Translated, Edited and Introduced by Sean Mark
221 pages $20
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ANTONIO SAGREDO was born 1945 in Brindisi and grew up in Leece, two towns in the peninsula of Salento, the so-called heel of the boot of Southern Italy. The region is suffused with the history of invasions and overlays of Western and Eastern cultures. He was raised as a Catholic, amid altars and rosaries, hearing tales of decapitated saints, burned heretics and mass executions under the Ottoman Turks. At age 23 he moved to Rome, worked for a degree at the university and studied Slavic languages and literatures in Prague. These three influences the cultural heritage of Salento, the Catholic passion and inquisition, and the poems and novels of Russians, Czechs and other Slavs infuse his poetry and prose. He has published two volumes of poetry in Spain, Tortugas (Turtles, 1992) and Poemas (2001), and individual poems in Italian journals such as Malvis, Turia and Gradiva. He has also published critical essays on Leo Tolstoy in the Rivista di Psicologia Analitica (1984), and an interview with critic Angelo Maria Ripellino on Skomorokh (Slavic minstrel) theater in Il caffi illustrato (2003). He has translated a number of Czech and Russian poets into Italian, as well as Vladimir Mayakovsky's eponymous tragedy.
SEAN MARK grew up between London and Milan. Having earned a Master's degree in English from University College London, he is completing a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature in a program shared between the universities of Tübingen, Bergamo and Brown. He edited and translated Adam Vaccaro's Seeds for Chelsea Editions in 2014 and contributes translations to various journals. He writes poetry in English and Italian.
From Sean Mark, "Clots of Beauty: An Introduction to the Poems of Antonio Sagredo":
"Though his poetic diction may evoke voices of the past, or revisit odes, sonnets and satirae, Sagredo is by no means a classicist, a reviver of dry and yellowing verse, harking after the restoration of obsolete orders; rather, his verbosity is a mark of distinction, of the fullness of his 'visions, alcohols, words.' Any temporal continuity is constantly short-circuited, as we skip from Keats's Hampstead, to Stalinist Russia via 17th-century Counter-Reformation Naples; and alongside the ceremony and magniloquence sits a colloquial, tender undercurrent a playful and knowing pastiche.
"New and outmoded, eccentric and idiosyncratic, Sagredo's poetry is accordingly difficult to classify. It is poetry of abundance, that seems to exist in a permanent state of flux, of prolonged oscillation between (apparently) conflicting poles: bawdiness and opulence, joy and misery, wit and tragedy
"Sagredo is preoccupied with the act of founding anewa new idiom, plying language to fit his expressive needs and a new and oddly coherent poetic world In the realm of contemporary poetry, Sagredo's work ventures in distinctly unfrequented directions he is, like his poetic personae, a heretic to all schools, whose work resembles that of no other contemporary Italian poet."
Poet Antonio Sagredo
Sono agnelli o lupi, le parole?
Sulla carta bianca con aghi di pino
liquide ossa tracciano innominabili sentieri,
ammassi di linee e deformi prospettive,
intrighi de quartieri su torbe ingiallite,
metafore fossili, simboli ancestrali
sono finito!mi repitonon sono io
che cammino, non sono miei gli occhi
che m'ascoltano, non so nulla del Nulla
evanescente, come l'enigma del bardo.
Fui un giorno lisca, pinna marina e ala,
osso bucato di liberi uccelli: natura era me
ed io lei ma essenze mutaronocome?
Fru incanto? Canto?il poeta non sa!
Are Words Lambs or Wolves?
On white paper with needles of pine
liquid bones trace unnameable trails
heaps of lines and deformed sights,
neighbourhood intrigues on yellowing peat,
fossil metaphors, ancestral signs
I'm done for!I tell myself once more
it's not I walking, not mine are these eyes
that listen to meI can make nothing of
faint Nothing, like the riddle of the bard.
I was once a fishbone, sea fin and wing,
the hollow bone of free birds: nature was me
and I her but essences changedhow?
A spell? A song? The poet doesn't know!
La luce che mi canta nella stanza
è la futura oscurità del giorno,
il volto acceso, come un'ombra chiara.
Amarti è stato vivere nel fuoco.
Dolcezza inchiodata a una croce.
The light in the room that sings of me
is the future darkness of the day,
the face lit, like a pale shadow.
To love you was to live in fire.
Sweetness nailed to a cross.
Dietro, chi sa cosa, ci tallonava
era il Tempo in fuga da se stesso
che con las nostra corsa ci sfuggiva
e, davvero, come uno staffile
era battuto dai nostri passi:
martelli di due dèmoni incrociati,
nerezze non turbate,
tumulti di luciferi!
A + K
Behind us, what was in pursuit?
Time fleeing itself, escaping while we ran
and, truly, like a lash
it was beaten by our steps:
hammers of two demons crossed,
blackness left to settle,
È il mondo dei libri che più non mi sostiene,
le origini del suo tragitto eretico
e quel volvere infame una deriva riciclata
nelle mie stanze scellerate.
Elettra, torreggiante, come un esule di Joyce
è l'osceno motore della passione quieta
che nella notre attica traduce il ponte americano
a una latina sponda
e a un'accidia di laguna.
Ma come prezioso è questo cristallo di Boemia
questo acuto di ròncola,
questo dolore arrotato e salentino
che finge il riso e il suo contrario!
E sono ancora in fiamme quelle ceneri
perché gli occhi miei sono vivi nello specchio,
come il fuoco, e il rogo!
The world of books no longer sustains me,
the roots of its heretical journey
and the vile desire for a recycled drift
in the heinous stanzas of my verse.
Towering Electra, like an exile of Joyce's,
lewd force behind the quiet passion,
she translates in the Attic night
the American bridge to a Latin shore,
to the sloth of a lagoon.
How precious this Bohemian crystal
the billhook's high-pitched note,
this sharpened Salento pain
feigning sadness and its opposite!
And still ablaze are the ashes
for my eyes still alive in the mirror
like fire, and the stake!
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