January 22, 2009

Elio Pagliarani

Elio Pagliarani [Italy]

Born in Viserba in 1927, the son of a persecuted socialist, who worked as a coachman for summering tourists on the Rimini coast. Pagliarani's inability to make friendships with the children of the wealthy, instilled him a hatred of the rich. An exception was Giovanna Bemporad, the child a wealthy publishing family, who herself wrote poetry and encourged the young Elio to write as well. The loss of an eye in childhood, and his witnessing of the death of a young man in the hands of Germans in World War II, along with the injustices he observed in Milan, where he worked for an import-export firm, led him further away from bourgeois culture. Soon after graduation in 1951, he joined the editorial staff of Avanti!, the socialist party daily newspaper.

Unable to relate to the neorealist "partisan poetry" and neorealism in its many other forms, Pagliarani turned instead to T. S. Eliot─whose "The Waste Land" stuck him deeply with its linguistic complexity─and to the Italians Cesare Pavese and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Accordingly, Pagliarani developed what he described as a "critical" realism, in order to create a dialetic for new social values and for creating a new poetics. Ultimately, he expressed many of these views in "Intervento" of 1959, collected in the Gruppo '63 anthology of 1966. In 1961, he joined poets Alfredo Giuliani, Edoardo Sanguineti, Nanni Balestrini, and Antonio Porta in the highly influential I Novissimi anthology, a work which helped to change the course of Italian poetry.

Among Pagliarani's major works are Cronache e altre poesie, his first book published in 1954, Inventario privato (1959), La Ragazza Carla e Altre Poesie (1962), Lezione de fisic e Fecalaro (1968), and Rosso, corpo, lingua (1977). Increasingly, over the years his poetry has grown more and more hermetic and linguistically complex.

Pagliarani died on March 8th, 2012.


Cronache ed altre poesie (Milan: Schwartz, 1954); Inventario privato (Milan: Veronelli, 1959); I Novissmi. Poesie per gli anni '60 [selections], ed. by Alfredo Giuliani (Rome: Rusconi e Paolazzi Editore, 1961); La ragazza Carla e altre poesie (Milan: Mondadori, 1962; enlarged, ed. by Alberto Asor Rosa, Mondadori, 1978); Lezione di fisica (Milan: All'Insegna del Pesce d'Oro, 1964; enlarged as Lezione di fisica e fecalaro [Milan: Feltrinelli, 1968]); Rosso corpo lingua oro pope-papa scienza (Rome: Cooperativa Scrittori, 1977); Poesie da recita, edited by Alessandra Briganti (Rome: Bulzoni, 1985); La ballata de Rudi (Venice: Marsilio, 1995); La pietà oggetiva (Poesie 1947-1997) (Rome: Fondazione Piazzolla, 1997).


Selections in The New Italian Poetry: 1945 to the Present, edited and translated by Lawrence R. Smith (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981); I Novissimi, edited with a new preface by Alfredo Giuliani (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1995); and The Promised Land: Italian Poetry After 1975, edited by Luigi Ballerini, Beppe Cavatorta, Elena Coda and Paul Vangelisti (Los Angeles: Sun & Moon Press, 1999).

Love Song

You had the legs of a pregnant mare
and tringy hair, your forms
made by a carpenter I struggled
sure of remaking them, imagining
a turgid richness if I took you nipples
in my teeth. You looked good
dressed like a sailor, white and blue.

I wrestled ont he sand to open you up
and resolve a dobut for you, underwear
with popular flounces.
Lord Knows what
I thought I'd see, in her restless
If this were sin!, come on,
illusion of age, what leaves its mark
is the lie: life having been declared
grand, here I am to bend my back
and say: it's strange it's strange, as a goose.

I realize that instead of drowning
I used you as a life-preserver.

Here where there's a break in the sea, no memory
remains, and if treachery seizes me
from the depths, it's the night the clearness
marriage sea moon in these low
lands, it's Villa Serena so empty,
silence, dismay at the threats
of the dawn.

