Sunday Italian Poem: Mattina ‘Morning’ (1917)

Giuseppe Ungaretti was a leading representative of the Hermeticism school of poetry, which believed that punctuation should be erased, meaning obscured, words reduced to essentials and compositions be as brief as possible.  He wrote this in the trenches of northern Italy in 1917 and it is perhaps the most famous modern Italian poem.

M’illumino
d’immenso

It is also a nightmare to translate into English.  This captures perhaps the sense of wonder and hope of the original:

Immensity fills
Me with light.

Or:

I illuminate myself
with immensity

Photo via David Stephens on Flickr.

Italian Cocktail of the Week: Italia Settanta Cinque

When visiting Naples, a friend  introduced us to the classic French 75 cocktail.  This was originally created at the New York Bar in Paris, later Harry’s New York Bar, in 1915.  The potent combination of gin, lemon juice, Champagne, and sugar was said to have a kick like a French 75mm field gun and the name stuck.

There are many recipes around which try and give this classic cocktail an Italian twist.  One adds limoncello instead of the lemon juice; another muddles the gin with basil, before using grapefruit juice and bitters.  One recipe substitutes grappa for gin.

But I think this recipe via Feast best preserves the gin/fruit/fizz intent of the original.  It uses the freshly squeezed, slightly bitter, juice from a blood orange, a fruit native to Italy and the primary orange grown in the country.  And of course Prosecco instead of Champagne.

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Sunday Song from Naples: ‘A Marechiaro ce sta na fenesta…’

Just along the coast from Naples there is the little fishing hamlet of Marechiaro, reached by a narrow twisty lane that descends from Via Posillipo.  It’s wildly popular at the weekend with sunbathers,  swimmers and boaters due to the clean water, the panoramic views over the Bay of Naples, and the cluster of seafood restaurants along the shore.

It’s also famous for the classic Neapolitan song A Marechiaro which tells of a window in the village, marked with a carnation, at which Caroline appears to be serenaded by a young fisherman-in-love.  The song is sung here by Roberto Murolo, son of the city, classic interpreter of Naples songs with a wonderful voice.

An Intense Encounter between Lovers

‘But first we must free ourselves
from the strict stinginess that produces us,
that produces me on this chair
in the corner of a café
awaiting with the ardor of a clerk
the very moment in which
the small blue flames of the eyes
across from me, eyes familiar
with risk, will, having taken aim,
lay claim to a blush
from my face. Which blush they will obtain.’

From: My Poems Won’t Change the World: Selected Poems by Patrizia Cavalli, edited by Gini Alhadeff, translated from the Italian by Gini Alhadeff and others, Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Photo: By Lorenzo Mattotti.