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Beyond Shame: The Beauty of Lucan Poetry


The Italian city of Matera, with its arresting historic magnificence, has been elected as one of 2019’s two European Capitals of Tradition. Situated inside the province of Basilicata, previously generally known as Lucania, it’s a metropolis nestled inside a small canyon carved out by the Gravina, characterised by its quite a few cave dwellings or sassi, dug out from the Calcarenite rocks, huddled one over the opposite.

Throughout a go to for the 1948 election Palmiro Togliatti, chief for the Italian Communist Celebration, declared the Sassi di Matera “a national shame” because of the poor well being and hygiene circumstances current. This led to the sassi evictions of the ’50s and ’60s, solely to be declared a couple of many years later a world heritage website, after the federal government arrange a scheme within the eighties to refurbish the troglodyte dwellings.


In his memoir Cristo si è fermato a Eboli (Christ Stopped at Eboli) artist Carlo Levi had chronicled the issues confronted by the mezzogiorno area but in addition spoke of its immense magnificence. His portray Lucania ’61, housed in Palazzo Lanfranchi, describes three scenes of on a regular basis life in all its hardship and purity. It was commissioned to characterize Basilicata on the Italia 61 exhibition in Turin to commemorate the centenary of the unification of Italy. He determined to dedicate this piece to the poet Rocco Scotellaro, a person whom he described as “dear to me above all men.”

We see him seem as a leitmotif all through the scenes. The leeway for political freedom afforded after the Second World Struggle was accompanied by an pressing drive for social justices. This was mirrored is the world of movie and prose which shifted its focus to painting the issues of the abnormal individuals. As a pioneer in neorealist poetry Scotellaro channelled the political points of the day into his artwork, lending a voice to unvoiced. A local of Tricarico, he would later develop into its first Socialist mayor on the tender age of 23. On this sparsely populated and mountainous space a number of thousand males had in the course of the first half of the 20th century chosen to to migrate, primarily to america, one instance being Scotellaro’s father who as a younger man had gone to Paterson in New Jersey however like many others was pressured by circumstance to return. He arrange store as a shoemaker and struggled to boost a household of 4 within the troublesome financial clime of the South the place “the sun will bake us like a crust of bread.”

Scottellaro’s poetry speaks of the difficulties skilled by individuals to maintain themselves and their relations on a land which traditionally had been uncared for; estates ordered by the federal government to develop wheat crops whereas the bottom was much more appropriate to develop almond and olive timber or to maintain as pastures, whereas deforestation and polluted water provides contributed to an epidemic of malaria. These hardships are partially vocalised in his poem “The Garden of the Poor”/“Il giardino dei poveri” (1948):

The basil has grown                                          È cresciuto il basilico
within the backyard of the poor:                               nel giardino dei poveri:
they’ve robbed the home windows of air,         hanno rubata l’aria alle finestre
sowed the seeds on two boards.                    Su due tavole hanno seminato.

The sparrows will come,                                 Veranno I passeri,
the flies will come,                                            veranno le mosche,
within the backyard of the poor.                                Nel giardino dei poveri.

Now whenever you don’t know what to do         Ora quando non sai che fare
decide up the pitcher in your hand,                   prendi la brocca in mano,
then I’ll see you grown among the many roses  io ti vedrò cresciuta tra le rose
within the backyard of the poor.                                   Del giardino dei poveri.

5 years after this poem was composed, Scotellaro died of an undiagnosed coronary heart situation on the age of 30. A yr after his demise, Levi edited the primary revealed assortment of his good friend’s poetry beneath the title È Fatto Giorno (“It’s light now”) taken from a last poem of the identical identify written in 1952.

