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The Metaphysical Tramdriver: Reading Luciano Erba

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The Greener Meadow: Selected Poems. Luciano Erba, translated by Peter Robinson. Princeton University Press, 2007. 288 pp. $17.95 / £12.50

with thanks to Poetry Ireland Review, where this piece first appeared.


The poetry traditions of different cultures intersect pretty randomly at the best of times. Poets will, if they can, peer over the fence of language to see what the neighbours are up to, or rely on the services of translators to bring them the news. Sheer happenstance often determines what gets translated: what happens to interest a given translator at a given time, what publisher is prepared to publish the result. Italian poetry has, in fact, been pretty well served in English. Of twentieth century poets, Montale, Ungaretti, Saba, Pavese, Zanzotto, Bertolucci, Luzi are all available in fine recent translations. Catherine O’Brien’s anthology The Green Flame is still an excellent starting point for an exploration of contemporary Italian poetry, as is Jamie McKendrick’s monolingua…