—Translated from the Italian by Lawrence R. Smith

(from La ragazza Carla e altre poesie, 1962)

Narcissus Pseudonarcissus

It's somehow like saying there's not much left to burn, by now,
the blimp's defeated, the skeleton so bare
it's frightening
I had what it takes to turn out badly,
wicked love, talent plus a modest ambition
and if need be a hole in my pants
to slip two fingers through
and so we shall burn iron posts
our up-to-date country, the dredge the crane the seaplane harbor

But if:
cowardly and unyieding I struggled
meal after meal, and I will not let go

I have no idea how the cortex responds
but I plan to go on

With great self-irony the author celebrates the indistinct, unseemly
ambitions of adolescence. Narcissus pseudonarcissus is commonly called
"Poetic narcissus."
The reference to the zeppelin is deliberately old-fashioned; the diri-
gible whose canvas balloon has deflated remailns a bare, hulking, iron
skeleton. So let us then put our irons in the fire and update the land-

my baggage is not heavy
my back is not too bulky
I got conneactive tissue that permits
some metamorphosis

after the rain with toads in the streets
I trust you will find me.

O, we are the race most tenancious, praised be its creator,
man's the only animal to winter at pole and equator
lord of all latitudes accustomed to all habits,
thus my confidence is fierce
no matter how I say it—ah the endless range of tones
equal only to throngs of sensitive souls to earth's stenches
my confidence is fierce, no matter hwat, you can find me in the storm
and later, when the trolley tracks are up in the air.

scape with sttely "objects": yet those, we would do well to note, are
objects that imiply movements of approach, landings, transport.
The "cortex" is obvijously that of the brain. In asserting his own possi-
bility of metamorphosis the author has recourse to a southern idiom-
atic construction ("I got" for I have), which conveys the idea of the moral
"transformism" that the southern population is socially subjected to.

No? What happened, an accident? Glory be to you, if your turn hasn't come
I anyway delivered a note—it says I don't give up:
amen to me, the time my turn will come.

The praise of powers of adaptation and resistance typical of mankind
bears with it a polemical attitude toward sensitivity (and here it is
primarily the sensitivity of the reader accustomed to the refinements of
poetry): the possible "tones" of experience are endless, so that the author
combines violence with trust and assumes a certain stylistic casu-
alness ("no matter how I say it")—the very coaseness he needs if he is
consciously to shoulder his baggage.
And if an accident occurs? Lucky you, whoever you are, if you manage
to escape the "storm"; meanwhile the poets don't give up their work.

-Translated from the Italian by Luigi Ballerini and Paul Vangelisti

(from La ragazza Carla e altre poesie, 1962; as it appeared with notes
in I Novissimi)

At the Beach There Are No Colors

At the beach there are no colors
when the light is stront it equals
its absence
thus each presence is forgetful and without trauma
it acquires solitude
Words share their destiny with colors
on the sand another speaks
stretched out on the sand with hands
under his head the words go upward
who can follow them
face down hands under his chin
the words fall scare
who can connect them
it seems better to listen
in two
your body and you
but sound without interruption is magma and sea
it makes no sense to listen

The sea is discreet the sun
makes no noise
the horizontal world
is without quality
is indifferent substance
the quality of inequality.

—Translated from the Italian by Luigi Ballerini and Paul Vangelisti

(from La ballata di Rudi, 1995)

Talk to Sagredo

Talk to Sagredo: so much per kilo we sell and these people cost
it's the phrase that gives him away, tomorrow at the harbor beach. I found him
in friar's sandals and a long white meerschaum in his mouth
I'm sending false signals, he said, and greatly praised the chastity of woman

Mixture of gunpowder according to Roger Bacon
chalk, cheese, sand from the Tago and philosophical eggs

Here it is siimpler silnce there is no reason, the motive is existence, and I decided to
kill Sagredo.
Who sent you he asked me when there were the black women and Pierraccini, I told
the first lie that came to mind
he said it's a lie I don't give a damn don't tell me you believe in a secret life, and the
girls laughed when he pulled down his pants. Pieraccini
was immediately out of key, first he pretended to leave then he too began to undress
but Peggy called him an asshole and Molly said you're disgusting in so manywords.
In effect he was as disgusting
as Sagredo was clean
and I dediced to kill Sagredo.

