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

“Mi Sono Riadattato Agli Occhiali”

by Edoardo Sanguineti

mi sono riadattato agli occhiali (che la patente, a me, rende obbligati, ormai),

in un paio solo di giorni: vedo tutto più netto: (ma niente mi è, per questo,

diventato migliore, in verità: un semaforo è sempre un semaforo, un marciapiede

è un marciapiede: e io sono sempre io, così):

 (quanto al doloroso senso di capogiro,

vaticinato, con l’emicrania, da un Istituto Ottico di corso Buenos Aires, al quale

mi sono rivolto, questa volta, l’ho sperimentato e l’ho superato): (l’oculista

affermava che, con il tempo, io mi ero costruito una mia rappresentazione aribitraria

della realtà, adesso destinata, con le lenti, a sfasciarsi di colpo):

(e ho potuto

sperare, per un attimo, di potermi rifare, a poco prezzo, una vita e una vista):

"In Just a Couple of Days I Readjusted"

from Scartabello, 1980

by Edoardo Sanguineti

in just a couple of days I readjusted to glasses (by now they’re required

of me to drive): I see everything more clearly: (yet nothing, truth

be told, has improved): a traffic light is still a traffic light, a sidewalk

still a sidewalk: and I’m still me, this way):

(as for the painful dizzy spells

and migraines they warned me about at the Optical Institute on Corso Buenos Aires,

where I checked in this time, I suffered them and shouldered on): (the opthalmologist

insisted that, over time, I had constructed my own arbitrary representation

of reality, now destined, with contacts, to be quickly shattered):

(and I could

hope, for a moment, to remake, at little cost, a life and a vision):

translated from Italian by Will Schutt

“Da Che Cos (Mi Chiedo)”

by Edoardo Sanguineti

da che cosa (mi chiedo) mi cerco che mi scappo, così scappando, galoppando sempre?
da me, lo so: (dal mio essere morto): (un molle morto): (scappo da una mia mala morte):
(che non è mica che mi insegue, poi): (e che non è che mi sta già alle spalle, adesso,
probabilmente, nemmeno):

scappo dalla mia vita (da te, cioè, che sei tu, la mia vita):

(se tutto questo ha così poco senso, che farci allora?): scappo in me, scappo in te:
nel mondo tuo, nel mio: (io che ho pensato, persino, una volta, che, dalla vita, ho avuto
tutto, avendo avuto te):

quando si arriva, c’è un grido: si dice tana: (è la fine, sul serio):

“What (I Wonder)”

from Cose, 1996-2001

by Edoardo Sanguineti

what (I wonder) makes me search in me so that I run from me, thus running, forever at

full gallop?

it’s me, I know: (my death): (a sweet death): (I run from a sleep-with-the-fishes death):

(which isn’t really coming to me, anyway): (and it’s not as if it’s just over my shoulder


probably not):

I run from my life (from you, meaning you’re my life)

(if all this makes so little sense, what shall we do?): I run in me, I run in you:

in your world, in mine: (me, who once thought, to think!, I’d had everything in life,

having had you):

when we arrive, there’s a cry: olly olly oxen free: (game over, for real):

translated from Italian by Will Schutt

“La Philosophie dans le Théâtre”

per Benno Besson

by Edoardo Sanguineti

l’intenzione era un’altra, caro Benno: era un Paradoxe, naturalmente (“sur

le metteur en scène”, naturalmente), che non ci ho il mio tempo per scrivertelo,

adesso: (l’epigrafe, però, era il famoso “si le petit sauvage” del Neveu, trattandosi,

in partenza, di un Edipo):

volevo ritornare sopra l’être sensible e il sentir (sopra

affaire d’âme e affaire de jugement): ho tentato un abbozzo, tempo fa,

di un paradosso dell’autore (scrivere in prima persona, vivere in terza, alla Brecht,

essere un autre): si può arrivare, sopra questa strada, alla nostra questione, credo,

vera (quelle est la planète où l’on parle ainsi?): a un système de déclamation:

(e a un sistema di vita, infine, forse): e siamo, spero, gli esseri meno sensibili

del mondo: (senza gusto per la virtù, senza desiderio di riuscire utili nella società,

di servire il paese o la famiglia: senza motifs honnetês, di nessun genere):

(senza esprit doir, senza cœur chaud, senza anima): non voglio abbandonarmi

à la merci de mon diaphragm: (j’ai fait un aveu qui n’est pas trop ordinaire):

e il nodo, guarda, è l’exagération:

per questo, appunto, esagero, scrivendoti:

