Maurizio Cucci

No Part To Play
Selected Poems1965-2009

Translated by Michael Palma



ISBN 978-0-9884787-3-2
Bilingual Italian-English
285 pages, $20.

Author Bio | Reviews | Read Selection

Available through Small Press Distribution

A bilingual selection from eight collections of verse: Il disperso / The Missing (1976), Le meraviglie dell'acqua / The Wonders of Water (1980), Glenn (1982), Donna del gioco / Mistress of the Game (1987), Poesia della fonte / Poetry of the Source (1993), L'ultimo viaggio di Glenn / Glenn's Last Journey (1999), Per un secondo o un secolo / By a Second or a Century (2003) and Vite pulvicolari / Dusty Lives (2009). Presented in facing pages, Italian/English.


MAURIZIO CUCCHI, born 1945 in Milan, is an outstanding and prolific writer of present-day Italy. He has published a dozen collections of poetry, three novels and translations of Stendhal, Flaubert and Mallarme into Italian. He writes for numerous magazines, does sports reportage and enjoys a reputation as the author of La traversata di Milano (Crossing Milan, 2007), an evocative walking tour of his native city. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Viareggio Prize and the Montale Prize.


MICHAEL PALMA's poetry collections in English include The Egg Shape (Archival Press, 1972), Antibodies (Somers Rocks Press, 1997), A Fortune in Gold (Gradiva, 2000) and Begin in Gladness (Star Cloud Press, 2011). His many translations of modern Italian poets include the prize-winning volumes of Guido Gozzano, The Man I Pretend To Be, and Diego Valeri, My Name on the Wind (Princeton University Press). He has previously translated Maurizio Cucchi's monodrama Joan of Arc and Her Double (Gradiva, 2011) and contributed translations to Luciano Erba's The Metaphysical Streetcar Conductor (Gradiva, 1998) and Alfredo de Palchi's Addictive Aversions (Xenos Books, 1999) and Paradigm (Chelsea Editions, 2013). His rhymed translation of Dante's Inferno was published by Norton in 2002 and reissued as a Norton Critical Edition in 2007.


"Despite the preoccupation with very personal and at times deeply painful experience, Cucchi's poetry is notable for its even tone, its avoidance of stylistic excess and rhetorical extravagance. He uses fewer exclamation points than almost any other poet. His diction is straightforward, with frequent flavorings of technical and colloquial terms. [...] His preference is to let descriptions, and their juxtapositions, speak for themselves, without preaching or hectoring, without pointing a moral or adorning a tale. [...] There are a number of significant similarities between [Like T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land], Cucchi's work includes such characteristics as historical references, literary allusions and quotations, and the intermingling of these elements with disturbing personal experiences. Another central point of contact is each poet's procedure through an accretion of fragments, creating a kaleidoscope of scenes and incidents and a medley of shifting voices.

"Cucchi has learned from great masters, and he has applied their lessons with a transforming infusion of his own personality and concerns. In doing so, he has made himself into one of the last, if not the very last, of the great Modernists."

~Michael Palma, from the Introduction

"Cucchi's poetry posed and poses the problem of the friction between autobiography and impersonality, between concealment and exposure, between lyrical writing and narrative modes, between realism and oneiric vision, between a renunciative and nihilistic inclination and a positive and ethical vocation, between, better still, a private and solitary numbness and an epical determination for ordinary life."

~ Alba Donati, from M. Cucchi Poesie 1965-2000




From No Part to Play



Poet Maurizio Cucchi
Photo by Valeria Poggi



II mio costume nero
era cucito a mano ma la maschera
non si sa mai cosa nasconde.
Chissà chi sei donna del gioco
che per mana mi tieni
che mi aspiri e governi
passerò tutto intero
passerò con la testa
in ascolto e presente assoluto.
II guscio è polpa che si scuote e non c'è più
e anch'io mi sciolgo!
pelli morbide che tremano
urlando poca ombra vuoto grappoli
la forza vita delle donne.
Cosi vorrei ma il mondo
non è un intreccio della fantasia.

My black costume
was sewn by hand but the mask
one never knows just what it's covering up.
Who knows who you are mistress of the game
who takes me by the hand
who favors and controls me
I'll come through wholly intact
I'll come through with my brain
attentive and absolutely alert.
The shell's a pulp that's shaken and is gone
and even I dissolve!
soft skins that quiver
howling a small shadow a space clusters
the life force of women.
So I would have it but the world
is not a woven plot of fantasy.