—Translated from the Italian by Luigi Ballerini and Paul Vangelisti

(from La ballata di Rudi, 1995)

Nandi's Blues

(a): let's try again with red

let's try again with red: red, a circle around it, then red on red: Nandi if there were
with red a circle of red seven degrees of red if there were
a spot straddling the circles, red that drips in a corner, fickle red on tighter
circles choked with red, that follows the edge of the corner, overflowing the read
it spreads over the time of red, red down to the marrow of the bone of time, red of
the wind
red that wind in the time of red, red the breath of the wind in the red of time
red the forest if the red wind blows through the forest red flowers
on red stalk with red petals in the red forest of time where the wind
is red: too much red Nandi or too many words of red or red dismayed by red?
ostrich feathers colored an easy red ostrich red
let's try again with red: red, a circle around it, then red on red: Nandi, if there were


let's try again with the body: body, a circle around it, then body on body: Nandi, if
we had
on the body a bundle of bodies a degree seven degress of body if they had
a spot straddling the body, that makres the triangle, fickle spot on bodies
caught in the bundle of bodies, that follows the edge of the triange, overflowing
the body
in time, it spreads over the time of body, over the body hollowed by time
down to the bone marrow
time of the body in the tangle of plexus, having, Nandi, body and body's breath in
the course of time
in the breath of wind, body in the body, flower of body on the stalk of body in the
of body on the beach of bodies where the wind smells only of body
too much body Nandi or too many words on the body or body dismayed by the

let's try again with the body, why circle? no circle around it, body on body
there is acircle: body, body


tongue: tongue of red on the red of the body, tongue red canal of the body
between being and having, tongue for Nandi
red tongue of the body of red, tongue of the circle created by tongue and broken
by tongue
mystical tongue of red mystical tongue of body mystical tongue of cock
(if it is mystical it is private, it's no good to Nandi,
if it's encoded it's already screwed, Nandi you've been had)
but your red tongue
your body

Translated from the Italian by Luigi Ballerini and Paul Vangelisti

Among the Finales of Rudy's Ballad

Drugs weren't enough, now there's this anorexia, or bulemia whatever
No, not the same thing? the opposite? one kills the other fills you up
Anorexia doesn't mean not being hungry but saying you're not hungry
hvaing so much in your gut, and goose bumps of envy for not being
like others, but like the Nibelungs in fact the Niebelungesses because
it especially strikes
girls and how many have learned diligently from the gorgers of ancient Rome
the art of vomitting to destroy yourself: this is like drugs, the rich
with money and effort more often get off, the poor don't fare so well.
(In parenthesis?: at the start of this tale if there were a strange
girl without apparent reason it had to do with reducing almost
always the concetration
camps, from what camps come the reducing now?)

Translated from the Italian by Paul Vangelisti

(from La ballata de Rudi, 1995)

Okot p'Bitek

Okot p'Bitek [Uganda]

Born in Gulu, Uganda, Okot p'Bitek was guided from childhood on by his mother, a singer and composer and the head of her clan. From the rich lore of songs and folktales with which he grew up, he absorbed the oral traditions of the Luo people. Educated in a Christian secondary school, he attended King's College in Budo. As a soccer team member, he traveled abroad to represent Uganda, and stayed on in Great Britian, continuing his education in Bristol. He took a law degree at Aberystwyth and a degree in social anthropology at Oxford.

Returning to Uganda, he became lecturer at the University College in Makerer, later becoming the director the National Cultural Center in Kampala. However, political events, triggered in part by his criticisms of the Zambian government, forced him to leave that position, and he emigrated to Kenya. However, he continued there as a senior research fellow at the Institute of African Studies, and wrote several major works on African culture, including African Religions and Western Scholarship (1970), Religion of the Central Luo (1971), and Africa's Cultural Revolution (1973).

In 1953, he wrote his first major literary work, Lak tar miyo kinyero wi lobo, a novel written in the Acholi dialect of Luo. It was a decade later, however, before he published his acclaimed Song of Lawino: A Lament (1966). In 1970, he followed that success with Song of the Ocol. Song of a Prisoner, perhaps his best known work, was published a year later, followed by a collection of that work and Song of Malaya (1971). The songs of Lawino and a Prisoner are both poems of defense, but the latter work is also a statement on African politics and reveals the anguish of the people. The Song of Ocol and Song of Malaya are poems of attack.

p'Bitek died in 1982.


