September 5, 2022

Milo De Angelis (Italy) 1951

 Milo De Angelis (Italy)



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 newcomers 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 Il 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




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)




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); Theme of Farewell and After-Poems: A Bilingual Edition, trans. by Susan Stewart and Patrizio Ceccagnoli (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).





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)






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


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


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




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?





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



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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