Category Archives: Poetry

Virgilio Giotti, Triestine Venetian Poet

Repost from the old site.

Let’s take a look again at Triestine Venetian.

Virgilio Giotti was a famous poet who wrote in Triestine Venetian. He was born in 1885 in Trieste, a child of Riccardo Schonbeck and Emilia Ghiotto. He died in Trieste in 1957. He is considered to be the most important Triestine Venetian author. For this, he was honored in 1957 by the Accademia dei Lincei.

Highly-regarded critics such Mario Fubini, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gianfranco Contini, Cesare Segre and Franco Brevini enthusiastically described Virgilio Giotti as one of the most important Italian writers in Italian “dialects” of the 1900′s.

From 1907 to 1919 he lived in Firenze. In 1912, he met Nina Schekotoff, a Russian from Moscow, the only woman he ever loved. In Tuscany, she bore him three children – Natalia, (Tanda), Paolo and Franco. Sons Paolo and Franco both died in Russia during World War 2.

Giotti first book was Piccolo Canzoniere in Dialetto Triestino, published in Florence in 1914.

He became famous in 1937, when the great critic Pietro Pancrazi, in a review in Corriere Della Sera pointed out the anti-dialectal character of Giotti: his poetry was described as écriture d’artiste (literary writing) or patois de l’ame (the language of love).

Pancrazi described Giotti as a poet who wrote mainly in dialect, but he differed from the usual poetry of Italian “dialects” that was often folkloric, standardized, generic, etc.

Giotti spoke Tuscan Italian as his principal language, and he considered Triestine Venetian as “the language of the poetry” only – that it only had a literary and cultural value, but was not useful beyond that.

Giotti’s Triestine Venetian lexicon was impoverished and full of simple words, with only a very sparse use of idioms. Giotti’s Trieste was far from the Trieste of Svevo, Saba and other writers: there’s no Port wine, no psychoanalysis and no Mitteleuropa.

Giotti’s world is one of sensations, little places, family and friends, the arcana of quotidian existence. He was a romantic poet of everyday life.

Let’s look at one of Giotti’s poems, With Bolàffio, in classic Triestine Venetian, then in modern Triestine Venetian, then in an Italian translation by Antonio Guerra (Italian language link) or Tonino Guerra (a famous Italian screenwriter), (Italian language link) and finally I will try to translate it into literary English.

If you think you can do a better job of translating this into nice poetic English, even a line or two, give it a shot. This translation stuff is kind of fun!

Con Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

Classic Triestine Venetian

Mi e Bolàffio, de fazza
un de l’altro, col bianco tavoja

de la tovàia in mezo,
su i goti e el fiasco in fianco,
parlemo insieme.

Bolàffio de ‘na piazza
de Gorìzia el me conta,

ch’el voria piturarla:
‘na granda piazza sconta,

che nissun passa.

Do tre casete atorno
rosa, un fiatin de muro,
un pissador de fero
vècio stravècio, e el scuro
de do alboroni.

Xe squasi mezogiorno
E un omo, vignù fora
de là, se giusta pian
pian, e el se incanta sora
pensier. Bolàffio

in ‘sta su piazza bela,
noi, poeti e pitori,
stemo ben. La xe fata
pròpio pai nostri cuori,
caro Bolàffio.

In quel bel sol, in quela
pase, se ga incontrado
i nostri veci cuori;
là i se ga saludado
stassera alegri.

Con Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

Modern Triestine Venetian

Mi e Bolàffio, de muso
un co’ l’altro, col bianco tavoja

dela tovaia in mezo,
su i calici e il fiasco de fianco
parlemo insieme.

Bolaffio, de ‘na piazza
de Gorizia il me conta

ch’el voleria piturarla
‘na grande piazza sconta

che nessun passa

Do tre casete atorno
rosa, un fiatin de muro
un pisador de fero
vecio stravecio, e il scuro
de do alberoni

Xe quasi mezogiorno
E un omo, vignù fora
de là, se giusta pian
pian, e il se incanta sora
pensier. Bolàffio

in ‘sta sua piaza bela
noi, poeti e pìtori
stemo ben. La xe fata
proprio pei nostri cuori
caro Bolaffio

In quel bel sol, in quela
pase, se ga incontrado
i nostri veci cuori;
là i se ga saludado
stasera alegri

Con Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

Italian translation by Antonia Guerra

Io e Bolaffio, l’uno
di fronte all’altro, col bianco
della tovaglia in mezzo,
i bicchieri alzati e accanto il fiasco,
parliamo insieme.

