Amelia Rosselli

the dragonfly

A Selection of Poems: 1953—1981

Translated by Giuseppe Leporace and Deborah Woodard

Paperback, 275 pages
ISBN 978-0-9823849-0-9


OUT OF PRINT (at Chelsea Editions)
May be purchased through SPD Books

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AMELIA ROSSELLI was born in Paris in 1930 to anti-Fascist parents who had fled Italy. Her father was assassinated in Normandy by Mussolini's henchmen when Rosselli was seven years old. "The daughter with the devastated heart" grew up in Europe and the United States, eventually settling in Rome. In fierce and incandescent verse that draws upon the languages she learned in exile, Rosselli explores the intersection of the traumatized self with the psyche of the post WWII generation. She committed suicide in Rome on February 11,1996. Garzanti published her Collected Poems in 1997.

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"Anti-fascist, Jewish, multi-lingual, an experimental musician and a perennial exile, Amelia Rosselli is one of the great poets of the 20th century. Her tragic yet oddly consolatory voice is comparable only to that of poets such as Celan, Bachmann, Char, Pasternak, Akhmatova, and Plath, all of whom she loved. Her work with language however obscure it may seem at firstis always the result of a painstaking attempt to give to the reader an accurate sense of a painful, oppressive and violent reality experienced or witnessed directly, a reality that Rosselli wishes to expose, resist and call into question. Fascism, World War II, the holocaust, the Cold War, right-wing political brutality, economic, racial and sexual discrimination, social injustice, the oppressiveness of media and consumer culture, the crass and obtuse selfishness of the bourgeoisie, are all realities that her texts evoke, weaving the private with the public, the personal with the political. To read her is to embark on an unforgettable journey of suffering and esthetic redemption." ~ Lucia Re

"Amelia Rosselli's multiple linguistic identity (Italian, French and English) allows her to leave behind traditional logical syntax for a new, often disorienting, language. An array of astonishing verbal combinations characterizes verses where fragments of quotations, dreams and subliminal intuitions are thrown at the reader like a broken mirror. Her interest in music provides her poetry with a variable gamut of metric and rhythmic combinations; magically, then, order is born out of the chaos of this experimentation. This volume offers a vast sample of Amelia Rosselli's prolific production, and the translators have done an amazing job in rendering all the complexity, the nuances and the beauty of her poems." ~ Claudio Mazzola

"Amelia Rosselli's poetry operates beneath the skin of understanding, enmeshed in the neural-electric discharge of pronunciation, before it surfaces on the epidermis of significance. Mere understanding limits the reader. Her poetry must be felt and understood simultaneously. It is pre-logical, primitive, and shamanic. It must be read straight through without a backward glance. Her verse carries you forward in the hope that soon you will come to the sense of it, and you find yourself swept ahead by this current, toward images at which you grasp and thoughts that slide away from you—you're immersed in a psychic experience of beauty, of poetry, and of a pulsating and confounding rhythm that oscillates between good and evil. Rosselli's poetry doesn't talk about life, it surmounts it. Deborah Woodard and Giuseppe Leporace's translation has resproduced this underlying power with poignant skill, and now the Egnlish reader finally has the chance to enjoy a generous selection from the entire oeuvre of one of the most important poets of our time." ~ Alessandro Polcri

"Both Merini and Rosselli... are nearly impossible to read except in the shadow of their difficult lives... Rosselli is bruising. The form of her poetry is unprecedented in Italian... The lines are extremely long, typically over twenty syllables, and would be prose except for their unpredictable shifts of register and metaphorical richness... they rush inexorably, like dense magma, with abrupt halts only between sections..." ~ From the review in The Times Literary Supplement, "No Mother Tongue," by Barry Schwabsky, July 2, 2010.

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From La Libellula (Panegirico della Libertà) /

The Dragonfly: Panegyric to Liberty (1958)

pages 90, 91 | pages 114, 115



Pages 90, 91

E se i soldati che irruppero nella tenda di
Dio furono quella disperata bega che è l'odio;
allora io avanzo il pugnale in un pugno stretto,
e ti ammazzo. Ma è tutt'uno l'universo e tu lo
sai! L'aria, l'aria pura, lat malattia, e il sonnellante
addio,. L'aria, l'aria pura, la bistecca marcita,
e l'ultima verdura dell'estate. E il seme dell'ultima
violenza dell'estate.

And if the soldiers who broke into God's
tent were that futile quarrel that is hatred;
then I will guide the dagger with clenched fist,
and strike you dead. But it's all one universe and you know
it! The air, the pure air, the malady, and the somnolent
farewell. The air, the pure air, the spoiled steak,
and the last greens of summer. And the seed of summer's
final violence.


Pages 114, 115

Rimuovere gli antichi angioli dai loro piedistalli
della pietà, rimuovere gli antichi angioli dal
loro piedistallo della fiertà, e buttar turro
in mare. Rimuovere gli antichi angioli che con
il pregiudizio s'attaccano alle mie gonnelle;
riumuovere ogni sorta di viltà; rimuovere ogni
pentimento: rimuovere la fierezza e la pietà:
rimuovere perfino il vento che s'attacca alla
tua pienezza. Mangiare, dormire, sognare: non
prendere sonniferi. Mangiare, dormire, sognare

e osare: rimuovere l'antica viltà, rimuovere
le bende dei soldati dalle statue incoronate
dei giardini: rimuovere la pietà il sangue e
la fiertà. Settembre ha schiuso le sue porte
sonore, e l'umiltà v'entra per un sole agghiacciato.

Removing the ancient angels from their pedestals
of piety, removing the ancient angels from
their pedestal of pride, and tossing everything
into the sea. Removing the ancient angels who along
with prejudice cling to my skirts;
removing every instance of cowardice; removing
each repentance: removing pride and piety:
removing even the wind if it clings to
your plentitude. Eating, sleeping, dreaming: don't
take sleeping pills. Eating, sleeping, dreaming,
and daring: removing ancient baseness, removing
the soldiers' bandages from the crowned statues
of gardens: removing piety blood
and pride. September has left ajar its sonorous
doors, and humility enters by way of a frozen sun.


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