Giorgio Caproni

Translated by Ned Condini



perback, vii, 256 pages
ISBN 0-9725271-2-5

(at Chelsea Editions)
Available from Small Press Distribution

Author Bio | Reviews | Read Selection


GIORGIO CAPRONI (1912-1990) was born in Livorno (Leghorn). The author of many volumes of poems and translator of works from the French, he is one of the giants of twentieth-century Italian poetry.

NED CONDINI is the author of the poetry collections Rimbaud in Umbria and quartettsatz. He has translated Abraham Lincoln's speeches and Ben Johnson's plays into Italian, and recently was awarded the Bordighera Prize for his translation of Jane Tassi's Andsongsongsonglessness.

Top of page


Caproni's grim lesson is that, despite all our fingernail-digging and aspiration, we very probably cannot get beyond the human condition, beyond the rigorous ontological limit established by our absolute materiality, our inescapable physicality. And if "terra" is taken in its former metaphorical senses (of which Caproni was surely aware), then it moreover can be deduced that it is impossible to pass through the "morgana" door or gate shutting us off from whatever heavenly citadel might ensure salvation. Needless to say, Caproni's penetrating and oft gripping poems like Ungaretti's give us frequent intimations of citadels looming there above us, even as we pass below the ramparts, alongside those redoubtable earth's walls.

~ John Taylor, Antioch Review, Spring 2005

Ned Condini's translation of Giorgio Caproni's selected works rises to the challenge of conveying the musical lilt of Italian poetry in English. Where imitation of the original rhyme scheme would sound forced, Condini's free verse expertly deploys assonance and scattered end rhymes to convey the melodic themes that run through Caproni's poetic oeuvre as through a symphony: He moves with ease among Caproni's many voices, from delicate elegies to his mother ("Ad Portam Inferi") to tragicomic monologues such as "The Formal Traveler's Leavetaking" and "Lament (or Boast)."

~ Jendi Reiter, author of A Talent for Sadness

We discover in Caproni a singular voice and a distinctive poetry: whose appearances can be deceiving. Like Montales, his is a poetry of the earth notably the soil and rocks, as well as the light and air of Liguria which is also ironic, dryly intellectual, and metaphysical. The surfaces of his poems can look simple, thanks to sharply etched imagery and a spare treatment of line and stanza that combine, at moments, to create an effect of sheer clarity. Yet the poems are often notable for their dense compression and their use of an intricate syntax... A poet of robust passion and cool intellection, Caproni thrives on ambivalence, contradiction, and counterpoint.

~ Robert Hahn

Top of page




Per Lei / For Her | Il Gibbone / The Gibbon | Anch'io / I, Too | Bibbia / Bible




Per lei voglio rime chiare,
usuali: in -are.
Rime magari vietate,
ma aperte, ventilate.
Rime coi suoni fini
(di mare) dei suoi orecchini.
O che abbiano, coralline,
le tinte delle sue collanine.
Rime che a distanza
(Annina era così schietta)
conservino l'eleganza
povera, ma altrettanto netta.
Rime che non siano labili,
anche se orecchiabili.
Rime non crepuscolari,
ma verdi, elementari.


For her I want clear rhymes,
normal, like saying: chimes.
Rhymes outside of the canon
but built in full abandon.
Rhymes with the delicate
sea music of her earrings.
Or coral-tinted, like
her little necklaces.
Rhymes that for a long time
(Anna was so sincere)
preserve their unadorned
but refined flair.
End-rhymes sweet to the ear,
not bound to disappear.
Not from the twilight zone,
but verdant rhymes plain-toned.

a Rina

No, non è questo il mio
paese. Qua
—fra tanta gente che viene,
tanta gente che va—
io sono lontano e solo
(straniero) come
l'angelo in chiesa dove
non c'e Dio. Come,
allo zoo, il gibbone.

Nell'ossa ho un'altra città
che mi strugge. È là.
L'ho perduta. Città
grigia di giorno e, a notte,
tutta una scintillazione
di lumi—un lume
per ogni vivo, come,
qui al cimitero, un lume
per ogni morto. Città
cui nulla, nemmeno la morte
—mai,—mi ricondurrà.

o Rina

No, this is not my country.
Here — among so
many people who come and go —
I'm far away and lonely
(a stranger) like the angel
in a church where there is
no God. Like, at the zoo,
the gibbon. In my bones

lies another city
that consumes me. Over there.
I have lost it. A city
gray by day and by night
a conflagration of lights —
a light for each living creature
as in a graveyard there
is one for each of the dead.
A city, to which nothing
ever, not even death,
will bring me back.


Ho provato anch'io.
È stata tutta una guerra
d'unghie. Ma ora so. Nessuno
potrà mai perforare
il muro della terra.


I, too, have tried.
It has all been a war
of fingernails. Now I know.
No one will ever manage
to bore through the earth's wall.


Ah mia famiglia, mia
famiglia dispersa come
quella dell'Ebreo... Nel nome
del padre, del figlio (nel mio
nome) ah mia casata
infranta mia lacerata
tenda volata via
col suo fuoco e il suo dio.


O my family, my
family scattered like the Jews...
In the name of the father,
the son (in my name) ah
my broken lineage
my torn tent blown away
with its fire and its god.

Top of page

Catalog | About | Contact