Song of Lawino, A Lament (Nairobi and London: East African Publishing House, 1966; Cleveland, Ohio: World-Meridian Books, 1969); Song of the Ocol (Nairobi and London: East African Publishing House, 1970); The Song of the Prisoner (Nairobi and London: East African Publishing House, 1970; published as Song of a Prisoner [New York: The Third Press, 1971]);
Two Songs: the Song of the Prisoner and the Song of Malaya (Nairobi and London: East African Publishing House, 1971); Song of Lawino and Song of Ocol (Nairobi and London: East African Publishing House, 1971).

January 20, 2009

Pier Paolo Pasolini

Pier Paolo Pasolini [Italy]

Pasolini's youth was spent in northern Italy, his father's military career necessitating several moves throughout the region. In 1937, he returned to his native city of Bologna, where he enrolled at the University, studying literature and art history. It was at this time that he began to write poetry in Friulian, a Rhaeto-Romanic dialect. His first book of poetry, Poesie a Casarsa, was published at his own expense in 1942.

The next year, the family moved to Casarsa, the subject of his previous book and the birthplace of Pasolini's mother. There Pasolini's interest in poetry grew, and he continued writing, both in Friulian and in Italian. In 1949 his mother and he moved to Rome, where he remained the rest of his life.

Pasolini's poetry reflects his personal interests and concerns: his work is particularly infused with a sense of the poverty and joy of the working classes and his love for them. The protaganists of poetry and fiction─and often of his films─are Rome's uneducated youths, forced to live apart from and alienated by the bourgeois.

However, Pasolini's Marxist positions were highly personalized, primarily because of his homosexuality, expressed openly in much of his work. At the same time, his life, particularly when he began making motion pictures in the 1960s, pulled him further away from the poor, with whom he so identified. Pasolini explored these issues intensely in his films and his works of poetry and fiction such as L'usignolo della Chiesa Cattolica (1958; The Nightingale of the Catholic Church), Ragazzi di vita (1955, The Ragazzi) and Una vita violenta (1959; A Difficult Life).

Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s Pasolini directed films of international renown, most notably Accattone (1961), Uccellacci e uccellini (1964, Hawks and Sparrows), Teorema (1968), Medea (1970) and Salò; o, le 120 giornate di Sodoma (1975).

In 1975 Pasolini was murdered by a young man, whom he had evidently picked up for a homosexual encounter. The incident was internationally reported, with some parties suggesting that Pasolini had been murdered for political reasons.


Poesie a Casarsa (1942); Le ceneri di Gramsci (Milan: Aldo Garzanti Editore, 1957); L'usignolo della chiesa cattolica (Milan: Longanesi, 1958); La religione del mio tempo (Milan: Aldo Garzanti Editore, 1961); Poesia in forma di rosa (Milan: Aldo Garzanti Editore, 1964); Trasumanar e organizzar (Milan: Aldo Garzanti Editore, 1971); Le poesie (Milan: Aldo Garzanti Editore, 1975); La nuova gioventù: poesie friulane 1941-1974 (Torino: Einaudi, 1975).


Pier Paolo Pasolini: Poems, trans. by Norman MacAfee with Luciana Martinengo (New York: Random House, 1982); Roman Poems, trans. by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Francesca Valente (San Francisco: City Lights, 1986).

For a reading in Italian with Pasolini and Ezra Pound, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0YJSG1C3sF8&feature=related

from A Desperate Vitality


(Draft, in progress, in current slang, of
what's gone before: Fiumicino, the old
castle, and a first true idea of death.)

As in a film by Godard: alone
in a car moving along the highways
of Latin neocapitalism─returning from the airport─
[where Moravia remained, pure among his luggage]
alone, "piloting his Alfa Romeo,"
in a sun inexpressible in rhymes
that aren't elegiac, because it's celestial
─the most beautiful sun of the year─
as in a film by Godard:
under that sole still sun slitting
its veins,
the canal of the port of Fiumicino
─a motorboat returning unobserved
─Neapolitan sailors in their wool rags
─an auto accident, with a little crowd around it...

