The found poems of Goliarda Sapienza ‹ Literary Center

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Featured image © Archivio Sapienza/Pellegrino.

After Goliarda Sapienza died in 1996, her husband Angelo Pellegrino opened a locked chest and gave her new life. Inside he found the manuscript of his founding novel, The art of joy, and published it at his own expense. Today the novel is published in Italy by Einaudi and translated worldwide, including in English-speaking countries, and is on its way to becoming an international television series adapted by actress and director Valeria Golino who has studied the growth de Goliarda, and has remained in love with her hypnotic voice ever since.

Goliarda has mostly written fiction, but in recent years Pellegrino has rediscovered, in the same mysterious treasure chest, a collection of poems entitled ANCESTRAL. There is something so magical about uncovered manuscripts and misunderstood writers receiving their post mortem due. Goliarda began writing poems while mourning the death of her mother to whom she dedicated some of the most touching verses in the collection, but she also wrote to mourn her own stilted beginnings as a writer of fiction, filled with rejection and grief. Many of his poems are about Sicily and desire, but also about family, nature and ghosts.

When I found the collection, I read and re-read the poems obsessively in search of hidden insights into Goliarda’s longing and melancholy. I also discovered that the very neighborhood where she spent her restless nights writing and processing her grief was where I now live in Rome. Pellegrino did not edit the poems before publishing them in 2013, causing his texts to jump off the page. They’re vibrant, weird, and downright wild, and read a bit like micro-fiction in poetic form. Some of them are in Sicilian dialect.

© Sapienza Archives/Pellegrino

Goliarda Sapienza had an amazing family and was raised by radical communist parents with eleven siblings. Her mother was one of the first feminists in Italy. She grew up in a non-conformist environment for the time, which opened her up intellectually, culturally and sexually.

All of this is very much alive in his work. In some ways, she reminds me of writers like Lucia Berlin or Italian poet Alda Merini who found more glory after death than in life. She was in and out of psychiatric wards, overdosed on sleeping pills in 1962, attempted suicide several times, and underwent a series of electroshock therapy in Rome, which caused her to partially lose her memory.

Perhaps there is a trace of this in his poems, their fragmentary nature sometimes resembles the map of a brain trying to hold on to a thought or an image before it slips away : wounds awakening the veins to new thirst, the roar of bared teeth, Strong bodies bathed in sunlight, the jolting silence of birds, sleeping lives waiting on their knees and death appearing at the bottom of the pits. His strange world is both haunting and evanescent.

Support yourself by writing The art of joy, Goliarda committed some larceny and ended up in prison. She has often spoken of how her time behind bars has improved her as a writer. His language has become more interesting, less bourgeois, less stagnant. She saw prison as a salvation from what she called the “life sentence of living in a metropolis.” Even though his poems were written before his incarceration, they contain the same audacity and desire to break the rules. Maybe when she was incarcerated she had time to reconnect to her original voice.

In the introduction to his collection of poetry, Pellegrino, whose novel about his life with Goliarda is to be published in October in Italy by Einaudi, wrote about his adventure with Goliarda’s work. Each post felt like a salvage mission from the wreckage of a ship. As he said, “a sunken boat often scatters some of its parts in the water. The remnants of his original self wash up on desolate beaches and those salvaged parts are all the more precious because the original body is no longer there.

Last year, I spontaneously started translating these disembodied treasures from Italian into English. I loved seeing them transform into another language and giving them a whole new sense of wholesomeness. I also loved to think that they were written so close to where I live now, in the same city and neighborhood where I also tried to make sense of the mind-boggling losses of the past few years, the grief permanent of a life and of a world that is no more. Being with her has been an adventure and a consolation and I hope her wild poetic voice will live on in many other languages ​​as well.

