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Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, a Bilingual Edition

Edited and Translated by Jennifer Scappettone

A musician, musicologist, and self-defined “poet of research,” Amelia Rosselli (1930–96) was one of the most important poets to emerge from Europe in the aftermath of World War II. Following a childhood and adolescence spent in exile from Fascist Italy between France, England, and the United States, Rosselli was driven to express the hopes and devastations of the postwar epoch through her demanding and defamiliarizing lines. Rosselli’s trilingual body of work synthesizes a hybrid literary heritage stretching from Dante and the troubadours through Ezra Pound and John Berryman, in which playful inventions across Italian, English, and French coexist with unadorned social critique. In a period dominated by the confessional mode, Rosselli aspired to compose stanzas characterized by a new objectivity and collective orientation, “where the I is the public, where the I is things, where the I is the things that happen.” Having chosen Italy as an “ideal fatherland,” Rosselli wrote searching and often discomposing verse that redefined the domain of Italian poetics and, in the process, irrevocably changed the Italian language.

This collection, the first to bring together a generous selection of her poems and prose in English and in translation, is enhanced by an extensive critical introduction and notes by translator Jennifer Scappettone. Equipping readers with the context for better apprehending Rosselli’s experimental approach to language, Locomotrix seeks to introduce English-language readers to the extraordinary career of this crucial, if still eclipsed, voice of the twentieth century.

340 pages | 17 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2012

Literature and Literary Criticism: Romance Languages



“In Scappettone, Rosselli has found an inventive, aesthetically kindred translator, one who rightly chooses ‘to startle when Rosselli startles, and not to gloss’;—to maintain, that is, rather than tame, the singularities of Rosselli’s capacious and difficult work. But the word ‘maintain’ makes it sound too easy, as if the translator had only to leave well enough alone, when of course what is often required is the invention in English of sympathetic singularities, which Scappettone, a poet herself, provides in abundance. As if that weren’t enough, the poems themselves are framed by Scappettone’s excellent introduction and by well-chosen prose selections and helpful bibliographies and notes. . . . Locomotrix is an exemplary volume and by far the best introduction to Rosselli now available to English-language readers.” 

Geoffrey Brock | American Poet

“After more than a decade of research, travel, translation, revision, and cross-examination, Jennifer Scappettone offers to the Anglophone reader an extraordinary harvest of texts by Amelia Rosselli, under the comprehensive (and Rossellian) title Locomotrix . . . in a bilingual edition, which permits the volume to continue the dialogue across languages that is in fact the powerful root of Rosselli’s imagination and poetry. A poet herself, beyond being a scholar, Scappettone is the ideal translator of a dense and multifoliate writing like that of Rosselli. . . . [B]oth readers for whom the voice and history of Rosselli are still unknown and those already familiar with her work will find elements of reflection and annotations that interrogate and reinterrogate the texts (which are now legible in a new light thanks to the insight/translation into English).”

Marco Giovenale | Il manifesto

“Jennifer Scappettone’s selection from the full corpus of [Rosselli’s] work, with a substantial introduction to match, offers English speakers with little or no Italian the best chance yet of engaging in depth with Rosselli’s demanding and strangely rewarding voice.”

Peter Hainsworth | Times Literary Supplement

“Scappettone succeeds more consistently in rendering the intensity and grit of Rosselli’s language than the previous translators, contending imaginatively with a poetic style in which words are often twisted, invented, or forced into use from other languages; besides which she gives us a very substantial introduction to Rosselli’s life and poetics, not to mention useful endnotes, along with Rosselli’s most important statement of intent, the essay ‘Metrical Spaces.’  Also included are an interview, a handful of letters, and appreciations of her work by Zanzotto and Pier Paolo Pasolini.”

Barry Schwabsky | Hyperallergic

“[Scappettone] is always conscious of trap doors and multiple meanings to unravel and iron out . . . [and] knows how to render the tone of reflection or desperation, invective, shock, spontaneity, and freedom in the poetry of Amelia. All with great daring—or rather, thanks precisely to this daring of hers.”

Giulia Niccolai | Il verri

“Poet, translator, and professor, . . . Scappettone—who has also translated authors of her own generation, like Giovanna Frene, Florinda Fusco, and Marco Giovenale—offers a truly compelling example of the vivacious osmotic exchange between the current experimental poetry of the United States and that of Italy. Her Locomotrix is not only an accomplished example of an ‘expanded’ anthology (that includes critical writings, letters, and photographs), but also a stimulating and felicitous theoretical attempt to present the complex—and certainly not easily translatable—work of the splendidly ‘obtuse’ giantess-mother of a great part of today’s poetic research to a global public.”

Gian-Maria Annovi | alfabeta2

“In the landscape of twentieth-century Italian writing, Amelia Rosselli’s poems stand out as a unique achievement, cultivating oblique, discontinuous forms that mix social diagnosis and satire, memory and introspection, tragedy and utopianism. Jennifer Scappettone’s editorial project is a work of cultural restoration that helps to create a broader context in which the anglophone reader can more fully appreciate Italian poetic traditions. But she has done much more: drawing on her own formidable skills as an experimental poet in English, Scappettone has produced an ambitiously innovative translation whose effects are at once stunning and uncanny in recreating the Italian. The result is a body of poetry that is challenging, to be sure, yet tremendously powerful.”

Lawrence Venuti, Temple University

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Stanza as “Homicile”: The Poetry of Amelia Rosselli

Poems in Italian

Da Primi scritti (1952–1963) / From First Writings (1952–1963)
 Prime prose italiane (1954) / First Italian Prose (1954)
 Da Palermo 63 (1963) / From Palermo 63 (1963)
Da La libellula: Panegirico della libertà (1958) / From The Libellula: Panegyric to Liberty (1958)
Da Variazioni belliche (1964) / From Bellicose Variations (1964)
 Poesie (1959) / Poems (1959)
 Da Variazioni (1960–1961) / From Variations (1960–1961)
Da Serie ospedaliera (1963–1965) / From Hospital Series (1963–1965)
Da Diario ottuso: Nota (1967–1968) / From Obtuse Diary: Note (1967–1968)
Da Documento (1966–1973) / From Document (1966–1973)
Da Appunti sparse e persi: Poesie (1966–1977) / From Notes Scattered and Lost: Poems (1966–1977)
Da Impromptu (1981) / From Impromptu (1981)

 Between Languages

From October Elizabethans (October 1956): On Fatherish Men
From Diary in Three Tongues (1955–1956): Parts IX, XI
From Sleep: Poems in English (1953–1966)


Introduction to “Metrical Spaces” (1993)
Metrical Spaces (1962)
Extreme Facts: An Interview with Giacinto Spagnoletti (1987)

 From the Correspondence

To John Rosselli, 12 February 1951
To John Rosselli, 9 November 1952
To Pier Paolo Pasolini, 19 April 1962
To Pier Paolo Pasolini, 21 June 1962

 On Amelia Rosselli

A Note on Amelia Rosselli, by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1963)
Amelia Rosselli: Documento, by Andrea Zanzotto (1976, 1994)

Selected Bibliography
Index of Titles and First Lines


Academy of American Poets: Raiziss/de Palchi Book Prize

Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Translation Prize

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