Painted Fire. Reviews

“In her long, distinguished, ever-evolving career, Maria Luisa Spaziani has written poems of a remarkable decisiveness and beauty that stand among the greatest in post-war Italian poetry. Deeply informed by a great lyric tradition which she has used for her own subversive purposes, she has explored and exploited history and feeling with insight, wit, and a strong and particular musicality. She is a wonderfully memorable and challenging poet who deserves to be much better known here. Grateful thanks to Lynne Lawner for giving us a tantalizing sense of the riches her work holds.”
-Jonathan Galassi 2009

MARIA LUISA SPAZIANI, born in Turin in 1924, is a recipient of the prestigious De Sica Prize, awarded to Italy’s outstanding poets and poetesses. A life-long friend of poet Eugenio Montale, she is President of the International Eugenio Montale Soceity. Her recent memoirs have piqued interest in Italy, in no small part because she was one of Montale’s “muses,” to whom he gave the nickname “la Volpe” (The Vixen). Maria Luisa Spaziani was teaching French literature at the University of Messina in Sicily when her first book of poems, Le acque del sabato (Sabbath Waters), came out in 1954. The critic Luigi Baldacci found in these early poems “a re-appropriation of the private sphere that restores it to its dignity.” Selections from that collection, and from ten more to follow, including Geometria del disordine (The Geometry of Disorder, 1981) and La luna è già alta (The Moon Is Already High, 2006), are included in the present volume. The edition has facing Italian and English texts. Spaziani seizes on the objects and episodes of everyday life, and slyly transforms them. From the poets Ungaretti, Montale, Campana and Quasimodo, she has learned the art of the difficult and the obscure, as well as the techniques introduced into modern literature by French poet Stéphane Mallarmé: a restricted vocabulary, short lines, compact forms, recurrent events, mysteries carefully wrapped and then partially unwrapped, but never made fully visible. The emotions as well remain under control, yet at times convey a chilling exaltation.

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