June 23, 2010

Milo De Angelis


Milo De Angelis [Italy]
1951

Milo De Angelis was born in Milan on June 6, 1951. He spent his childhood in Monferrato, a village in the Piedmont. The childhood experiences of this rural setting, the agrarian practices, the proximity of nature, the provincial legends, would later prove formative to his poetry, reinforcing a central thematic preoccupation with the natural cycle as well as contributing a number of autobiographical allusions.

During his late teens, De Angelis became deeply involved in sports, initially soccer, later track and field. These experiences would also reemerge in his poetry as a pattern of athletic images that resonate with his philosophical speculations.

He studied at the University of Milan from 1970-1974 and then at the University of Montpellier from 1975 to 1976, receiving a degree in contemporary Italian literature and classical philology.

De Angelis began writing poetry at an early age, in his mid-teens, when he was also beginning his readings in literature, philosophy, and literary criticism. His precocious debut occurred in 1975, when some of his poems appeared in two anthologies important in the history of contemporary Italian poetry: the prestigious annual L'almanacco dello Specchio (The Almanack of the Mirror), which usually prints a few interesting newcomes along with recent work by respected major writers; and Il pubblico della poesia (The Audience of Poetry), a selection of twenty-five poets designed to characterize the social and cultural situation of Italian poetry in the 1970s.

In 1976, De Angelis published his first collection of poems, Somiglianze (Resemblances) with the smaller press Guanda, noted for its list of experimental writing. These first publications signaled his emergence as a key figure in post-World War II Italian poetry, one who was developing in new ways the experimentalism initiated by such groups as the Novissimi and Gruppo 63 in the 1950s and 1960s.

De Angelis's poetry shows a commitment to the formal innovation championed by this experimentalist movement, but in the service of speculation on the nature of language and human subjectivity influenced by figures such as Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bataille, Blanchot, Lacan and Deluze. The result, in the words of the poet and critic Maurizio Cucchi, is that "idea and freedom of image often coexist in his verses, revealing a subtending, insinuating uneasiness, an always arduous and troubling skewing of experience."

De Angelis's poetic research let him in the late 1970s to found the journal niebo (1976-80), which published translations of several philosophical and speculative texts. De Angelis's own essays, collected in 1982 as Poesia e destina, addressed a wide range of texts, European and Eastern, classical and modern.

Throughout the 1980s, he lived in Milan, tutoring private students in Greek and Latin literature while writing the poems that brilliantly confirmed his early promise. His second collection, Millimetri (Millimeters) appeared in 1983 from the noted publishing house Einaudi; his third, Terro del viso (Land of the Face) in 1985, and his fourth Distante un padre (A Distant Father) in 1989, both from Mondadori. In 1998 Mondadori also published his Biografia sommaria (Concise Biography). The Rome publisher, Donzelli, published a selection of his work, Dove eravamo già stati. Poesie 1970-2001 (Where We Had Already Been) in 2001. His most recent collection, Tema dell'addio (Farewell Theme) won several prizes, including the Viareggio Prize, the San Pellegrino Prize, and the Cattafi Prize.

De Angelis has also written a work a fiction, La corsa dei mantelli (1979).

He and his wife, the poet Giovanna Sicari, currently live in Rome.

—Lawrence Venuti with Douglas Messerli

BOOKS OF POETRY

Somiglianze (Parma: Guanda, 1975, new ed. 1990); Millimetri (Torino: Einaudi, 1983); Terra del viso (Milano: Mondadori, 1985); Distante un padre (Milano: Mondadori, 1989); Biografia sommaria (Milano: Mondadori, 1998); Dove eravamo già stati. Poesie 1970-2001 (Roma: Donzelli, 2001); Tema dell'addio (Milano: Mondadori, 2005)

ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS

Finite Intuition: Selected Poetry and Prose, trans. by Lawrence Venuti (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995); Between the Blast Furnaces and the Dizziness: A Selection of Poems 1970-1999, trans. by Emanuel Di Pasquale (New York: Chelsea Editions, 2003)


Now

This desired caress, stopped
close by, will not reach the cheek, gossip
that holds no truth: better
the Nazi gesture that crushes his mind, mine.
Not comprehended
it will comprehend everything
with the struggle in the room, the imploring
look and then:
listen to me
it helps. The day escaped into the day after
to forget. Now
in a few awkward tears
it is put before you: you are contemporary.

Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti

(from Somiglianze, 1975)



Metaphors

The same low sky
of ambulances and rain, in the excitement
and hands on the groin, summoned by the body
to oppose
the slightest numbness to things
while outside, among the traffic lights, Europe
having invented the finite
holds out
far from the beast, defends
real and irrelevant concepts
along the highways, in linear time
toward a point
and the eyes don't shut before things, steady
where today a millennium hesitated
between yielding and not yielding
losing itself always later, with intelligence.

Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti

(from Somiglianze, 1975)


The Dream of the Dancing Cat

For the lady of sea and grain
roads
without beginnings, bright clothes, leavened break
because she spoke
as if she never existed,
in the plain
of light or in the threatening hiss
of the reeds, spoke
without need of guarantees,
swift shadow on the horse
heading south, beyond the forest, tonight

—Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti

(from Somiglianze, 1975)



Born on the earth

Born on the earth
that remains
we were that breathless rejoicing
as soon as the minds arrived
on a canary's back
and conquered. A
matron-at-arms
is screwed to our flank, guardian
of the tablets, a harpoon
in the Mediterranean world, among the eggs.

You didn't want to share
the plunder and so
you have me forever
because there was nothing else
but the mere victory. Later
we shall throw our prey
to the cats: they will know
how to annihilate it!


Here is the quartz page
in the agenda, when
every man is razed to the ground
and remembers. The pine cones fill
this courtyard
faithful to its meters: the very tree
of the door
that is perennial for anyone who notices it
and yet is air, only air. It has a severity
and a still attentive custodian. These
were the numbers.


—Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti

(from Millimetri, 1983)




Conversation with Father

I

The prisoners, you said, found
an opening in the cell. Several
died frostbitten, in the night.
Others, however, by burning their clothes,
saved themselves. But why was the guard
silent? Is it true he shot only at the dead?


II

The bandage was riddle with holes
but it didn't fall from his eyes. The blinds
were nearly closed...I'm certain...they were nearly closed
and no one can forgive them
not even now, among the other windows,
parcels from the post office. This truck. Now
it's dark. It was
as if he heard
a sister devoured, before him, lead
and light...I think so...she was watching,
she was strange...German.
The clock was stolen, at once, and then
filth on top of filth, cats
pelted with stones,
they too, like an anecdote of the crowd.

Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti

(from Terra del viso, 1985)


Finite Intuition

A nerve pivots and that space
seeks a scratch in the glue,
point outside page

"Where's
the earth you send spinning?"

I shall carry you on my shoulders,
complete cremation surrounded by posts:
suicides are more secretive than angels
and from the darkless side
the stitched nape will begin
the beginning

I shall carry you on my shoulders, in tatters, to
read, beyond the wall, beyond those

"The body was frost-bitten,
purple, devoid of essence."

—Translated from the Italian by Lawrence Venuti


(from Distante un padre, 1989)


____
"Now," "Metaphors," "The Dream of the Dancing Cat," "Born on the earth," "Conversation with Father," and "Finite Intuition"
Reprinted from Milo De Angelis, Finite Intuition: Selected Poetry and Prose, trans. by Lawrence Venuti (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995). Original copyright © by Milo De Angelis; English language translation copyright ©1995 by Lawrence Venuti. Reprinted by permission of Sun & Moon Press.

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