Bolaffio mi racconta di una piazza
di Gorizia, che vorrebbe dipingerla:
una grande piazza nascosta,
dove nessuno passa.

Due tre casette intorno,
rosa, un poco di muro,
un pisciatoio di ferro,
vecchio stravecchio, e lo scuro
di due alberoni.

È quasi mezzogiorno.

E un uomo, venuto fuori di lì,
si mette a posto pian piano,
s’incanta sopra pensiero. Bolaffio,
in questa sua piazza bella,
noi, poeti e pittori, stiamo bene.

È fatta proprio per i nostri cuori,
caro Bolaffio.

In quel bel sole, in quella pace,
si sono incontrati i nostri vecchi cuori;
là si sono salutati stasera, allegri.

With Bolàffio
Virgilio Giotti

English translation by Robert Lindsay

Bolaffio and I, face
To face, sitting down
At a table dressed in white

In the middle
Picking up the wineglasses and a bottle nearby
Together we’re talking

Bolaffio is telling me
He would like to draw

A picture of a square in Gorizia
It’s a big hidden square

Nobody is walking through

2 or 3 small houses around
Rose-colored, a small wall
An iron pissoir*
Very old, and the dark shadows
From a couple of trees

It’s around noon
And a man came out
Of that pissoir
Slowly, he buttons up his pants
And he stops himself
No thoughts in his head

In his nice square
We, painters and poets
We feel good here
It was created just for our hearts
Dear Bolaffio

In this nice sunshine, In this
Peace, our old hearts
Have met each other
And tonight
They’re enjoying each other

*pissing place= Vespasiano, where to piss

My friend Paolo describes Giotti’s language as the old “Modern” Triestine Venetian.

1 Comment

Filed under Europe, Italian, Italic, Italo-Celtic, Italo-Celtic-Tocharian, Italy, Language Families, Language Samples, Linguistics, Literature, Poetry, Regional, Reposts From The Old Site, Romance, Venetian

Will Shakespeare Ever Be Equalled?

According to Ralph Waldo Emerson, he was not yet surpassed 150 years ago. Doubt if much has changed since. In glorious prose the likes of which we don’t see much anymore, Emerson lays out precisely what the contenders are up against:

Shakespeare is as much out of the category of eminent authors, as he is out of the crowd. He is inconceivably wise; the others, conceivably. A good reader can, in a sort, nestle into Plato’s brain, and think from thence, but not into Shakespeare’s. We are still out of doors. For executive faculty, for creation, Shakespeare is unique. No man can imagine it better. He was the farthest reach of subtlety compatible with an individual self – the subtlest of authors, and only just within the possibility of authorship.

With this wisdom of life, is the equal endowment of imaginative and of lyric power. He clothed the creatures of his legend with form and sentiments, as if they were people who had lived under his roof; and few real men have left such distinct characters as these fictions. And they spoke in language as sweet as it was fit.

Yet his talents never seduced him into an ostentation, nor did he harp on one string. An omnipresent humanity coordinates all his faculties.

Give a man of talents a story to tell, and his partiality will presently appear. He has certain observations, opinions, topics, which have some accidental prominence, and which he disposes all to exhibit. He crams this part, and starves that other part, consulting not the fitness of the thing, but his fitness and strength.

But Shakespeare has no peculiarity, no importunate topic; but all is duly given; no veins, no curiosities; no cow-painter, no bird-fancier, no mannerist is he: he has no discoverable egotism: the great he tells greatly; the small, subordinately. He is wise without emphasis or assertion; he is strong, as nature is strong, who lifts the land into mountain slopes without effort, and by the same rule as she floats a bubble in the air, and likes as well to do the one as the other.