─as in a film by Godard─rediscovery
of romanticism in the seat of
neocapitalistic cynicism and cruelty─
at the wheel
on the road from Fiumicino,

and there's the castle (what sweet
mystery for the French screenwriters
in the troubled, endless, centuries-old sun,

this papal monster, with its crenelations
above the hedges and vine rows of the ugly
countryside of peasant serfs)...

─I'm like a cat burned alive,
crushed by a truck's tires,
hanged by boys to a fig tree,

but still with at least eight
of its nine lives, like
a snake reduced to a bloody pulp,
an eel half-eaten

─sunken cheeks under dejected eyes,
hair horribly thinned on skull,
arms skinny as a child's,
─a cat that doesn't die, Belmondo
who "at the wheel of his Alfa Romeo"
within the logic of the narcissistic montage
detaches himself from time, and inserts in it
in images that have nothing to do with
the boredom of the hours in a line,
the slow splendid death of the afternoon...

Death is not
in not being able to communicate
but in no longer being able to be understood.

And this papal monster, not devoid
of grace─reminder of
the rustic condescensions of patronage,
which were innocent, in the end, as the serfs'
submissiveness was innocent─
in the sun that was,
through the centuries,
for thousands of afternoons,
here, the only guest,

this papal monster, crenelated,
crouched among poplar groves and marshes,
fields of watermelons, embankments,
this papal monster, armored
by buttresses the sweet orange color
of Rome, cracking
like Etruscan or Roman buildings,
is at the point of no longer being understood.


(Without a dissolve, in a sharp cut, I portray myself
in an act─without historical precedents─of "cultural

I, voluntarily martyred...and
she in front of me, on the couch:
shot and countershot in rapid flashes,
"You"─I know what she's thinking, looking at me,
in a more domestic-Italian Masculine-Feminine,
always à la Godard─"you, sort of a Tennessee!"
the cobra in the light wool sweater
(and the subordinate cobra
gliding in magnesium silence).
Then aloud: "Tell me what you're writing?"

"Poems, poems, I'm writing! Poems!
(stupid idiot,
poems she wouldn't understand, lacking as she is
in metric knowledge! Poems!)
poems no longer in tercets!

Do you understand?
This is what's important: no longer in tercets!
I have gone back, plain and simple, to the magma!
Neocapitalism won, I've
been kicked out on the street
as a poet [boo-hoo]
and citizen [another boo-hoo]."
And the cobra with the ballpoint:
"The title of your work?" "I don't know...
[He speaks softly now, as though intimidated, assuming
the role the interview, once accepted, imposes
on him: how little it takes
for his sinister mug
to fade into
the face of a mama's boy condemned to death]
─perhaps...'The Persecution'
or...'A New Prehistory' (or Prehistory)
[And here he rears up, regaining
the dignity of civil hate]
'Monologue on the Jews'..."
[The discourse
flounders like the weak unaccented beat
of a jumbled octosyllable: magmatic!]
"And what's it about?"
"Well, my...your, death.
It is not in not communicating [death],
but in not being understood...

(If she only knew, the cobra,
that this is a tired idea
concocted coming back from Fiumicino!)
They're almost all lyrics, whose composition
in time and space
consists (strangely enough!) of an automobile ride...
meditations from forty to eighty miles per hour...
with quick pans (and dollies
following or preceding them),
over significant monuments, or groups
of people, inducing
an objective love...by the citizen
(or user of the road)..."

"Ha, ha─[it's the cobress with the ballpoint, laughing] and...
who is it that doesn't understand?"
"Those no longer among us."


Those no longer among us!
Lifted, with their innocent youth,
by a new breath of history, to other lives!

I remember it was...because of a love
that invaded my brown eyes and honest trousers,
the house and countryside, morning sun

and evening sun...on the good Saturdays
of Friuli, on the...Sundays...Ah, I can't
even utter that word of virgin

passions, of my death (seen in a dry
ditch swarming with primroses, between
vine rows stunned by gold, next to

dark farmhouses against a sublime blue sky).

I remember that in that monstrous love
I nearly screamed in pain
for the Sundays when the sun must shine

"above the sons of the sons!"

I was crying, in my narrow bed, in Casarsa,
in the room that smelled of urine and laundry
on those Sundays with their dying glow...