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A Mia Madre

Quando tornero
sara notte fonda
Quando tornero
saranno dumb the cose
Nessuno will surprise me
in which letto di terra
Nessuno accoglier meà
in which silenzio di terra

Nessuno mi will console
per tutte le parti già morte
che porto in me
con rassegnata impotenza
Nessuno mi will console
per quegli attimi perduti
per quei suoni scordati
the beat
viaggiano al mio fianco and fanno denso
he breathes, melmosa la lingua

When verrò
solo a crack
bastera contained energy and nessuna mano
Spianera la terra
soto le guance gelide e nessuna
mano si opporrà alla fretta
della vanga al suo ritmo indifferent
per quella fine estranea, repulsive

Potessi in whata notte

vuota posare la mia fronte
sul tuo seno grande di semper
Potessi rivestirmi
del tuo braccio e tenendo
nelle mani il tuo polso affilato
da pensieri acuminati
da terrori taglienti
Potessi at Quella Notte
rise
il mio corpo lungo il tuo presente
motherhood
spossato da parti tremendi
schiantato da lunghi congiungimenti

My troppo was late
la mia note and you
non puoi aspettare oltre
E nessuno spianerà la terra
sotto il mio fianco
nessuno si opporrà alla fretta
it takes gli uomini
davanti has a bara

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To my mother

When I will come back
the night will be deep
When I will come back
things will be passed over in silence
No one will wait for me
in this bed of earth
No one will welcome me
in that this silence of the earth

No one will comfort me
for all the dead parts I already carry inside
with resigned helplessness
No one will comfort me
for lost moments
discordant sounds
who have traveled by my side for so long
they make the breath dense, the tongue like a swamp

When I come
a small opening will be enough to contain me and no hand
will level the ground
under icy cheeks
and no hand shall oppose the haste of the shovel
its indifferent rhythm
for this strange and repulsive end

If only in this empty night
I could rest my forehead
on your eternally large chest
If only I could dress
with your arm and hold your wrist
sharpened by sharp thoughts
by cutting off the terrors
if only in this night i could
feel
my body against yours
maternal power
overwhelmed by terrible parts
crashed under long junctions

But my night is delayed
and you can’t wait any longer
And no one will press the earth
under my hip
no one will oppose haste
that invades men
in front of a coffin

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sicilian night

The moon lies
the lingua fra the labra
sanguine
sul silenzio convulso degli uccelli
dietro is a sole

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sicilian night

The moon is a liar
tongue between lips
bleeds
on the jolting silence of the birds
behind is a sun

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Untitled

Know where you are
parli, ti muovi
fra visi estranei
ammucchiati alle pareti
fra grappoli di mani
ammonticchiati
sui tavoli di latta dei caffè.
Know where you are
che ti muovi
ordinando gli oggetti
with slow gesture
scansando
cauto il vuoto che ti preme
all said. Sapere
questo, know
che ti volgi senza parlare
al mio passare.
Sapere
questo mi spinge a ricercare
tra il fragore di denti scoperchiati
the pause of your viso.

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Untitled

know you exist
talking, moving among unfamiliar faces
piled up along the walls
between clusters of hands
piled up
on the tin tables of cafes.
know you exist
that you move
put things in order
with this slow gesture
cautiously stepping aside
the void that pushes against your fingers.
Know this, know
that you turn around without speaking
on my way.
To know
it still makes me search
between the roar of bared teeth
the pause of your face.

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Untitled

La paura ha una faccia grande di luna
e due soldi by occhi. lying to yourself slept
ti guarda sei perdta
senza figli will live and die
disprezzata da tutti senza lenzuola

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Untitled

Fear has a big moon face
and two pieces for the eyes. Does she watch you while you sleep
you are lost
you will live childless and you will die
despised by everyone without sheets

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Untitled

belly seen
bara senza fondo
august note
grill the sue stelle

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Untitled

Hungry
bottomless coffin
august night
howling its stars

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Copyright © 2013 The Estate of Goliarda Sapienza. Published with the kind permission of
Owners in agreement with the Literary Agency Piergiorgio Nicolazzini (PNLA). Originally Posted in Italy by La Vita Felice.

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Goliarda Sapienza’s works in English have been published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux (The art of joy) and Other Press (Meeting in Positano).

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