Ada Negri had a tormented love affair with a man whose life was cut short by premature death. She translated this experience into Il libro di Mara/The Book of Mara (1919), in essence one long poem arising from a woman’s most intimate place as if in a visceral scream — a most passionate expression of love, loss and redemption. Written with unusual frankness, especially in view of Italian society of the time, Il Libro di Mara, along with I Canti dell’Isola (Songs of the Island, 1924), is considered the high point of Negri’s poetic work.
Through metrical and formal execution, The Book of Mara demonstrates the originality of her verse, which opens up to a more personal dimension — almost prose-like. Her verse is impressionistic, almost mystical, spanned with bristling lyrics, sudden igniting bursts and visionary flashes.
Negri’s poetry was made by going deep inside herself, into the travail of her childhood, into the solitude and the sleeplessness around an uncertain future, into the wounds of sorrow and the misfortune that befalls each one of us. Her poems express an ardent though fruitless hope, in wait of a great love; made light by those rare moments of abandon and happiness.
First English translation, by Maria A Costantini.