Widely considered to be among the most important Italian poets of the twentieth century, Sandro Penna was born and raised in Perugia but spent most of his life in Rome. Openly gay, Penna wrote verses celebrating homosexual love with lyrical elegance. His writing alternates between whimsy and melancholia, but it is always full of light.
Juggling traditional Italian prosody and subject matter with their gritty urban opposites in taut, highly concentrated poems, Penna’s lyrics revel in love and the eruption of Eros together with the extraordinary that can be found within simple everyday life. There is something ancient in Penna’s poetry, and something Etruscan or Greek about the poems, though the landscape is most often of Rome: sensual yet severe, sinuous yet solid, inscrutable, intangible, and languorous, with a Sphinx-like and sun-soaked smile. Penna’s city is eternal—a mythically decadent Rome that brings to mind Paris or Alexandria. And though the echoes resound—from Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Baudelaire to Leopardi, D’Annunzio, and Cavafy—the voice is always undeniably and wonderfully Penna’s own.
About the Author
Sandro Penna (1906–77) was an Italian poet. During his life, he was awarded two of Italy’s most important literary awards, the Premio Viareggio and the Premio Bagutta. His work has been translated into many languages, including English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish, and has appeared in numerous anthologies of Italian poetry.
Alexander Booth is a writer and translator living in Berlin.
“I have made a cult of you … perhaps the greatest and most delightful Italian poet alive.” — Pier Paolo Pasolini
“I believe that one day, in another age, if there is another age, the poetry of Sandro Penna will be read by all and his greatness recognized by all.” — Natalia Ginzburg