Reflections from the Borders of Poetry

By Pireddu, Nicoletta | Italica, Summer 2015 | Go to article overview

Reflections from the Borders of Poetry


Pireddu, Nicoletta, Italica


Abstract: The U.S. tour of female poets Mia Lecomte and Candelaria Romero after the publication of the volume A New Map. The Poetry of Migrant Writers in Italy prompts a discussion on the status of female writing and migration in the framework of contemporary Italian poetry. Attention to these new poetic voices not only highlights the need for a more complex notion of subjectivity and identity but also reopens the debate about the function of poetry as a genre and its relevance in the classroom as a critical and pedagogical tool.

Keywords: Women's poetry, migration literature.

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Throughout most of history--as we read in A Room of One's Own--the nameless author whom Virginia Woolf calls Anon and "who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman" (51). For their part, with their signatures, Italophone migrant poets like Mia Lecomte and Candelaria Romero have come a long way since the dark ages denounced by Woolf, when lack of attribution and lack of public recognition ultimately amounted to lack of existence for the female poetic production. After the publication of Ai confini del verso, a comprehensive collection of poems written in Italian by foreign authors and edited by Mia Lecomte, a U.S. tour introduced their work to the English-speaking audience through the volume A New Map. The Poetry of Migrant Writers in Italy, co-edited by Lecomte and Luigi Bonaffini. These accomplishments represent a very promising turn in contemporary Italian literature, for many reasons.

First of all, by choosing to write poetry these Italophone migrant writers act within a field still mostly defined by a ponderous legacy. If we ask our classes or even a more extended audience what associations 20th- and 21s,-century Italian poetry generates, the most common answers we obtain are probably Ungaretti's hermeticism or Montale's high, tragic lyricism. I am far from implying that the poetry of later decades is scanty or not worthy of attention. From Pasolini's antinovecentismo and Sanguineti's experimental neo avant-garde to the more recent production of Zanzotto, Luzi, Caproni, and Magrelli, to name just a few, Italian poetry has been recognized in a solid corpus of critical works which, especially at the turn of the new millennium, have provided comprehensive retrospective overviews. Two, among many others, are Daniele Maria Pegorari's Critico e testimone. Storia militante della poesia italiana 1948-2008 and Alberto Bertoni's La poesia contemporanea. Several bilingual anthologies have also made this rich and diverse poetic production available to an American audience--most recently Luigi Ballerini's The Promised Land, which highlights precisely the stylistic innovation and variety of Italian poetry after 1975. Therefore, not only is there no lack of poets in contemporary Italy but, at least according to Alessandro Carrera, the problem is in fact the precise opposite, namely, an eccessive proliferation of poetic voices and prizes, most of them without a real impact on the cultural scene ("Sterminata" 79-80). For his part, in Apologia del critico militante and La poesia italiana oggi, Giorgio Manacorda ascribes the marginalization of the poetic genre in Italy to the death of militant criticism (that is, an evaluative, rather than simply descriptive or promotional appraisal) on poetry.

In this challenging, divisive context, contemporary female poetic voices resonate even less, although paradoxically, according to Beverly Allen in her introduction to the anthology The Defiant Muse, it is in poetry that we can find "the most complete history of women's writing in Italy" (xvi) because in a male-dominated realm the poetic genre allows female writers to problematize subjectivity. For its part, Cinzia Sartini Blum's anthology Contemporary Italian Women Poets foregrounds the complexity of contemporary female poetic practices, alerting not only to the continuous underrepresentation of Italian women's positions in the history and criticism of poetry, but also to the risk of turning the denunciation of women's exclusion into a ghettoization within the rigid boundaries of gender (xvi-xvii). …

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