Incredible tears! Not only
for what I was losing, in that moment
of heatrending immobility of splendor,

but for what I would lose! When new
young me─of whom I couldn't conceive,
so like those dressing now

in heavy white trousers and tight English jackets,
with a flower in the buttonhole, or in dark
cloth, for weddings, cared for with filial kindness

─would populate the Casarsa of future lives,
unchanged, with its stones, and its sunlight
covering it in golden water...

Through an epileptic impulse of homicidal
grief, I was protesting
like someone sentenced to life imprisonment, locking myself
in my room,
without anybody else knowing,
to scream, mouth stuffed with
the blankets darkened by
the burns of the irons,
the dear blankets of the family,
on which I was brooding over the flowers of my youth.

And one afternoon, or one evening, I ran,
through the streets of Sunday, after the game,
to the old cemetery, there, beyond the railroad tracks,
and performed, and repeated, till I bled,
the sweetest act of life,
I alone, on the little pile of earth,
the graves of two or three
Italian or German soldiers,
no names on the wood-plank crosses
─buried there since the other war.

And that night, amid my dry tears, the bleeding
bodies of those poor unknowns
dressed in olive drab

appeared in a cluster above my bed
where I was sleeping, naked and emptied,
to smear me with blood till the sun rose.

I was twenty, no, less─eighteen,
nineteen...and a century had already passed
since my birth, an entire lifetime

consumed in the pain of the idea
that I would never be able to give my love
except to my hand, or the grassy ditches,

or perhaps the earth of an unguarded grave...
Twenty years, and, with its human history, and its cycle
of poetry, a life had ended.

Translated from the Italian by Norman MacAfee

(from Poesia in forma di rosa, 1964)

January 1, 2009

Gunnar Ekelof

Gunnar Ekelöf [Sweden]

Born of a well to do Swedish family, Gunnar Ekelöf grew up feeling himself to be an outsider, in part because of his father's mental illness. As a young adult, he studied in London, Uppsala, and Paris, concentrating in music and Oriental culture. Upon returning from Paris, he published his first collection, Sent på jorden (Late on the Earth) in 1932, a work influenced by Parisian culture, most particularly Stravinsky's music. Today that work is considered the first truly modernist work of Swedish poetry, and is recognized internationally.

The following volumes continued were infused with Ekelöf's love of music, his own deep attraction to and speculation on death, and his interest. Non serviam of 1945 is one of the most significant of the works of these years, comparing the intellectual world with the metaphysical. And over the next decades, he continued to draw on these sources for poetry, Om hösten (In Fall) (1951), Strountes (Rubbish) (1955), and Opus incertum (Uncertain Work) (1959). He also wrote a long autobiographical poem En Mölna-elegi (1960).

In 1958, after having won most Scandinavian literary prizes, Ekelöf became a member of the Swedish Royal Academy.


Sent på jorden (Stockholm: Spekstrum, 1932); Dedikation (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1934); Sorgen och stjärnan (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1936); Köp den blindes sång (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1938); Färjesång (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1941); Non serviam (Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1945); Om hösten (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1951); Strountes (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1955); Dikter 1932-1951 (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1956); Opus incertum (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1959); En Mölna-elegi (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1960); En natt i Otocac (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1961); Sent på jorden, med Appendix 1962, och En natt vid horisonten (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1962); Diwan över Fursten av Emgión (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1965); Dikter (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1965); Sagan om Fatumeh (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1966); Vägvisare till underjorden (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1967); Lägga patience (1969); Urval: Dikter 1928-1968 (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1968); Partitur (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1969); En sjävlbiografi (prose and poetry) (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1971); En röst (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag, 1973); Dikter 1965-1968 (Stockholm: Albert Bonniers Förlag: 1976); Variationer (Lund: Ellerströms, 1986).


Late Arrival on Earth, trans. by Robert Bly and Christina Paulston (London: Rapp & Carroll, 1967; Washington: D.C.: The Charioteer Press, 1968); Selected Poems of Gunnar Ekelöf, trans. by Muriel Rukeyser and Leif Sjöberg (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1967); Selected Poems by Gunnar Ekelöf, trans. by W.H. Auden and Leif Sjöberg (New York: Pantheon Books, 1971); reprinted as Gunnar Ekelöf: Selected Poems (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1971); A Mölna Elegy, trans. by Muriel Rukeseyser and Leif Sjöberg (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1979; Greensboro, N.C.: Unicorn Press, 1984); Guide to the Underworld, trans. by Rika Lesser (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1980); Songs of Something Else, trans. by Leonard Nathan and James Larson (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1982); Friends, You Drank Some Darkness: Martinson, Ekelöf, and Tranströmer. Selected Poetry, trans. by Robert Bly (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984).

