Saturday, November 8, 2014

Sunday's Mini-Challenge: Salvatore Quasimodo

Hi toads and friends of the garden !   I am enjoying this series of sharing with you the work of other poets.  For today, it is the poems by Salvatore Quasimodo who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1959.

Salvatore Quasimodo (1901-1968) was born of Sicilian parents in Syracuse. Desiring to become an engineer, he attended technical schools in Palermo and later enrolled at the Politecnico in Rome. In addition, he studied Latin and Greek at the University there. However, for economic reasons he was unable to complete his studies. He obtained a position with the Italian government's civil engineering corps and was sent to various parts of Italy. In 1930 he had three poems published in the avant-garde review, Solaria, and later that same year appeared his first book of verse, Acque e terre (Waters and Lands). Two years later he published Òboe sommerso (Sunken Oboe), in which he proves a more mature poet. The "poetica della parole", the poetics of the word, which is, for Quasimodo, the fundamental and virtually limitless connotative unit, pervades his first book. While this concept still serves as the basis for Òboe sommerso, the main interest of this collection lies in the rhythmical arrangement of words around a lyrical nucleus. In both these and his later works Sicily is the constant, ever-present factor.

During the 1930's Quasimodo was a leader of the "Hermetic" school of poetry; however, with the appearance of his translations Lirici Greci (Greek Lyrics), 1940, it was obvious that his direction was no longer entirely along the lines of that group. In Nuove Poesie (New Poems), 1942, Quasimodo reveals both the influence of classical stylistics and a greater understanding of life in general. His subsequent translations, which range from the Greek and Latin poets (Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides, Ovid, Vergil, etc.) to Shakespeare and Molière and twentieth-century writers (Neruda, e.e. cummings, Aiken, etc.), reflect his full appreciation of the original works as well as his modern taste and sensibility.

During the Second World War Quasimodo experienced the need of the poet to feel one with the people and to declare himself as such in his poems. To him the role of the poet in society is a necessarily active one; he should commit himself and his talents to contemporary struggles. Such views were first expressed in Giorno dopogiorno (Day after Day), 1946, and La vita non è sogno (Life Is Not a Dream), 1949.

Quasimodo's later works show this change from individualism toward sociality, and moreover affirm the positive characteristics of life even in a world where death is an omnipresent fear. In La terra impareggiabile (The Incomparable Earth), 1958, Quasimodo has eloquently attempted to fuse life and literature; he has developed a new language which coincides with man's new activities and ever-expanding investigations. Some of his poetry and two of his critical essays have appeared in English translation in The Selected Writings of Salvatore Quasimodo (1960); his Selected Poems were published in 1965.

(Ed ecco sul tronco)

And see, buds break
out of the tree:
a newer green in the grass
eases the heart:
the tree seemed already dead,
bowed on the slope

And all I know of miracle;
and I am this watery cloud
that reflected today in the ditches,
the more blue, its fragment of heaven,
this green that splits the bark
that only last night was not there.

Metamorphoses in the Urn of the Saint
(I morti maturano)

The dead mature;
my heart with them.
Mercy on the self
is earth’s final humour.

A light of lacustrine trees
stirs in the glass of the urn.
a dark mutation ravages me,
unknown saint; in the scattered seed
green maggots moan:
my visage forms their springtime.

A memory of darkness is born
in the depths of walled wells,
an echo in buried eardrums:

I am your pale relic.

Grant Me My Day

(Dammi il mio giorno)

Grant me my day;
so I might yet search myself
for some dormant face of the years
that a hollow of water
returns in its transparency
and weep for love of myself.

You are a path in the heart
and a finding of stars
in sleepless archipelagos,
night, kindly to me
a fossil thrown from a weary wave;

a curve of secret orbit,
where we are close
to rocks and grasses.

You can read more of his translated work here.

Our challenge is to write a new poem or prose poem in response to Salvatore Quasimodo's words.   Some examples of responses include affirming what the speaker said or using his title or line of verse as a jumping board for your own writing.   The prompt is wide open so feel free to explore where your muse takes you.   I look forward to reading your work ~ Happy weekend to all ~ Grace (aka Heaven)


brudberg said...

A set of wonderful poems here.. and I read through a few of the others.. It would be interesting to understand if it would be different if I had understood Italian.. I read and was inspired...

Grace said...

I imagine the original words have a greater impact ~ I am still writing mine and will be checking in through out the weekend ~

Ella said...

Wow, he is dazzling me with his Wasi Sabi view~
Thank you, Grace!

Susan said...

Gee. Death. Such lush images. I'm working off the poem "Mirror" and its possibility of a miracle.

Anonymous said...

Wow, what stunning writing. Very inspiring, but also daunting to try to leap off from such great heights.

Hannah said...

I enjoyed getting to know this poet and his poetry...thank you, Grace!

Jim said...

I like his writing, Grace. You did a very nice introduction for him and his works. Of his poems, I like the first on the link, Wind at Tindari, the best. As I read it I knew it wasn't a farewell of sorts to a lady friend ('other person now lays his head'), I thought perhaps it was a River that he was no longer permitted to visit.

I've been to Auschwitz and don't know if I will read that one or not. It is NOT a pretty place. I will read more though.


Sumana Roy said...

Thank you Grace for this wonderful challenge. Posted mine.

Grace said...

His images of death are lush indeed Susan ~ Jim, some of his work refers to his beloved country ~

Thanks to all of you who have posted already ~ I am in between errands but I will make sure to visit you ~

humbird said...

So inspirational poems, I keep reading...Thank you, Grace

Fireblossom said...

He uses strong--and beautiful--natural themes, and I have tried to do the same.

Pealogic said...

I wish I could read them in the original. I often find poetry works best in its native form.

Marian said...

Wow, Grace, I really enjoyed learning about and reading Quasimodo's work. Thanks so much!

Lolamouse said...

Thank you for the introduction to such a wonderful poet. Mine is totally a different style but similar themes (I think!)

Susie Clevenger said...

Grace, thank you so much for introducing us to such a talented poet. I have experienced such melancholy this week over the anniversary of my mother's death that I decided to take a lighter approach with this challenge.

Margaret said...

SO VERY LATE - have HAD visitors and am expecting more this weekend. I will be hit and miss for a bit longer.