Poetry in Translation from Italian to English

Giovanni Corona, Poesie/Poems. Translated by Ilaria Serra

About the Author 

Giovanni Corona was born on December 7, 1914, in Sardinia, in Santu Lussurgiu (Oristano). He worked as an elementary school teacher and served seven long years of military service – 1934-1936 and 1939-1945 – that clashed with his pacifist ideals and his predilection for a retired existence. He befriended futurist poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti who briefly influenced Corona’s poetic style, and who acknowledged him among the poets of Sardinia. Corona died on December 12, 1987. Only one poetry collection was published during his lifetime: Ho sentito la voce del vento (I Heard the Voice of the Wind), in 1966. Others appeared after his death: two poetry collections – Richiamo d’amore (Love’s Calling, 1988, 2012) and Sassi della mia terra (Pebbles of My Land, 1911), followed by his novel, Questo nostro fratello (This Brother of Ours, 2012) and his Epistolario (Epistolary, 2014). Today, Corona’s family house in Santu Lussurgiu is a study center called “La casa del poeta.”

The following poems give a sample of Giovanni Corona’s poetics. They evoke two essential and contrasting images of his homeland: the harshness of the winds sweeping through his village atop of an ancient crater, and the sweetness of an afternoon on a Sardinian beach. Corona was a real son of Sardinia, and rarely left the island. One of his critics, Arnaldo Beccaria, defined him as a “secular cenobite” (cenobite laico) for his spiritual sensibility, cultivated in the silence of his home in the extinct volcano, among piles of books. A jovial personality, he walked the streets of his town offering poems to friends and neighbors, his pockets overflowing with scraps of paper and verses. He spent his summers in S’Archittu, a beach town overlooking great rocks sculptured by the winds and the sea.

These poems capture a few key-elements of Corona’s island-grown rhetoric. He relishes on the details of his village by humanizing its landscape in “My Town.” In “Little Girls,” he covers with an affectionate gaze the frolicking girls of his village, his own students, compared to cheerful swallows. “We are the Poets” reveals his intense and essential faith in the human spirit, while “Night Guard” and “Ideal” express his convinced pacifism that still allows for anger. “Beyond the Fog” and “Testament” unveil the deep spirituality of this island poet. Corona lived absorbed in his inner world, protected behind the fog and the walls of his village, but at the same time, he never failed to respond to the call of the infinite, to the lure of the space beyond, the sky and the ocean.

The poems (part of a larger translation and critical work-in-progress) belong to the following collections: Ho sentito la voce del vento (“My Town”), Richiamo d’amore (“Little Girls,” “Testament”), Sassi della mia terra (“We are the Poets,” “Night Guard,” “Ideal,” and “Beyond the Fog”).

I would like to thank Zachary Scalzo for his counseling on this translation that favors a literal transposition from Italian, while trying not to sacrifice the original’s sonority.

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Mio paese

Mio paese,

in te s’annida la furia del vulcano

e gli alberi hai contorti

come il corpo degli uomini.

Lava la tua roccia la pioggia

quando un fulmine reca la tempesta

e il tuo volto si sgrassa

e appare il teschio, nido di avvoltoi.

1970

 

Bambine

Arriverete

come le rondini

alle vostre case di sole

 

Quel giorno

batteranno le vene

sotto il ferro della mietitura

 

Sarà una falce di fuoco

(arco di luce

arco di gelo

nel mare fermo degli occhi)

al tremito

delle cicale

dell’arsura d’estate

 

Forse non ci sarò

ma mi è dolce il pensiero

di voi

malate d’amore

come il grano del pane

1970

 

Noi siamo i poeti 

Noi siamo i poeti

quelli che sanno le labili

speranze,

quelli che s’incantano

e non sanno d’incantarsi:

siamo i pochi illusi

che non sanno cosa debbono chiedere

agli uomini

perché io ho tutto quello

che l’uomo può avere

o che il suo simile può dare.

Forse se mi contentassi

di questo poco

ognuno vedrebbe

un uomo felice.

 

Sentinella

Maledico il mondo

per quest’arma che indosso

Non conosco nemici

e non sogno medaglie

per un domani.

 

Sento il rivo che scorre

e vedo tende.

Lontano è un fuoco vigile:

forse un fiore di carne

nel mio cuore risveglia.

Poter essere nudo,

uomo

e tu, donna

su questa terra arida

abbarbicati…

senza divisa.

1935

 

Ideale

Mi volevo mettere in pensione

prima dell’arrivo della notte

Senza armi sono vissuto

L’unica arma è l’amore

Ma chi non ride di tale parola

se non s’impone con la violenza!

Non sono un esempio da portare

Non sono un uomo da imitare

Voglio la gioia senza conquiste

Voglio un lavoro senza bastone

Voglio la vita senza un ideale

se per l’ideale devo ammazzare.

 

Oltre la nebbia

Dissi a me stesso: – Oltre la nebbia è il sole.

Nebbia che avvolgi; nebbia che incateni

il mio passo legato, altro non vedo

che la tua assorbente ombra di morte.

 

Alberi sono o gente che s’avvia

quelli che sento a me vicino: è il vento

che tra le rame nude stride e piange

o lunga carovana di persone

che rimugina in sé un suo lamento?

