Selected Poems
Luigi Pirandello

Translated by George Hochfield

Pirandello Society of America Journal


Pirandello Society of America Journal 30 (2017): 97–98

In 1991, I edited a volume called A Companion to Pirandello Studies, and in that volume I translated three of his poems. At the time I thought that Pirandello did not get enough recognition and credit as a poet — his plays and fiction writing get much more attention. However, I felt that he was a much better poet than he was given credit for. Somebody should collect and translate more of his poetry, I thought. He wrote poetry during his entire career as a writer; he thought that poetry was the most subtle and intellectual of the literary genres, and, of course, the most musical.

I am happy to be able to report that this volume has finally appeared thanks to George Hochfield. He has provided both Pirandello’s Italian text of the poems and a fine translation. The poems that this translator selects have never been translated into English before and include poems from Mal Giacondo, Pasqua di Gea, Elegie Renane, Zampogna, Fuori di Chiave, and Poesie Varie. These poems cover most of Pirandello’s career as a writer and indicate how his mind worked as a poet.

It is wonderful to have all these poems collected in one volume — with the Italian original on one side of this book and a very good English translation on the opposite side. At last, we have the texts and can read and evaluate much of Pirandello’s best poetry in one volume, a volume that should be in every Pirandellian’s library.

Hochfield argues that these poems indicate more than anything else does that Pirandello was a modernist who had clearly lost any belief in Catholicism or any other religion. He does not use the traditional forms of rhymed poetry, yet these poems interest us nevertheless precisely for their modernism. In this modern, atheistic world of cynical non-belief and doubt, Pirandello early on had a sense of a world in which nature, in all its loveliness and complexity, in all its seasonal beginnings and endings, could comfort man with its beauty and timelessness. The sky, clouds, and trees recur in these poems, as well as the seasons with their cycles of fertility and sterility, life and death, spring and fall.

Pirandello seems to reflect much of the thinking of Giovanni Battista Vico and his theories of cycles and how cycles both control much of our life as well as destroy that same life. There is a wonderful conversational quality in most of these poems, a sense that Pirandello is talking to us directly and in a very informal and even comic and cynical tone. These translations capture that tone well, the tone of a man wondering about life, nature, and humanity and doubting everything he has read about all these abstractions — but still trying to create artistic beauty.

 

John Louis DiGaetani
Hofstra University

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