Within the Sweet Noise of Life
‘His is a very light hand, elegant and precise. His poems, often as short as just two lines, are deceptively simple, almost aphoristic at times, sometimes mysteriously sphinx-like. [. . .] There is not a word that could be spared here, everything is perfectly balanced. [. . .] Sandro Penna deserves a prominent place in the pantheon of twentieth-century Italian poetry. And more translations into English.’—Anna Blasiak, The Italian Riveter
Widely considered to be among the most important Italian poets of the twentieth century, Sandro Penna was born and raised in Perugia but spent most of his life in Rome. Openly gay, Penna wrote verses celebrating homosexual love with lyrical elegance. His writing alternates between whimsy and melancholia, but it is always full of light.
Juggling traditional Italian prosody and subject matter with their gritty urban opposites in taut, highly concentrated poems, Penna’s lyrics revel in love and the eruption of Eros together with the extraordinary that can be found within simple everyday life. There is something ancient in Penna’s poetry, and something Etruscan or Greek about the poems, though the landscape is most often of Rome: sensual yet severe, sinuous yet solid, inscrutable, intangible and languorous, with a Sphinx-like and sun-soaked smile. Penna’s city is eternal—a mythically decadent Rome that brings to mind Paris or Alexandria. And though the echoes resound—from Rimbaud, Verlaine, Baudelaire to Leopardi, D’Annunzio, Cavafy—the voice is always undeniably and wonderfully Penna’s own.
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