I have three new translations of Eugenio Montale’s poetry at On the Seawall*. Along with Dante, Montale was one of the first poets I read in lingua when I was studying Italian in New York City. I remember my first-ever class at Parliamo Italiano, on 65th St. My teacher was Regina, a brazen Florentine. She walked into class – it must have been early September – fanning herself with a hand. “Fa caldo!” she said, emphatically. One student asked, a mild expression of shock on his face, “Who’s Aldo?” (Fa caldo! means It’s hot! He had heard, with his American ears, Fuck Aldo!) Regina paused for a moment, then burst out laughing. It was the best introduction to a foreign-language course – and I’ve conducted many myself – I could ever have imagined.
My first attempts at translating Montale were made when I was an elementary-level student of Italian. I cribbed a lot from existing versions, which is part of the process. Then I gave up. Now, years later, I offer these versions of a great poet’s work to the world. May they encourage the reader to seek out more of his work. It’s worth it.
*thank you to editor Ron Slate.