Sonata Form Denatured Prose

crush the alphabet between your teeth yawn vowels, the fire is burning in hell vomit and spit now or never I and dizziness you or never dizziness now or never.
we will begin over
crush the alphabet macadam and your teeth yawn vowels, the sweat runs in hell I am dying in the convolutions of my brain vomit now or never dizziness I and you. i and he she it. we will begin over. i and he she and it. we will begin over. i and he she it. we will begin over. i and he she it. scream and cry: it goes fast what tremendous speed in the sky and hell in my convolutions like madness in the sky dizziness. scream and cry: he is falling he has fallen. it was fine it went fast what tremendous speed in the sky and hell in my convolutions vomit now or never dizziness i and you. i and he she it. we will begin over. i and he she it. we will begin over. i and he she it. we will begin over. i and he she it.
we will begin over.
crush the alphabet between your teeth yawn vowels the fire is burning in hell vomit and split now or never i and dizziness you or never dizziness now or never.

Translated from the Swedish by Robert Bly and Christina Paulston

(from Sent på jorden, 1932)

Antonio Machado

Antonio Machado [Spain]

One of the great Spanish poets of the 20th century, Machado—along with international figures such as Federico García Lorca, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Jorge Guillén (PIP volumes 1 and 2), and Vicente Aleixandre (PIP volume 4)—is particularly revered in his homeland.

Born in 1875 in the Palacio de las Dueñas near Seville, Machado grew up in the lush Spanish landscape of Andalusia which would become a major subject of his poetry. His grandfather, Antonio Machado Núñez, was a doctor, science professor, and had been the governor of Seville. His father, a lawyer, was particularly interested in Spanish folk songs associated with the flamenco. His grandmother read to Machado and his siblings (which included Manuel, who also would grow to become a noted poet) ballads of Spanish history and legends.

In 1883 the family moved to Madrid, and Antonio was enrolled in the Instituto Libre, an institution noted for its freedom from the doctrine of church and state. As the two boys, Antonio and Manuel grew older, they began to pursue bohemian lives, involving themselves in various cultural endeavors. But in 1893, their father suddenly died, and two years later their grandfather. The family was suddenly near poverty, and the brothers were forced to work, working with Eduardo Benot on developing a dictionary of synonyms.

Both brothers traveled to Paris in the late 1890s and early 1900s to work as translators. The travel also helped to expand Antonio’s poetic interests, as he met the Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío (PIP volume 1), Oscar Wilde, Jean Moréas and others. He began writing poetry with a volume of folk-related work, and then, in 1903, published what would become one of his major volumes of poetry, Soldades. Soldades, galerías y otros poems followed in 1907. In this work Machado presented the short, intimate lyric that would be typical of writing. The themes were issues of memory and past time, relating to issues of Romanticism.

His friendship with Miguel de Unamuno led Machado to give up the semi-bohemian aspects of his life, and in 1906 finally secured a position in northern Spain as a French teacher. In Soria, the town where he taught, Machado made friends with local intellectuals and began courting his landlord’s daughter, Leonor Izquierdo, whom he married in 1909, when she was just sixteen.

In 1911 he received a fellowship for study in Paris. But in Paris, his wife, suffering from tuberculosis, began hemorrhaging. When she had partially recovered, they returned to Spain, where she died in 1912. Unable to emotional bear the memories of her death in Soria, Machado asked to be transferred to the Instituto in Baeza, near his native Andalusia.

The same year, he composed and published Campos de Castilla, which was highly successful, and brought him in contact with the poets who would later be described as the Generation of ’98, writers who transformed Spanish literature in the early 20th century. Indeed his book made him a major force in that group, and characterized many of the themes centering around the problems and goals of contemporary Spain.

