Italian poetry has a long and glorious tradition. Despite often being perceived as hard to approach and enjoy, there are plenty of Italian poets who will make you think twice about that. Reading poetry is great for sharpening your linguistic skills, learning new vocabulary, and for fully appreciating la bella lingua!
Great Italian poets from the (distant) past
No post on Italian poetry would be complete without at least mentioning Dante Alighieri, Francesco Petrarca, and Giovanni Boccaccio. Fathers of Italian literature, and of the Italian language tout court, i tre grandi are a must for Italian students at every level. Reading Italian poetry from the Trecento might not be the easiest task, but it’s worth trying. You might be surprised to find out how modern the themes are, and you might even challenge yourself to find as many resemblances as possible to the standard modern Italian you are learning right now, 700 years later!
Let’s fast forward a few centuries to some other great Italian poets: Alessandro Manzoni and Giacomo Leopardi are two, and then we must mention Nobel prize-winners Giosuè Carducci and Salvatore Quasimodo. As often occurs, female poets from the past have largely been overlooked or forgotten, from Compiuta Donzella—most likely the first Italian woman to compose in the Italian language—to Vittoria Colonna, Gaspara Stampa, and many others.
Poets from Novecento
The list of greatest poeti and poetesse from the twentieth century starts with another Nobel prize-winner, Eugenio Montale. Born in Genova in 1896 and largely self-taught, Montale was a prose writer, translator, scholar of Dante, editor, and a poet, of course. His first and most notable poetry collection, Ossi di seppia, appeared in 1925. It is an ode to nature, seen as refuge from contemporary life—which, in Montale’s world, was Mussolini’s regime.
Other poets who are definitely worth a mention and a read include Giorgio Caproni, Mario Luzi, Giovanni Giudici,and Edoardo Sanguineti. But one of the most influential poets of the last century—because of his eclectic art, his life, his political stances, and his revolutionary ideas—is Pier Paolo Pasolini. Among his most notable collections, we find Poesia in forma di rosa, a sort of autobiographical story in verse. Finally, from the women’s side—but mostly worthy of mention because of her greatness in defining Italian poetry in the 1900s—we find Ada Merini. Her most intense—and most touching—work is about the time she spent in a mental health institution and dealing with and accepting her mental health issues when “normalizing” was not really a thing.
Italian poetry in the contemporary world
Who are the most notable Italian contemporary poets? Among others, we must mention Michele Mari, Mariangela Gualtieri, Angelo Raffaele Tramontano, Davide Avolio, Gio Evan, Asmae Dachan, and Guido Catalano. The most interesting trend in terms poetry these days is how the internet—or more specifically, social media—has changed poetry in form as well as content. It seems that the internet has freed poets from more traditional publishing boundaries (though it should be mentioned that social media popularity is often followed by more traditional publishing contracts). Phenomena like the insta-poets and poetry slams maybe didn’t make poetry mainstream, but they certainly helped a lot in making poesia more popular among younger generations. Who to read or follow? The list includes the previously mentioned Gio Evan and Guido Catalano, plus Francesco Sole, Silvia Ciompi, and Alessio Fiorucci. Insta-poetry may be a non-intimidating way to approach poetry in another language, but who knows? Maybe you’ll try Dante with no fear and his vibe will conquer you. Give it a try!
By: Claudia Quesito
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