 

Dissi a me stesso: – Nebbia che m’assali

silenziosa e insidiosa altro non vuoi

che darmi questo cieco tuo veleno

di morfina che m’isoli dal mondo,

 

o legarmi a me stesso e ricordarmi

sangue di marzo e gemme scoppiettare

e verde e verde e soli su stellari

magie di sogni e palpiti d’amore?

 

Dissi a me stesso: – Vano è il nostro errare

chiuso nel velo gelido se il cuore

non si dischiuda ad altro cuore, sole

che riapra gli occhi a meraviglie, a incanti

aperti come aperto ed infinito

è il cielo senza nubi del Signore.

 

Dissi a me stesso: – Oltre la nebbia è il sole

Dissi a me stesso: – Oltre la morte è vita.

 

Testamento

Più d’una volta la rete m’ha preso

dall’acqua fonda e portato alla riva

di sabbia e di fanciulle e di rincorse

e di risate. Ogni anno è avvenuto il miracolo.

Verrà, purtroppo, il giorno senza spiaggia

senza allodole in alto: io sarò allora

sommerso in un oceano e questa valle

avrà il termine chiuso d’una tomba.

Amici, vanamente chiamerete

dalla spiaggia il mio nome. Il mio segreto

sarà per voi nell’ultimo ricordo:

un uomo che fissava oltre quel mare

alla ricerca d’un richiamo nuovo

d’amore, nello spazio inalterato

dove la voce non fa più barriera

insieme a Dio, col respiro dei morti.

1964 

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My Town

My town,

the fury of a volcano nestles in you

and your trees are as gnarled

as the bodies of men.

The rain washes your rocks

when lightning brings the storm

and your face is cleansed

and your skull appears, a vulture’s nest.

 

Little Girls

You will come

like swallows

to your houses made of sun

 

That day, veins

will pulse

under the harvesting iron

 

It will be a sickle of fire

(a crescent of fire

a crescent of ice

in the still sea of my eyes)

with cicadas

shivering

in the summer drought

 

Perhaps I won’t be there,

but to me, the thought is sweet

of you,

sick with love

like bread’s wheat

1970

 

We Are the Poets

We are the poets

those who know the fading

hopes,

those who are enchanted

and do not know they are:

we are the few deluded ones

who do not know what to ask

of men

because I have everything

that a man can have

or that my equal can give.

Perhaps if I were content

with this little,

anyone would see

a happy man.

 

Night Guard

I curse the world

for this weapon I wear

I do not know enemies

nor do I dream of medals

for tomorrow.

 

I hear the river gurgling

and see tents.

Far is a vigilant fire:

perhaps a flower of flesh

awakens in my heart.

O, to be naked,

As man

and you, woman,

on this arid land

clinging….

with no uniform.

1935

 

Ideal

I wanted to retire

before the arrival of night

Without weapons I lived

My only weapon is love

But who does not laugh at such a word

if it’s not imposed by violence!

I am not an example to give

I am not a man to imitate

I want a joy with no conquest

I want a job with no mace

I want a life with no ideal

if for the ideal I have to kill.

 

Beyond the Fog

I told myself: – Beyond the fog is the sun.

Fog that envelops; fog that enchains

my knotted steps, I see nothing

but your absorbing shadow of death.

 

Are they trees or departing people

those that I feel close to me: is it the wind

that among naked branches shrieks and cries,

or a long caravan of people

that broods a lament inside?

 

I told myself: – Fog, you who assault me,

silent and insidious, don’t you want anything else

than to give me this blind poison of yours,

morphine to isolate me from the world

 

or to tie me to myself or to remind me

of the blood of March and popping blossoms

and green and green and suns on stellar

spells of dreams and throbs of love?

 

I told myself: – Vain is our wandering,

closed in the icy veil, if the heart

does not open to another heart, if the sun

does not open our eyes to wonders,

to open enchantments as open and infinite

as the cloudless sky of the Lord.

 

I told myself: – Beyond the fog is the sun

I told myself: – Beyond death is life.

 

Testament

More than once the net picked me up

in the deep waters and brought me to a shore

of sand and girls and running

and laughter. Every year the miracle occurred.

The day without a beach will, unfortunately, come

with no larks up high: I will then be

immersed in an ocean and this valley

will have the closed border of a tomb.

Friends, you will call – vainly –

my name from the beach. My secret

will be for you in my last memory:

a man who gazed beyond that sea

searching for a new call

of love, in the unchanged space

where the voice is no longer a barrier,

one with God and the breath of the dead.

1964

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About the Translator

Ilaria Serra received her Laurea from the University of Venice and a Ph.D. in Comparative Studies form Florida Atlantic University. She is currently Associate Professor of Italian and Comparative Studies at Florida Atlantic University. Her research spans from Italian cinema, music, and literature to the history of Italian immigration to the United States. Among her books: The Value of Worthless Lives: Writing Italian American Autobiographies (Fordham UP, 2007), and The Imagined Immigrant: Images of Italian Emigration to the United States between 1890 and 1924 (Farleigh Dickinson UP, 2009). She is the director of the Summer Study Abroad program in Venice, where she teaches a course on Venetian literature and culture and is a Visiting Researcher at the University of Ca’ Foscari. She is currently working on her book, “Italy: Music and Lyrics,” about the last two centuries of Italian history through songs.