This makes that equality of power in farce, tragedy, narrative, and love-songs; a merit so incessant, that each reader is incredulous of the perception of other readers.

Whoa! That’s some kickass prose. I didn’t know Emerson could write like that.

He’s right. Shakespeare’s in another world altogether. There’s Shakespeare, and then there’s everyone else.


Emerson, Ralph Waldo. 1850. Representative Men. Boston: Phillips, Sampson and Co.


Filed under Literature, Poetry, Theater, Writing

Writing Is Like Music, Cinema, Painting or Photography

I recently complemented a commenter on the site by telling him he’s a genius. By that, I mean he’s a great writer. He’s also a fine thinker, but the two go together. We have lots of fine thinkers on the board, but not all are great writers too. He’s Korean, and Koreans don’t seem to write English spectacularly. I don’t know why, but they are better in visuospatial than in verbal IQ:

Thanks. I found one of the secrets to writing that is engaging is having a musical awareness. Walk down a street and run a tune through your head. Preferably one that you made up. Then just play with it. Volume, pacing, accelerate, decelerate. And volume is key. Change in volume completely changes the tune. Try it. Try Beethoven’s 5th bahm, bahm, bahm, baaahmm.

Quietly. Done quietly it’s nothing. LOL. So here’s the dramatic conclusion to why Koreans don’t write spectacularly. They are raised to be quiet. It shows in their writing.

And we are not even getting into poetry yet. Sure the best poetry is musical, always has been. That’s why it’s so hard to translate. But so is the best prose. We are talking strictly prose here. How do you translate Finnegans Wake into any language other than English? Where do you even begin?

So when you write, your prose is music. Well, it should be, if your aim is artistic. Or at least that’s one way to write

Of course, the best prose is both music and even visual art like painting. I don’t know if it’s cinematic. And the best prose sings like poetry too. It’s all about the rhythm.

I write musically too, and I also write cinematically or like paintings. I get little pictures in my mind when I writing. They just pop up. Then I look for words to describe the paintings or scenes. Sometimes they are pictures like storyboards for a movie or just a painting or picture or frameshot or photo or other visual image. In other cases, it’s like a scene from a movie. Then I search around for the words to describe the scene I just saw in my mind.

When I was 22, a could of friends read my fiction and said it was like Joyce, “painting pictures with words.” My junior college journalism teacher threw me off the paper for “hallucinating with words.”


Filed under Art, Cinema, Literature, Music, Photography, Poetry, Writing

Forgotten Romantic Poet: Anna Laetitia Barbauld

Anna Laetitia Barbauld was an English poet from the school of Romanticism. She is now largely forgotten, but at the time she was writing, she was one of the most famous authors of the Romantic Era. Sadly, she is now forgotten, but at the time, she was compared to Samuel Johnson and Joseph Addison. She was a professional author at a time when such women were rare.

Her reputation suffered after her time for a variety of reasons, most of which had nothing to do with her ability as an author and had more to do with politics, ego and fads.

Romanticism was a great literary movement.

Eugène Delacroix, Liberty Leading the People (1830). Romanticism!

The Big Six of English language romantic poetry were:

William Blake, William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley and John Keats.

Other great Romantic authors include:

Others included Mary Shelley, Robert Southey, John Clare, George Crabbe, Thomas Hood, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, (England); Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, William Cullen Bryant, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., Edgar Allan Poe (US); Robert Burns, Walter Scott and James Macpherson (Scotland); Aleksandr Pushkin, Mikhail Lermontov (Russia); Ugo Foscolo, Giacomo Leopardi (Italy); Rabindranath Tagore (India); Novalis, Friedrich Hölderlin, Heinrich Heine, Heinrich von Kleist, Clemens Brentano, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Friedrich Schelling (Germany); Adam Mickiewicz (Poland); Almeida Garrett (Portugal); Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset, Charles Baudelaire, Alfred de Vigny, Gérard de Nerval, Stendhal, Leconte de Lisle (France); Álvares de Azevedo, Castro Alves, Gonçalves Dias (Brazil); and Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Rosalía de Castro and Jacint Verdaguer (Spain).

Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818). This great painting captures the spirit of Romanticism perfectly.

