Sandro Penna & Alexander Booth

Black fire between surf

Black fire between surf 
Your eyes, confused, caught up in a dream
Of travel and solitude, you, my love

Fuoco nero fra schiuma di mare
i tuoi occhi, confusi in un sogno
di viaggio e solitudine, mio amore.

(from Stranezze 1965-1970)


The heat, and the cold

The heat, and the cold, of waiting rooms
The world it seemed a clear dream
Everyday life a legend

Il caldo, il freddo, delle sale d’aspetto.

Il mondo mi pareva un chiaro sogno,
la vita d’ogni giorno una leggenda.

(from Stranezze 1965-1970)


If behind the window’s glow

If behind the window’s glow
A small boy sleeps, in summer night,
And dreams…
                              Quickly a train
Goes by, and far
                                        The sea is as before

Se dietro la finestra illuminata
dorme un fanciullo, nella notte estiva,
e sognera…
                    Passa veloce un treno
e va lontano.
                       Il mare e’ come prima.

(from Poesie 1927-1938)


It was my city

It was my city, the empty one 
At dawn, full with one of my desires
But my love song, my most honest one 
To others remained unknown

Era la mia città, la città vuota

all’alba, piena di un mio desiderio.
Ma il mio canto d’amore, il mio piu vero
era per gli altri una canzone ignota.

(from Poesie Inedite 1938-1955)


A thought of love returns

A thought of love returns
To the tired heart  
As in winter twilight
    a young boy 
Homeward against the sun


Torna un pensier d’amore
nel cuore stanco, come
nel tramonto invernale
ritorna contro il sole
il fanciullo alla casa.


(from Croce e Delizia 1927-1957)



Sandro Penna (1906—1977) was born in the Umbrian city of Perugia but lived most of his life in Rome. Considered by many to be among the most important Italian poets of the 20th century, he remains surprisingly obscure both in Italy and abroad. A friend and contemporary of Umberto Saba, Eugenio Montale, and Pier Paolo Pasolini, Penna’s first collection of poetry appeared in 1939. In 1957 he was awarded the prestigious Premio Viareggio and in 1970 for his complete poems he won the Premio Fiuggi. Penna’s spare but emotionally charged and sprightly poetry works, as Cesare Garboli writes in the preface to the complete poems, with an “inimitable economy of sound” and is comprised of “miraculous combinations” of “visible grace, an impressionist brush, ‘Greek’ tradition, narrative, [and] sentimental lyric.” A poetry out-of-time, steeped in epiphany, languor, melancholy, sensuality, sea, and sun.       

Alexander Booth lives and works in Rome. He is working on a book-length selection of Sandro Penna’s poems as well as a book of his own poetry.