Lorenzo Calogero

What We Work At | Look to the Side
April 8, 2014 Calogero Lorenzo

What We Work At


What we work at

never falls

nor splinters,

is forever.

Joyful or sad,

enthused, manifold,

it remains immutable

to the strokes of time,


to immortal time.


Its naked brow

stays hard and firm

under the sunlight gilding it

between the unmoving thumbs of the universe.


Now and then sparks fall

and gild the brown hair

of little children going to school,

awakening from drowsiness

to their first excitement.






non cade mai,

non si frantuma,

rimane eterna.

Gioiosa o mesta,

entusiasta e molteplice,

rimanendo immutata

ai colpi del tempo,

è testimone

di un tempo immortale.


La sua nuda fronte

rimane ferma, soda

sotto i raggi del sole che l’indora

fra i pollici fissi dell’universo.


Da essa a volte cadono scintille

che indorano la bruna chioma

dei fanciulli che vanno a scuola

svegliandoli dal letargo

nel primo entusiasmo.


from Parole del tempo [Words of Time], 1933-1935.



Look to the Side


Look to the side. The yellow plinth

resounds no more. No longer young

the noise gets bitter. In the grass

the painted crystal gravestone, mindful,

stands useless.


From here the origin no longer

slowly sonorously flows

with a loud voice or the summit

and the hyacinths lose their leaves.


You’re coming! The fleeting hour,

the starry scent, these little

ideas like talismans

on the islands and the bare essentials

are all dropping down.

A flute rots

at the weak end of a year,

the breast’s laughter in the voracious wing

at the sharp sudden thud of time

of the lowered air.


Yesterday like today were drowsy

and panting while in their dry,

scattered, confused faces

was the firm ethereal end of another day.



Guarda a lato


Guarda a lato. Non più risuona

il plinto giallo. S’inacerba

il rumore non più giovane.

Non giova più sull’erba la memore

dipinta lapide di cristallo.


A partire da qui non più lenta

sonora scorre l’origine

ad alta voce o la cima

e si sfogliano i giacinti.


Tu giungi! L’ora veloce,

l’odore a stella, queste piccole

idee come un talismano

nelle isole e lo stretto necessario


Marcisce un flauto

alla fine debole di un anno,

il riso del seno nell’ala vorace

al brusco secco tonfo del tempo

dell’aria abbassata.


Ieri come oggi sonnolente

anella erano e, nel viso sparso

secco confuso, la fine aerea

ferma di un’altra giornata.


from Ma questo [But This], Opere Poetiche, volume 2, 1966.




Translator: John Taylor usually translates contemporary French poetry (Jaccottet, Dupin, Calaferte, Tappy, Jourdan, Chappuis), but, ever since winning the 2013 Raiziss-de Palchi Translation Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, he has been translating a major representative selection of the work of the Italian poet Lorenzo Calogero. He also writes the “Poetry Today” column in the Antioch Review. His most recent personal books are The Apocalypse Tapestries (Xenos, 2004) and If Night is Falling (Bitter Oleander Press, 2012). He lives in France.

Although he was admired by leading poets of the Italian “hermetic” movement, Lorenzo Calogero (1910-1961) has long remained a major overlooked figure in Italian poetry. His collected poems were first gathered in a two-volume Opere Poetiche (Lerici Editori, 1962 / 1966) and in a representative selection, Poesie (Rubbettino Editore, 1986). Recently, new editions of his work have appeared, notably Poco Suono (Nuove Edizioni Barbaro, 2011) and especially Parole del tempo (Donzelli, 2010), and a major revival of interest in his work is underway. He sporadically worked as a medical doctor, spent time confined to mental asylums, and seems to have committed suicide in his house in the Calabria region, but the circumstances of his death were never entirely clarified.