(il 21 luglio 1827, un sabato, Goethe disse a Eckermann che il terrore

è la sostanza di ogni poesia: e il 26 luglio 1826, un mercoledì, aveva anche detto

che la teatralità è il simbolico):

per liquidare emozioni in sensate sensazioni,

per spremere la coscienza dai pori della pelle, schiacciandola come una pustola

(e provocare la paura, stimolando vere bocche a eiajculare pensieri in un liquame

di parole, e le parole a farsi carne): (penso a una vera farsa tragica orgasmatica,

a un tragico striptease dell’ideologico: penso, vedi, all’osceno della scena):

(grande boudoir di ogni filosofia):

ogni teatro è un teatro anatomico:

"La Philosophie dans le Théâtre"

for Benno Besson, from Fanerografie, 1982-9

by Edoardo Sanguineti

the intention was different, dear Benno: was a Paradoxe, naturally (“sur

le metteur en scène,” naturally) that I have no time to write down for you

now:  (yet the epigraph was the famous “si le petit sauvage” in “Le Neveu,” referring,

originally, to an Oedipus):

I wanted to return to être sensible and feeling (to

affaire d’âme and affaire de jugement): I tried drafting, awhile ago,

an author’s paradox (writing in first person, living in third, like Brecht,

playing un autre): you can arrive, by this route, at our question, I believe,

the real one (quelle est la planète où l’on parle ainsi?): at a système de déclamation:

(and, in the end, a life system, maybe): and we are, I hope, the least sensible

beings in the world: (with no taste for virtue, no desire to be useful to society

or serve country or family: without motifs honnêtes of any kind):

(without esprit droit, without cœur chaud, without soul): I don’t want to leave myself

à la merci de mon diaphragm: (j’ai fait un aveu qui n’est pas trop ordinaire):

and the crux, see, is exagération:

which is exactly why I exaggerate when I write to you:

(on July 21, 1827, a Saturday, Goethe told Eckermann that terror

is the essence of every poem: and on July 26, 1826, a Wednesday, he also said

theatricality is symbolic):

to liquidate emotions down to sensible sensations,

to wring conscience from our pores, popping it like a pimple,

(to incite fear, stimulating real mouths to discharge thoughts in a sludge

of words, and for words to be made flesh): (I think of a tragic orgasmic farce,

a tragic striptease of the ideological: I think, see, of the obscene in the scene):

(great boudoir of every philosophy):

every theater is an anatomical theater:

translated from Italian by Will Schutt

Nella Mia Vita Ho Già Visto

by Edoardo Sanguineti

nella mi avita ho già visto le giacche, i coleotteri, un inferno stravolto da un Doré,

il colera, i colori, il mare, i marmi: e una piazza di Oslo, el il Grand Hôtel

des Palmes, le buste, i busti:

ho già visto il settemezzo, gli anagrammi, gil etto-

grammi, i panettoni, i corsari, i casini, i monumenti a Mazzini, i pulcini, i bambini,


 ho già visto i fucilati del 3 maggio (ma riprodotti apenna in bianco

e nero), i torturati di giugno, i massacrati di settembre, gli impiccati di marzo,

di dicembre: e il sesso di mia madre e mio padre: e il vuoto, e il vero, e il verme

inerme, e le terme:

ho già visto il neutrino, il neutrone, con il fotone, con l’elettrone

(in rappresentazione grafica, schematica): con il pentamerone, con l’esamerone: il


e il sale, e il cancro, e Patty Pravo: e Venere, e la cenere: con il mascarpone (o

mascherpone), con il mascherone, con il mezzocannone: e il mascarpio (lat.), a



ma adesso che ti ho visto, vita mia, spegnimi gli occhi con due dita, e basta:

In My Life I've Already Seen

from Cataletto, 1981

by Edoardo Sanguineti

in my life I’ve already seen blazers, beetles, an inferno upturned by a Doré,

cholera, colors, marl, marbles: and a square in Oslo, and the Grand Hôtel

des Palmes, stubs, busts:

I’ve already seen blackjack, anagrams, hecto-

grams, fruitcakes, racetracks, jackpots, monuments to Mazzini, little chicks, little


Laurel and Hardy:

I’ve already seen the firing squads of May 3rd (just reproductions, really, in


and white), the tortured in June, the massacred in September, the hanged in March,

in December: and my mother’s sex and my father’s: the void, veritas, and the unarmed

worm, and thermal baths:

I’ve already seen the neutrino, the neutron, with the photon, the electron,

(in a graphic, schematic display): with The Pentamerone, with The Esamerone: the sun,

and salt, and cancer, and Patty Pravo: and Venus, and ashes, with mascarpone (or

maskerpone), with the mascaron, with the demi-cannon: and the mascarpio (Lat.), a manus carpere:

but now that I’ve seen you, life, put out my eyes—that’s enough:

translated from Italian by Will Schutt