Alfonso Gatto
THE WALL DID NOT ANSWER
Selected Poems 1932—1976

Translated and Introduced by
PHILIP PARISI

 

 

Paperback, 228 pages
ISBN 970-0-9823849-6-1
$20


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ALFONSO GATTO (1909-1976) was among Italy's foremost 20th-century poets. Together with Mario Luzi, Vittorio Sereni and others, he belonged to the second generation of Italian "hermetic" poets—after Giuseppe Ungaretti, Eugenio Montale and Savatore Quasimodo. All were influenced by the French Symbolists. The selection here includes prewar, war and postwar poetry taken from ten collections, including Poesie d'amore / Love Poems (1941-1949) and La storia delle vittime / History of the Victims (1962-1965). In 1976 Gatto met an untimely death in a car accident near Rome. His final book of poems, Desinenze / Endings, was published posthumously.

 

PHILIP PARISI has previously published translations of Gatto's poems in Chelsea, Partisan Review, Sequoia and other journals, for which he received the Renato Poggioli Award from the PEN American Center. His own poems have appeared in Sewanee Review, New Letters and other literary journals. His book Texas Post Office Murals: Art for the People (2005) was distinguished by the Texas Institute of Letters as one of the best nonfiction books of the year. Parisi obtained an M.A. degree in creative writing from Brown University and currently works as an editor for Utah State University.

 



REVIEWS

"Gifted with a great sense of style and a colorful and vivid imagination, Gatto has relived some of the intensely dramatic moments of the war and the days of the Liberation." ~ Sergio Pacifici

Gatto is "among twentieth-century Italy's most expressive and original poetic voices." ~ Silvio Rimat

Gatto's poetry is "the largest poetic testimony of the man of the Resistance, felt as an eternal and necessary human prototype. Perhaps never as in the poems of Gatto, in words that come to us through the extensive collection of his civic poetry, do we discover that temperament of the day and the sentiments of the struggle." ~ Italo Calvino

 



 

 

Selections

From La storia delle vittime / History of the Victims (1962-1965)

 

Poet Alfonso Gatto

 


Iddio non guarda, commina,
e le mani sull'opera compiuta
sono mani di vittima che vede
la messe delle polveri frustate
correre luminosa dai suoi cenni.

Dalla folla degli uomini
quanti l'erba del veno, quanti gli occhi,
verrà l'urlo del numero raggiante.

God doesn't watch, he moves,
and his hands on the completed work
are the hands of a victim who sees
the harvest of the swirling dust
flow luminously by his orders.

From the crowds of men
so much grass in the wind, so many eyes,
will come the howl of the radiant multitude.

 

 

From Desinenze / Endings (1974-1976)

Lazzaro

Dove fuggi, Lazzaro indenne
ove pedali tra pietre e ossa
per l'arida terra che ti tratenne?
Hai paura di parlare, paura che possa
parlare il tuo spirito oscuro.
Con la morte eri giunto al tuo riposo,
non poteva destarti.
Ora tu parli al muro
insensato, parli all'ulivo annoso
e qual eri no osi pensarti
e chi per essere sarai.
Ora attendi l'incredulo che tocchi
e che ti dica vero
credendo alle sue mani.
Incredibile Lazzaro creduto
per quel che sei domani,
un ciclista sul via.
Gesù ti chiese in conto d'agonia
notizie della morte che tu sai.


Lazarus

Where are you running to, Lazarus, unscathed
where tree trunks amid rocks and bones
detained you through the parched land?
You're afraid of talking, afraid that your dark
spirit may speak.
In death you met your rest,
you could not awaken yourself.
Now you talk to the deaf wall,
you talk to the aged olive tree
and what you were you dare not think
nor who you will become by being.
Now you heed the disbelief that touches you
and tells you the truth
believing its own hands.
Incredible Lazarus, believed in
for what you will be tomorrow,
a bicyclist on the road.
Out of agony Jesus asked you
for the news you have about death.


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