Like Leaves in Autumn

Like Leaves in Autumn


Responses to the war poetry of Giuseppe Ungaretti

Carlo Pirozzi & Katherine Lockton (eds.)

ISBN: 9781910021798

Binding: paperback

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Published to mark the first centenary of Italy’s entry into the Great War, Like Leaves in Autumn features 21 original Italian poems by Giuseppe Ungaretti, with new English translations by Heather Scott. These are set alongside 21 new poems by contemporary Scottish poets writing in response to Ungaretti, and are illustrated with striking black-and-white artworks from the ARTIST ROOMS collection, owned by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate.

One of Europe’s greatest modernist poets, Ungaretti was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt, to an Italian family from Tuscany. From 1915, he served in the Italian infantry in the campaign against Austria-Hungary. It was a ferocious conflict fought in the mountains of Northern Italy in trenches dug out of Alpine rock. Thousands died and Ungaretti’s poems, written during pauses in the fighting, channel these horrific experiences. In addition to his grief and loss, these verses are shaped both by Ungaretti’s sense of exile and by his intense life-affirming poetic sensibility.

A century on, this anthology offers a creative interplay of recollection, translation and new inspiration. Italian, English, Scots and Gaelic voices mingle on these pages, and the artworks spark a dialogue between words and images, creating an alchemy of further meanings.

Ungaretti’s war poetry expresses an intense feeling for life, that sense of the miraculous in which, as Cendrars puts it, ‘only a soul full of despair can ever attain serenity and, to be in despair, you must have loved a good deal and still love the world’. JOHN BURNSIDE