One other poet whose father had set off for America to afterwards return to domesticate grapes and different crops is Leonardo Sinisgalli. Born within the city of Montemurro, he would go on to review arithmetic in Rome and later graduated as an engineer, resulting in being nicknamed because the “engineer-poet.” Shifting additional up north to Milan, he would later grow to be the artwork director for Olivetti, liable for creating the evocative picture of the rose within the inkwell. Of poetry he wrote, “The poet is the author of a single book that starts with the first poem and ends with the last. There is no break between one book and the next.” His work embodies emotions and ideas in concrete photographs, utilizing sensuous language free from pretense whereas drawing inspiration from the character round him as could be seen in his poem “To enjoy the View”/“A bel vedere sull’aia” (from a set between 1931 and 1937):

To benefit from the view many nights                           A bel vedere sull’aia
we slept on the threshing floor                      tante notti abbiamo dormito,
palms deep within the wheat                                      Le mani affondate nel grano,
sleep-watched by the canine                                   Il sonno guardato dai cani.
Your ft have been meeker                                         Più mansueti erano I tuoi piedi
Than the pigeons made for enjoyable                          Dei colombi fatti per burla
with the white material of handkerchiefs.            Col panno bianco dei fazzoletti.
Straw in your hair                                                Avevi fili di paglia nei capelli:
you set off a timorous alarm                              alle spalle muovevi il prato
behind you within the meadow.                                 A una trepida suoneria.

In his poetry he tries to reconcile science with sentimentality, marrying arithmetic with poetry; each questioning the mysteries of life. Sinisgalli, having been uprooted from his city as a boy, has all the time had a retrospective strategy, a search-of-lost-time angle in his poetry. Some of his greatest poems subsequently give attention to the memory of his reminiscences, his childhood of summers spent on “mashed poppy stalks,” on “the bed staring at the rafters out of boredom and delight.” He portrays the bucolic magnificence of Basilicata, with its haunting high quality lending to a sure sense of timelessness or somewhat possessing a capability to rework the best way time is perceived. Carlo Levi famous the next in Christ Stopped at Eboli:

On this timeless land the dialect was richer in phrases with which to measure time than another language; past the immobile and eternal crai every single day sooner or later had a reputation of its personal. Crai meant tomorrow and perpetually; the day after tomorrow was prescrai and the day after that pescrille; then got here pescruflo, marufto, maruflone; the seventh day was marujiicchio. However these exact phrases had an undertone of irony. They have been used much less typically to point this or that day than they have been stated all collectively in a string, one after the opposite; their very sound was grotesque they usually have been like a mirrored image of the futility of making an attempt to make something filter out of the cloudiness of crai.

The “cloudiness” of the phrase crai is one thing which Albino Pierro illustrates in his “Always, Always”/“Sempe sempe”:

To weep                                                                  Chiange,
and stroll with a rope round my neck:          e caminè cc’ ‘a zuca nganne:
that is all                                                                 chiste è tutte.

Then, when I go to sleep,                                     Pó, quanne mi cucche,
I say to myself softly in the dark,                       mi dich educe duce nd’u scure
beneath the covers:                                               sutt’I cuperte:
“Tomorrow maybe, who knows…”                    “Chie le sàpete si crèi…”;

All the time, all the time,                                                     Sempe sempe
night time and day,                                                        word e ghiurne,
stones hiss by throughout me.                             Mi fischene pétre nturne.

Via writing within the archaic Lucan dialect, he created one of an important our bodies of dialect poetry of the 20 th century. His work has been translated in quite a few languages and he was nominated a number of occasions for the Nobel Prize of Literature. Born in Tursi, Pierro primarily gained his schooling in areas outdoors of Matera and eventually settled down in Rome the place he taught historical past and philosophy in secondary faculties. In reality it was on the night of a return journey to the Everlasting metropolis from his hometown that he wrote his first poem within the Tursi dialect, “Before Leaving,” sparked by an early departure and its ensuing exasperation combined with a way of eager for the soil he had reluctantly left behind. This was adopted by an unlimited output of dialectal poetry which in his personal phrases issued from his soul, in a pure stream, as oil gushes from the depths of the earth.

The vicissitudes of the south are nonetheless current as we speak, Basilicata is a area of a wealthy and sophisticated historical past, however these poets have managed to channel the oscillations between hope and despair, ache and pleasure, and rework them revealing the traditional marvel of its land and other people.

Picture: Wikimedia Commons

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