Giovanni Raboni was one of the most dynamic poets of the generation after Eugenio Montale.
He was born in Milan in 1932. He studied law and practised it for some time before dedicating himself to literature and journalism. He was equally well-known as a literary, theatre and film critic and as a translator. In the last few years he had been working for the Corriere della sera, writing articles and reviews. He translated Baudelaire, Apollinaire and Proust. During the 1970s he was editor of the publishing firm Guanda, specializing in publishing modern English, American or French poets.
As a critic he not only wrote first- rate and influential criticism on contemporary Italian and French writers, as well as on Ezra Pound, but, like Pound himself, he discovered new poets and encouraged them in their work. Among his books of criticism may be mentioned Poesia degli anni Sessanta ("Poetry of the Sixties", 1976) and Quaderno in prosa ("Prose Notebook", 1981). Among his works of poetry there are Il catalogo e questo ("This is the Catalogue", 1961); L'insalubrita dell'aria ("The Unhealthiness of Air", 1963); Le case della Vetra ("The Houses of the Vetra", 1966); Economia della paura ("The Economy of Fear", 1970); Cadenza d'inganno ("Deceptive Cadence", 1975); Il piu freddo anno di grazia ("The Coldest Year of Grace", 1977); Nel grave sogno ("In a Serious Dream", 1982); Quare tristis ("Why Art Thou Sad", 1998); Versi guerrieri e amorosi ("War and Love Poems", 1990); Ogni terzo pensiero ("Every Third Thought", 1993); and Barlumi di storia ("Glimmers of History", 2002); as well as theatrical works in verse, such as Rappresentazione della Croce ("Representations of the Cross", 2000) and Alcesti, o, La recita dell'esilio ("Alcestis, or, The Performance of Exile", 2002). A selection of his poems was published in English translation in America in 1985 under the title The Coldest Year of Grace. I myself had the honour of knowing Raboni personally and translating some of his poems in Contemporary Italian Verse for London Magazine Editions in 1968.
In one of his poems, "For Some Years I Have Been Trying to Get Old", he refers to himself as one "who took / such care in eating . . . who sniffed air / like a spice or as a drug dog the drug, / who sacrificed every other joy to a name / or to the sound of a name".
At my invitation, Raboni contributed an article on Ezra Pound's humanism to Ezra Pound Centenary, a book of essays published in 1990 in which, among other things, he affirmed:
The debt to Pound - mine and, I believe, that of many poets of my generation - cannot be paid, can never be paid. Precisely because he couldn't be a master, he was the only master possible, the only one we would have wished to have.
Raboni's own modernity, like that of Mario Luzi, is a happy amalgam between, to use T.S. Eliot's …