Machado spent seven years in Baeza, years not altogether pleasant because of his loneliness and grief. But he did continue to develop his poetry, reading heavily in philosophy, and ultimately attending the college at the University of Madrid, graduating in 1918. In 1919 he grained a teaching position in Segovia, a town not dissimilar to Baeza, but which was closer to Madrid. And throughout the next decade he would travel between the two cities. With his brother, he adapted a play of Golden Age by Tirso de Molina and began to write other plays, the best of which, La Loa se va a los puertos was moderately successful. His poetic create also further demonstrated the his philosophical interests, particularly his 1924 Nuevas canciones (New Songs) and De un cancioner apóocrifo (From an Apocryphal Songbook) published in 1926.
In 1927 Machado was elected to the Spanish Royal Academy, but was never active as a member. In part, Machado had moved philosophically to a position in which he valued “otherness,” and at the same time had an relationship with a mysterious woman, Guiomar, expressed in an exaltation of love in his late poetry. In the early 1930s he also felt new hope for the political future of Spain, sharing the liberal values of his Madrid café associates. Conditions, however, soon began to disintegrate, and in the summer of 1936 the country was divided by civil war, with Germany and Italy joining the Franco led Nationalists, and Russia and other international idealists fighting for the Republican side. Sharing the Republican values, Machado was set at odds with his brother, who lived in the Nationalist stronghold of Burgos. Unable to remain in Madrid, he and his family moved to the Republican center of Valencia. There he wrote newspaper articles and corresponded with various political groups.

In 1939 Machado and his family were evacuated to Barcelona, where he continue, despite serious health problems, to written political essays and poetry in defense of the Republican cause. As the war moved toward Barcelona, Machado, sick with pneumonia and his elderly mother, attempted to travel with others to the French border. He could not finish his travels to Paris, and in late February he died, his mother dying three days after.


Soledades (Madrid: Alvarez, 1903); Soledades, galerías y otros poems (Madrid: Pueyo, 1907; revised edition: (Madrid: Calpe, 1919); Campos de Castilla (Madrid: Renacimiento, 1912); Páginas escogidas (Madrid: Calleja, 1917); Poesías completas (Madrid: Residencia de Estudiantes, 1917; revised and expanded in 1928, 1933, 1936, 1965 and 1970); Nuevas canciones (Madrid: Mundo Latino, 1924); De un cancionero apócrifo (Madrid: Revista de Occidente, 1926); Juan de Marena. Sentencias, donaires, apuntes y recuerdos de un professor apócrifo [prose and poetry] (Madrid: Espasa-Calpe, 1936);La tierra de Alvar González u Canciones del Alto Duerro (Barcelona: Nuestro Pueblo, 1938); Abel Martín. Cancionero de Juan de Mairena [prose and poetry] (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1943); Obra poética (Buenos Aires: Pleamar, 1944); Poesías escogidas (Madrid: Aguilar, 1947); Canciones (Madrid: Aguado, 1949); Los complementarios, y otras prosas póstumas [prose and poetry] (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1957)


Eighty Poems of Antonio Machado, trans. by Willis Barnstone (New York: Américas, 1959); Castilian Ilexes, trans. by Charles Tomlinson and Henry Gifford (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1963); Selected Poems of Antonio Machado, trans. by Jean Craige (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1978); Canciones (West Branch, Iowa: Toothpaste, 1980); The Dream Below the Sun: Selected Poems, trans. by Willis Barnstone (Trumansburg, New York: Crossing, 1981); Twenty Proverbs, trans. by Robert Bly and Don Olsen (Marshall, Minnesota: Ox Head, 1981); The Castilian Camp, trans. by J. C. R. Green (Portree, Isle of Skye, U.K.: Aquila/Phaethon, 1982); The Legend of Alvar González, trans. by Denis Doyle (Harrow, Middlesex, U.K.: North Light, 1982); Times Alone, trans. by Robert Bly (Port Townsend, Washington: Graywolf, 1983); Selected Poems and Prose, edited by Dennis Maloney, trans. by Robert Bly and others (Buffalo, New York: White Pine, 1983); There Is No Road, trans. by Mary G. Berg and Dennis Maloney (Buffalo, New York: White Pine Press, 2003); Border of a Dream: Selected Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 2004)