To approach Giudici’s poetry
With Giudici’s departure, on 24th May 2011, the last but one major voice of the 20th century Italian poetry died (the last remaining being Zanzotto). He was born in Liguria, but spent his youth in Rome (1933-1954) where he completed his studies too. Then he moved to Ivrea, Turin and Milan, where he was employed by Olivetti and worked as a journalist and publicist. Here he shared his room with the great intellectual and poet Franco Fortini, who claimed Giudici was the only Italian poet daring to take on Gozzano’s literary heritage while innovating it.
To outline Giudici’s long and dense poetic career in so short an article is an impossible task, no matter how rough my recognition might be: he wrote twelve mayor books of poetry, from “La vita in versi” (1965) up to “Eresia della sera” (1999), not to consider his translations from Robert Frost, Sylvia Plath and Puškin’s “Oniegin”.
Suffice it to say that his poetry is marked, from the very beginning, by the so-called ‘antinovecentismo’, a literary current opposed to the hermetic movement hence dominant in Italy, with Ungaretti, Luzi, Zanzotto, Gatto and others being its main representatives.
As a consequence, he was not interested in a precious, non-historic and highly literary discourse; quite the opposite, he adhered to a communicative conception of literature, facing everyday experience with irony.
His poetics has often been described as “crepuscolare” (another literary trend in Italy, based on the melancholic observation of the outer world), but this label is limitative for an author of such complexity: his poetry is not one of silent observation and nostalgia, but it rather represents society with the eye of a poet’s double; it is the supreme fiction of a narration that stages a hollow and frustrated being – a product of the capitalist exploitation – and yet a really chatty, really “telling” one, just to make use of an appropriate pun.
In Giudici, a socialist extremely aware of the modern condition of mankind, the obsessive insistence on biography is not, by any means, a renounce to face reality: it is instead a cunning contrivance to read the world, making himself a social actor.
His poetic language is usually openly colloquial, featuring idioms and stock phrases (such as “I mean to say”, “I don’t exclude”, just to pick up two samples out from the many possible ones), which could never appear in pure poetry.
However, he does make use of traditional forms: rhymes, almost canonic lines, a temptation for melody which is contrasted by the insertion of caesuras, enjambements, repetitions and non-defining relative clauses. These linguistic features lead to an irregular, ironically interrupted rhythm. Not to mention the use of Latin expressions, of hyperbaton and adjectives preceding the nouns (in Italian there is a double possibility, with the adjective following or preceding the noun: the latter option is literary but sometimes even ironic, like in Giudici): all devices which make his language so rich and fascinating, and yet direct and alive.
The reader is sometimes faced by a slight estrangement through the lines; as for the aforementioned contrasts, they possibly come from Montale’s choice for a poetic language which could “make clash the dignified with the commonplace”: the two poets kept in touch, also writing ironic, mutually dedicated poems.
Possibly Giudici’s literary affectation achieved the highest – and most genial – result in “Salutz”, a collection of love poems which retrieves the Italian love poetry tradition of the 13th and 14th century, as Pound did.
And yet, the maximum level of fiction leads to the maximum level of human authenticity, to a genuinely participated tone, sometimes heartbreaking or sententious; it is a poetry which does not renounce to mention words like ‘death’ or ‘life’, doing it without an hint of rhetoric, always facing deeply and directly what it says.