Avatar photo

Two Poems

translated from Italian by Wally Swist


from L’Allegria/Cheerfulness (Poems 1914-1919)


night fades
just before the springtime
and it is a rare person
who passes

Over Paris
a dark color
weeping thickens

In a poem
of a bridge
I contemplate
the incalculable silence
of a slender

Our afflictions
merge together

And how carried away
she remains



from L’Allegria/Cheerfulness (Poems 1914-1919)
from Part 2, Porto Sepolto/The Buried Port


 Carsia Giulia 1916

My dark heart dispersed the need
for some refreshment

In the muddy spaces between stones
like the grass of this district
it likes to quiver in the light

But I do not exist
in the sling of time
in which the casting of stones
betrays the War

Ever since he looked
into the immortal face
of the world

This madman
wanted to know
by falling into the labyrinth
of his troubled heart

My own heart
flattened out like a rail
but found itself
a wake
a lost navigation

I look up at the horizon
that is pocked with craters
My heart desires
to be lit up
at least like the night itself
with rockets

I clutch my heart
that hides and crashes
then cracks like the trace
of a bullet across the plain
but doesn’t even leave me
with a way to escape

My impoverished heart
stunned at not knowing



Giuseppe Ungaretti (1888-1970), Italian modernist poet, journalist, essayist, critic, and academic. Influenced by symbolism, especially the French-Romanian poet Tristan Tzara, he was briefly aligned with futurism, Ungaretti lead the experimental trend known as Ermetismo (“Hermeticism”), in which he advocated “a personal approach to poetry,” and  became one of the most significant contributors to 20th century Italian literature. Ungaretti debuted as a poet while fighting in the trenches in WWI, later publishing his iconic and possibly best-known book, L’Allegria (Cheerfulness, Swist translation). During the interwar period, he was a foreign-based correspondent, but after spending several years in Brazil, he returned to Italy during World War II, and was assigned a teaching post at the University of Rome, where he spent his final decades. In 1970, he was the initial recipient of the prestigious Neustadt International Prize for Literature, awarded biennially by World Literature Today.


Wally Swist’s books include Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012), Awakening & Visitation, and Evanescence: Selected Poems (2020), with Shanti Arts. His translations have been and/or will be published in Chiron Review, Ezra: An Online Journal of Translation, Transference: Literary Journal Featuring the Art & Process of Translation, and Woven Tale Press. His latest book of essays, A Writer’s Statements on Beauty: New & Selected Essays & Reviews will be published in 2021 by Shanti Arts.




Join the conversation