, che mi resta.
Informi i morti odono. Nuvole
sono qua e là distese: hanno invaso
dell'arco del discosto tremulo orizzonte
il suo impetuoso immenso giro.

I see wandering angels

I see wandering angels and a moonlike clarity.
A tide sumerges and sounds on colors
cluster like grapes. Breath speeds onwards,
splendidly, in its diligent flight. At a standstill,
lingering behind, the origin of the silent light
was slow, and, if I withhold,
on a finger, your movement restored to life
and visible inside a circle of motionless
splendor, so also do I withhold
my breath on the vain awakened surface left to me.
The shapeless dead are listening. Clouds
stretch out here and there, having invaded
breath's vast impetuous flight around
the remote arching trembling horizon.



... Nastri lisci erano di uccelli
e un'orchidea nera fra i baci
vespertini, ora, s'aggrotta.
Tu eri nera tumida ai capelli
e così, per questa vasta oasi,
fuggitiva sopra l'acque
in un riverbero di rose...

senza data (marzo-aprile 1959)


... Sleek ribbons from birds
and a black orchid among the twilight kisses
is now holing up in a frown.
You and your dark swollen hair
and, thereby, over this vast oasis,
a fugitive over the waters
in a reverberation of roses...

undated (March-April 1959)


tu per il soave desiderio
eri condotta
alla tua patria quieta...

Tu eri distesa come una pietra
di onda in onda
e da te l'aura divise la luna
da l'alba quieta

16 agosto 1959

though gentle desire
you were led
to your quiet homeland...

You were lying like a stone
from wave to wave
and from you the aura divided the moon
from the quiet dawn

16 August 1959


e forse il letto
e la morte miditata
piangendo; ma ora sono labili
tutte le ore e di lui non resta a valle
chi lo cerchi. Forse mutata in un abbraccio
deserta va piangendo la terra...

7 febbraio 1960


and perhaps the bed
and death meditated on
while weeping; but now
all the hours flee and down in the valley
no one lingers to seek him. Perhaps changed into an embrace
the deserted earth goes off weeping...

7 February 1960


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