every theater is an anatomical theater


Seven poems by Edoardo Sanguineti, with translations and an introduction by Will Schutt

Edoardo Sanguineti (left) & Will Schutt

Translator’s Note

What are we to make of Edoardo Sanguineti’s nearly sixty-year career as a poet, critic, librettist, novelist, playwright, political figure, and translator? Which Sanguineti are we to favor? “Sanguineti the Last Marxist,” who nods wistfully toward the German philosopher in his poems, and who served as an independent MP on the Italian Communist Party ticket? Or “Sanguineti the Academic,” who spent decades teaching literature at the University of Genoa and authored several books of literary criticism? What about “Sanguineti the Avant-Gardist,” whose very first, difficult poems – written in the early 1950s, when the poet was in his early twenties – helped spawn the experimental literature that would typify Italian letters a decade later? Couldn’t we think of Sanguineti as a late Romantic whose occasionally downhearted, often scathing vision undercuts the wit and wordtrickery of “Sanguineti the Rapper” (a late, self-appointed nickname)?

Above all else, perhaps, Sanguineti is a poet of speed, a sort of short-distance runner across the white page. His poems are restless, frantic, often brief, propelled by colons and qualified by parentheses. Maybe Sanguineti was recreating in writing what he could not create on stage; his childhood dreams of becoming a dancer were dashed when he was wrongly diagnosed with a heart condition.

To convey the fleet-footed quality of Sanguineti’s poems, a translator must keep pace. And I have allowed myself, in several instances visible here, to play fast and loose. My ambition has been to match Sanguineti’s speed, by ear and instinct, as much as to render an accurate, line-by-line translation. One example of the kind of liberties I’ve taken can be found in the poem “Da che cosa (mi chiedo).” Sanguineti writes “scappo…(dal mio essere morto): (un molle morto): (scappo da una mia mala morte).” How is one supposed to relay at once the opposite meaning and phonetic proximity of the words “molle” (feeble, soft) and “mala” (evil, bad)? A literal translation is too ponderous for a poem about galloping away from the endgame: “I escape…(from being dead): (a feeble/soft dead): (I escape from an evil death).”

My translation reads: “I run…(from my death): (a sweet death): (I run from a sleep-with-the-fishes death).”

While betraying the letter, I still hope that Sanguineti would appreciate the combination, a la Sanguineti, of poetic and popular diction, and I justify the betrayal by telling myself that, apart from the sonic equivalent of “sweet” and “sleep,” my translation also retains the original poem’s out-of-breath quality.

Pattern may be the source of pleasure in literature, but there is such an abundance of associative pattern in Sanguineti that the system is driven to the brink of disorder. Like the paranoid son in Nabokov’s “Signs and Symbols,” Sanguineti seems to read – or, rather, write – all experience as a puzzle. And because the elements in his poems are so close fitting, the translator’s task is fraught; misplace a single piece and the picture falls apart. Such resistance to translation may be the mark of Sanguineti’s singularity.


—Will Schutt

La Triste, L’Incostante

by Edoardo Sanguineti

la triste, l’incostante, l’aggressiva, la morta: (quella che fu il mio tropico

di Cancro: e l’altra, che fu il mio anello di Saturno): la contegnosa,

la spaiata, la matta:

me le voglio qui tutte, adesso, insieme, a mangiarmi:

i miei polsi aperti, la mia lurida lingua, le mie docili dita, il mio fegato

fragile: (e il mio cuore, è l’usanza, fatto a pezzi): (e il mio cervello

già raggrinzito, e il mio ormai tenero sesso):

tutto il resto è per te,

se resta un resto, dopo tanto succhiare, e se resisti, lí a sparecchiarmi,

l’ultima, in cucina:

l’affaticata, la nervosa, la superstiziosa, la morbida:

The Sad One, The Inconstant One

from Scartabello, 1980

by Edoardo Sanguineti

the sad one, the inconstant one, the aggressive one, the one who died:

(my Tropic of Cancer and my Ring of Saturn): the polite one,

the funny one, the nutcase:

  I want all of them here, now, together, to eat me:

my slit wrists, my lurid tongue, my frail fingers, my ailing

liver: (and my heart, as per usual, in shards): (and my brain

already shriveled, and my dick long limp):

all the rest is yours

if a rest remains after so much sucking, and if you linger in the kitchen,

the last one, to clear me away:

the weary one, the nervous one, the superstitious one, the tender:


translated from Italian by Will Schutt

“Alle 18.15 Mi Telefona Vasko”

by Edoardo Sanguineti

alle 18.15 mi telefona Vasko: sei sveglio? mi dice: certo, gli dico: e

ho già parlato con mia moglie: (così il telegramma è stato tutto inutile):

