A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets

By John Pilling | Go to book overview
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Dino Campana (1885-1932)

Born in Marradi, near Florence, the son of a schoolteacher father and an eccentric mother. Studied Latin and Greek and became fluent in French, German and English. Enrolled in the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Bologna in 1903, and studied chemistry there and at Florence until 1906. Sailed for Argentina in 1907, where he worked as gaucho, miner, stoker, fireman, musician and wandered restlessly. Returned to Italy via Odessa, Rotterdam, Paris, and Basle and often imprisoned on grounds of vagrancy; placed in an asylum in 1909. Aberrantly pursued pharmaceutical studies in Genoa, Bologna and Florence. Wrote the Orphic Songs, which were to make him famous, in a few weeks in 1913. Submitted them to the editor Soffici who lost the manuscript. Rewrote them from memory in the spring of 1914. Called up by the army and declared mentally unbalanced. Remained for the last fourteen years of his life, during which time he wrote no poetry, in a mental asylum near Florence, where he died.

Only two modern Italian poets, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale, have had a profound impact throughout Europe; a third, Salvatore Quasimodo, was catapulted into prominence by the much-disputed decision to make him the recipient of a Nobel Prize. But modern Italian poetry is much richer than the received idea of it allows for, and one of those who make it so is Dino Campana. His poetry is plainly not of the same magnitude as Ungaretti's or Montale's; its dimensions, in every sense of the word, remain somewhat narrow. He only saw one small collection of his poems through the press, the OrphicSongs

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A Reader's Guide to Fifty Modern European Poets
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