Ned Condini

Heading for Valparaíso
Selected Poems 1980—1996
Translated by the author


Paperback, 199 pgs.
ISBN 978-0-9884787-5-6


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NED CONDINI, born in Turin in 1940, went to Jesuit schools, studied Latin and Greek, and began writing at the age of 16. At the University of Turin, he embarked on a translation into Italian of The History of English Literature, a project ultimately published by Giulio Einaudi Editore as a 1458-page encyclopedia, Storia della letteratura inglese (1966). While working for the Turin firm, a total of twenty years, Condini majored in English and American literature, obtained his doctorate from the University of California at Berkeley and wrote his own poetry, short stories and novels.

Moving to America and becoming a US citizen in 1976, he travelled, taught and managed to survive as a freelance writer, translator and critic. Among his various employments, he taught at Hudson Community College in New Jersey, Vassar College in New York and East Texas State University, and worked for the New York publisher Ferrar, Straus & Giroux, translating from Italian and Spanish into English.

Condini has completed fifteen books of translation and won nearly as many prizes for his work. His translations of the humanist poet Mario Luzi won the prestigious PEN/Poggioli Award in 1986. These versions, together with translations of thirty-seven other Italian poets, including the symbolist Gabriele D'Annunzio, the hermeticist Salvatore Quasimodo and the new lyricist Eugenio Montale, combined to form the omnibus bilingual edition of the Anthology of Modern Italian Poetry published by the Modern Language Association of America (2008). For Chelsea Editions he has translated The Earth's Wall by Giorgio Caproni (2004) and Awakenings by Carlo Betocchi (2008), for which he has won high praise.

Condini has written three novels. The first was published in Italy in 1971; the second in 1999 as The Sky Below; the third in 2008 as The Cauldron, a story of intrigue, corruption and beauty in Big Bend, Texas. The fourth novel was last reported to be in its thirtieth rewrite. Condini believes in revision. Of his poetry, the 1996 collection Quartettsatz, named after the mysteriously incomplete "Quartet movement" of Franz Schubert, is filled with wit, irony and hard statements about reality. Heading for Valparaíso takes the reader on a journey of memory and hope.

This bilingual Chelsea Edition combines selections from Rimbaud in Umbria (1993), Quartettsatz (1996) and In Rotta per Valparaíso /Heading for Valparaíso (1996), plus previously unpublished poems.




Ned Condini's poetry unexpectedly combines the compressed lyricism of Italian modernism with the democratic tone of contemporary American verse. "Exiled by choice, he coined a language all his own," writes Condini. Yes, his blend of two literatures has created a fresh and serious idiom entirely his own.

~ Dana Gioia

The challenge of translating poetry stuns me. Poetry entails an economy of language and a precision of thought that already is difficult to reproduce in translation. Further complication is engendered by the presence of stanza structure, meter and sometime rhymes that work in the original language but may or may not work in another language. Comparing the originals with the translations, it is clear that Condini has used many techniques. Strictly rhymed originals are often rendered in unrhymed English to accommodate the best word choice. Six-line original stanzas become four-line English stanzas. Throughout, Condini offers us excellent poems.

~ Edward C. McIrvine

Successful translation - and especially the translation of poetry - from one's native language into one's adopted language is a rare achievement. Ned Condini's English versions of the fine poet Mario Luzi are remarkable for their boldness and flair. Thus they fall naturally within the scope of the Renato Poggioli Award, which was founded to encourage translation as a labor of love.

~ William Weaver

Quartettsatz, a volume of poetry by Ned Condini, contains some beautiful and moving passages, and even in its most opaque moments makes for fascinating reading. In its medley of voices, its often abruptly shifting focus, and its patterns of imagery, it is in places strikingly reminiscent of "The Waste Land." Robert Fitzgerald said of Berryman's "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet": "He bided his time and made the poem of his generation:" Condini has also taken his time and produced a solid book, one with pleasures on every page. It should reach the widest possible audience.

~ Michael Palma



from Heading for Valparaíso




Poet Ned Condini & friend



Pensieri di donna

Può guardare il tam-tam della natura,
pettirossi squillanti primavera,
un alleluia di allodole nei campi.
Ma nulla è più com'è stato una volta.

Dio non lo vede, non sente
speranze infrante, non cura
se lui ritorna alla casa di un tempo.
Questo è l'inverno della mente:

discorde all'alba il canto degli uccelli,
gelo sulle ossa il tocco della rugiada.

A Woman's Thoughts

He can watch nature throbbing,
robins heralding spring,
and in the fields a halleluiah of larks.
But all is no longer as before.

God doesn't see him, hear
his hopes dashed, doesn't care
if he goes back to where he once belonged.
This is the winter of his mind:

shrill is the birds' song in the morning,
chilly on the bones the touch of dew.

La sua risposta

Vero, diletta. Spazio interminabile
s'apriva il mondo a me che lo sondavo
con occhi d'esule. Ma dieci
anni più tardi la vita guarda da questa sponda.
Diversa è persino la faccia del sole
che cuoce in megafiamme, come la neve
quando scende Qui fa di tutto un cimitero.

Tra tornadi uragani e maremoti,
sotto un vento impetuoso che si carica
delle nubi più nere quanto più è quieto,
che spira un suo argo cruento
di panorami e uomini violenti -
accetto di essere dove e chi sono e con chi.
Cittadino, fiero
di lottare qui.

His Answer

True, my soulmate. Interminable space
the world appeared to me who sounded it
with the eyes of an alien.
But ten years later life is tugging on this side.
The genial face of the sun is different:
it shoots forth megaflames, just as snow
makes a desert of all things Here.

Among tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunami,
under a sweeping sky that's changed
with black clouds at its mildest,
that breathes its rowdy slang
of rough landscapes and men -
I accept to be who I am and with whom and where.
A citizen who will not scare.

E adesso parla Clizia

Non sarai mica un altro Trofimovic,
o crederai sul serio che in certe
sfere ti si sorvegli di continuo,
che I tuoi passi siano contati
e il sindaco rosso abbia chiesto
di te non appena insediato.
Non ti offendere, non hai nulla da temere.
E neanche è vero che ti si perseguiti,
o ti si voglia ostracizzare poi.
Semplicemente, detto tra noi,
si vorrebbe che dessi spiegazioni.
Invece fuggi, e ti dài le arie e il tono
patito delle Mie Prigioni.

Nessuno ti ha esiliato, nessuno ti odia.
Peggio ancora, tutti se ne impípano.
Ah, Stepàn, il momento
cruciale comincia di lì.

Now the Muse Speaks

You're not by chance another Trofimovic,
or do you really think that in high circles
people watch you all the time, counting your steps,
and party officials have enquired
of you right after the elections?
Don't feel sore - you've got nothing to fear;
nor is it true that you are persecuted,
that "they" all want to have you ostracized.
Simply, between us, we would like to get
some explanations. Instead you take off
and wear an exile's suffering air.

Nobody has banned you, and nobody hates you.
It's even worse: nobody gives a damn.
Ah, Stepàn: dismal times
begin right now.

Read a short interview with Condini's rules for translation.

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