Dicevi: è una notte calda
proteggiamo l'entrata, i solitari
viaggiano sulle foglie morte
nei sentieri. Picchiava nel vetro
ma placido diceva: au revoir
au revoir monsieur non sono un ladro
ho smarrito la via diluvia
e il mirto cigola che fa paura.
Aspetto l'ansia lucid a del giorno
che seleziona la morte.

You said: it's a hot night,
we'd better guard the entryway, there are people
walking all alone over dead leaves
along the paths. He pounded on the glass
but he spoke calmly when he said: au revoir
au revoir monsieur I'm not a thief
I seem to have lost my way it's pouring rain
and it's scary how the myrtle tree is creaking.
I await the lucid anxiety of the day
that chooses death.

Un guizzo di luce latita
passa la pelle e si rivela
ma il pensiero non ha parole
è suono o vista
un punto luminoso che sa tutto.
Mi salverò
spoglie opache adorato
volto reso al suo arcaico disegno
in una notte invernale
di grugniti e sudore
non sarò più
l' ospite frettoloso.

A flash of light absconds
passes through the skin and reveals itself
but the thought has no words
it's a sound or a sight
a luminous point that comprehends everything.
I'll save myself
dull spoils an adored
face restored to its archaic design
on a winter night
of grunts and sweat
I'll no longer be
the hasty guest.

Una madre che va su polare
e poi va via. Ad abbracciarmi.
E invece solo chimica, umano
soggetto di ferma, soccorso
e lascito orrizontale
pena dissolta in un girno di pace
poca parola di me.

A mother who rises freezing
and then goes away. To embrace me.
And yet only chemistry, human
subject to confirmation, rescue
and a horizontal legacy
sorrow melted away in a day of peace
scant word of me.

Qualcuno ti cammina
sulla pietra del tetto della testa
tendi le braccia e non la cancelli
la tua orbita cava la tua tenebra di terra
radente luce immobile Matera
Botescià cieco solitario nella fenditura.

Someone's walking
on the stone of your roof of your head
you hold your arms out and you don't efface her
your hollow eye-socket your earthy dark
skimming light motionless Matera
Botescià blind and all alone in the crevice.


Salire e infossare lo sguardo:
nel cupo ci dev'essere un punto geometrico,
fra questi blocchi di pietra
e questa spaccatura e ogni volta
appare, sgorga, va e allora è
come se fosse incessantemente
nel chiuso delIa valle.

To ascend and to bury the gaze:
in the dark there must be a geometric point,
between these blocks of stone
and this fissure and every time
it appears, it flows, it goes and then
it is as if it were unceasingly
in the enclosure of the valley.

Sul tetto di roccia strapiombano
le rovine dell'ospite.
Io mi incammino tra i passeggeri e i vigili
in nulla differente di visibile.
Però cerco una fonte che sia solo mia.

The ruins of the host overhang
the rock roof.
I set forth among travelers and the vigilant
not visibly different in any way.
Yet I'm looking for a source that is mine alone.

Qui parlo per me
senza schermo o figura
e mi basto com'ero:
questa sola radice ricoperta di terra.

Here I speak for myself
without a screen or figure
and I'm content to be what I was:
this single root that's covered up with earth.

Forse la fonte è una frase,
una domanda spaccata, una figura
che copre un'altra figura
e un'altra ancora.
Ma non all'infinito.

Maybe the source is a phrase,
a broken question, a figure
that covers another figure
and yet another.
But not without end.

Infine venga al sole sgominando
tra due attimi altissimi.
I miei volti abolisca,
luce nella luce.

Let it come to the sun scattering in the end
between two towering instants.
Let it annul my faces,
light within light.

Ho bussato per la seconda volta
alla piccola casa del poeta.
Alle spalle un verde senza roccia,
acque rimaste dolci
e quasI una planura.
Mi respinge, pensavo,
per non averlo abbastanza amato.

I've knocked for the second time
at the poet's little house.
Behind me a rockless green,
waters still sweet
and almost a plain.
He's rejecting me, I thought,
for not having loved him enough.

Nell'imbrunire tomavo a crogliolarmi
e la mia luna era l'elogio dell'oblio.

Then I returned to bask in the growing dark
and my moon was the eulogy of oblivion.

Interview with Maurizio Cucchi in Italian (1993)

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