(ma non importa, è chiaro):

e ho già scritto la seconda poesia della giornata

(di oggi, 3 giugno):

bene, dice Vasko, ma è proprio la settimana

santa, allora, per te: (questa: della Knaak-Poetry):

“At 6:15 P.M. Vasko Phones”

from Reisebilder, 1971

by Edoardo Sanguineti

at 6:15 p.m. Vasko phones: you awake? he says: sure, I say: and

I’ve already talked to my wife: (so the telegram was a total waste):

(but it’s no matter, not to worry):

and I’ve already penned the second poem of the day

(today, June 3rd):

well, says Vasko, this really is a lucky

week, then, for you: (this week: of Knaak-Poetry):

translated from Italian by Will Schutt

“La Voce Di Mio Padre”

by Edoardo Sanguineti

la voce di mio padre è registrata in un nastro rubricato “Venezia ‘66”:

(l’altra pista è occupata da una sinfonia di Mozart):

si tratta di una serie

di telefonate d’epoca: davanti a quel microfono intercettato, sfilano i miei tre

maschi bambini, mia moglie, vari parenti di mia moglie, un paio di sue amiche

(e c’è anche mia suocera, che parla con la salumiera di Torino, un’emiliana,

suppongo, e ordina bottiglie di Lurisia):

il passaggio fulminante (e che mi ha fulminato

lí, martedí, nel pieno della mia infelicità): (e che fu un tratto tipico, certo, per lui):

(e che ha deciso molte cose, cosí, per me e per la mia vita): (cito a memoria, adesso)

è quando dice, dunque, a Federico:

quando gli altri sono contenti, anche io sono contento:

“My Father's Voice”

from Postkarten, 1972-77

by Edoardo Sanguineti

my father’s voice is recorded on a tape labeled “Venice ’66”:

(the flipside features a Mozart symphony):

the tape contains a series

of phone calls from that time: my three boys, my wife, various relatives

of my wife, and a couple of her friends got reeled in by that wiretap

(there’s even my mother-in-law ordering bottles of Lurisia from a woman

with a deli in Turin, an Emilian is my guess):

the electrifying clip (which electrified me

on Tuesday in a fit of unhappiness): (and was a typical trait of his):

(which determined many things for me and my life): (I’m quoting from memory)

is when he says, then, to my son:

when others are happy, I’m happy too:

translated from Italian by Will Schutt
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Podcast #5: Odi Gonzales

by: Montana Ray


In this episode, Montana Ray speaks with poet-translator-scholar Odi Gonzales about growing up in Peru with two mother tongues and the ways in which the Quechua oral tradition of his childhood has shaped a life-long academic and artistic interest in Pre-Hispanic literatures. Gonzales discusses the contradictions inherent in the life of the white landowner and influential Quechua poet, Kilku Warak’a, and Gonzales reads from his book of Spanish translations of Warak’a’s work,Taki parwa/22 poemas quechuas de Kilku Warak’a. Gonzales also reads from his own bilingual (Quechua/Spanish) collection, Tunupa/el libro de las sirenas, which interpolates an ancient Andean myth of the generative relationship between the god Tunupa and two sirens with Gonzales’ own experiences living again in two worlds as a scholar of Andean literature at the University of Maryland. Gonzales and Ray discuss the lack of publishing opportunities for Amerindian writers and the gatherings/cities which act as points of intersection between writers working in various native languages. Odi also shares poetry from his collaboration with the Peruvian photographer Ana de Orbegoso and talks about his research into the escuela cuzqueña de pintura, an influential movement by anonymous indigenous painters of the 17th century and Gonzales’ inspiration for the book of poetry: La escuela de Cusco. Finally, Gonzales reads from this book and discusses the process of working with his English translator Lynn Levin on the bilingual version of La escuela de Cusco, Birds on a Kiswar Tree, forthcoming from Pittsburgh: Latin American Literary Review Press.  

“Matrimonio de Don Martín de Loyola y Doña Beatriz Ñusta,” Ánonimo

With poems, translations, and songs by: Enrique Delgado y Los Destellos, Juaneco Y Su Combo, Kilku Warak’a, Odi Gonzales, Lynn Levin, and Los Teddy’s.
Lynn Levin’s audio clip is included with the permission of PennSound.