Maybe that’s not even true
what you sometimes hear screaming in your heart:
that this life is,
inside your being,
and that what you called the light
is a blunder,
the supreme blunder
of your sick eyes—
and that what you pretended to be the goal
is a dream,
the shameful dream
of your own weakness.
Maybe life is really
what you find it in younger days:
an eternal breath searching
from sky to sky
who knows what height.
But we are like the grass in the meadows
that feels the wind pass over it,
and sings everything in the wind
and lives in the wind forever,
yet can’t grow enough
to stop that soaring flight
or leap up from the earth
to drown in it.
Milan, 31 December 1931
Antonia Pozzi, born in Milan in 1912, lived a brief life, dying by suicide in 1938; she left behind letters, photographs, diaries, and over 300 poems; none of her poetry was published during her lifetime. Her work is significantly underrepresented in translation, and her omission from the 2004 Faber Book of 20th Century Italian Poems has been called “the most obvious lacuna.” (1)
Pozzi’s poetry was posthumously altered by her father Roberto Pozzi to reshape her public image; he scrubbed any evidence of his daughter’s passion, her sense of her flawed humanity, her love affairs, and her questions of God. In 1955, Nora Wydenbruck’s translations of these posthumously revised poems —translated with the help and under the close surveillance of Roberto Pozzi—reproduce a sanitized edition of the original work for English readers that perpetuated these incorrect versions of her poems. In 1989, editors Alessandra Cenni and Onorina Dino restored the poems to their original form in Parole, the authoritative text from which the translator works.
Amy Newman is the author of five poetry collections, most recently On This Day in Poetry History (Persea Books). Her translations of the poems of Antonia Pozzi appear or are forthcoming in Blackbird, Poetry, Michigan Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, and elsewhere; her translation of Pozzi’s letters appears in Delos and Cagibi. She teaches in the Department of English at Northern Illinois University.