Amelia Rosselli (1930-1996) is without doubt one of the most important poets of the 20th century. She was born in Paris of an Italian father and an English mother; she was fluent in French, English and Italian and composed her early writings in these three languages (“Diary in three tongues”), then wrote poems in English. She finally chose Italian as her language of composition, putting her English poems aside, “because, hailing from a different discipline of mind, they required a different species of research – of the English language and literature” (Jennifer Scappettone, Locomotrix, Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, 2012). As Amelia herself wrote “It isn’t a great advantage to think in three languages”, a surprising statement emphasising the kind of “linguistic dislocation” she was experiencing throughout her life and that needs to be interpreted in the context of what kind of poetry she strives to write: “Rosselli’s compensatory utopian effort [was] to forge poetic environments that would house an objective, total language”. Indeed, Rosselli is a proponent of a “new objectivity”, abandoning the confessional mode prevalent in many modern poetry movements at the time. In an interview in 1964 she stated “I tend toward the elimination of the I” and explained further: “The I is no longer the expressive center, it is placed in the shadows, or to the side. I believe that it is only in this way that valid poetic and moral responses are reached, values useful to society”.
Amelia was not only a highly original poet, she was also a musician and a musicologist; her poetry was not only infused with linguistic innovation and different linguistic registers and styles, it was also infused with many aural elements, application of sonic theory concepts and intricate musical rhythms. Sadly, she took her own life whilst living in Rome. She was buried in the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Foreigners in Rome next to Keats, Shelley and Gramsci. Below is my selection of a poem (in English translation followed by the original) from her second poetry collection, Hospital Series (Seria Ospedaliera, 1969):
This garden that in my figurate
mind seems to want to open small new
horizons to my joy after last night’s
tempest, this garden is somewhat
white and perhaps green if I wish to colour it
and waits for one to set foot inside, its
pacificity without allure. A dead corner
a life that sinks without wanting the good
in cellarings full of meaning now
that death itself has announced its importance
through its effusions. And in
effusion a small dream insists on being
remembered – I am peace it nearly
screams and you don’t recall my solemn shores!
But the garden is quiet – paradise as a joke
of fate, null is what you seek outside
if I who am denouncement, at first
dolorous and then cautious in its self-creation
that firmament I sought announces me.
Questo giardino che nella mia figurata
mente sembra voler aprire nuovi piccoli
orizzonti alla mia gioia dopo la
tempesta di ieri notte, questo giardino è bianco
un poco e forse verde se lo voglio colorare
ed attende che vi si metta piede, senza
fascino la sua pacifità. Un angolo morto
una vita che scende senza volere il bene
in cantinati pieni di significato ora
che la morte stessa ha annunciato con
i suoi travasi la sua importanza. E nel
travaso un piccolo sogno insiste d’esser
ricordato – io son la pace quasi grida
e tu non ricordi le mie solenni spiagge!
Ma è quieto il giardino – paradiso per scherzo
di fato, non è nulla quello che tu cerchi
fuori di me che sono la rinuncia, m’annuncia
da prima doloroso e poi cauto nel suo
crearsi quel firmamento che cercavo.
(Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, 19/1/2020)