The following two excerpts are undated, but they were probably written around 1770-1800 (around the time of the American Revolution).

Title Unknown

But passion’s wild, impetuous sea
Hurries me far from peace and thee
‘T were vain to struggle more.

Thus the poor sailor slumbering lies
While swelling tides around him rise
And push his bark from shore.

In vain he spreads his helpless arms
His pitying friends with fond alarms
In vain deplore his state
Still far and farther from the coast
On the high surge his bark is tost
And foundering yields to fate.


As near a weeping spring reclined
The beauteous Araminta pined
And mourned a false, ungrateful youth
While dying echoes caught the sound
And spread the soft complaints around
Of broken vows and altered truth

An aged shepherd heard her moan
And thus in pity’s kindest tone
Addressed the lost, despairing maid:

“Cease, cease, unhappy fair, to grieve
For sounds, though sweet, can ne’er relieve
A breaking heart by love betrayed.
Why shouldst thou waste such precious showers
That fall like dew on withered flowers
But dying passion ne’er restored?
In Beauty’s empire is no mean,
And woman, either slave or queen,
Is quickly scorned when not adored.
Those liquid pearls from either eye
Which might an Eastern empire buy
Unvalued here and fruitless fall
No art the season can renew
When love was young and Damon true
No tears a wandering heart recall.”

Cease, cease to grieve
thy tears are vain
Should those fair orbs in drops of rain
Vie with a weeping southern sky:
For hearts o’ercome with love and grief
All nature yields but one relief

Die, hapless Arami…


Filed under Literature, Poetry, Women

“What’s Eating Rufus Griswold?” by Alpha Unit

Rufus Griswold is a fascinating character, but hardly anyone has ever heard of him anymore. Most of the events below were happening in the 1830′s and 1840′s. He was part of the Young America movement along with Longfellow, Thoreau, Emerson, Lowell, Bryant and some others. This movement sought to create a real American literature rooted in the continent. Logically, it also sought to break away from Britain.

There was also a big debate about Classics in education at this time. Classics had always been a big part of education in Britain, if not in Europe as a whole. The new American literary crowd sought to do away with or reduce the level of Classical study by US students. Studying the Classics was also an Elitist thing, since the son of your average American worker or farmer could hardly understand Homer or Juvenal. So getting rid of Classics was a way to democratize education.

AU touches on Griswold’s lies about Poe’s character. These lies continued in almost every Poe biography for the next 100 hundred years, but finally historians got the truth mostly sorted out from the fantasies. It’s interesting that Poe’s fans loved these scurrilous and character-assassinating lies, since they made him seem “evil,” and they wanted to see Poe as an evil man, the better to go along with terrifying stories.

The part about mourning his dead wife is incredible. I think he must have set a Guinness world record for Greatest Mourner of all Time.

He was a defamer and character assassin, variously described by contemporaries as a liar, “irritable,” “vindictive,” “an ass.” He was a forger and a cheat. A licensed clergyman who was, by all accounts, as thoroughly un-Christian as they come.

He was Rufus Wilmot Griswold, newspaper editor and literary critic. He adored and detested with a passion. And nothing could excite him more than his intended target’s demise.

Griswold is usually given credit for being one of the first influential people to push the teaching of American poetry alongside English poetry in American schools. He is also usually noted for publicly supporting copyright law at a time it was being considered (his reputation being that he shamelessly stole from other writers).

But if not for his association with the American poet Edgar Allan Poe, no one would probably know or care who he was. It was in his dealings with Poe that he achieved lasting notoriety. Poe’s death became Griswold’s shining moment, in a sense.

Both Griswold and Poe were writers with backgrounds in journalism. Poe submitted poems to Griswold for inclusion in an anthology of American poetry; Griswold included several of them. Poe then arranged to write a review of the anthology.

Poe’s review included some mild criticisms of the book; but even these were evidently too much for Griswold. In addition, Poe expressed his true feelings about the book in private letters. In one, he called it “a most outrageous humbug,” and, in another, he divulged his belief that Griswold’s help in getting the review published was intended as a bribe for a favorable review.

These events were the opening salvo in a war of recriminations between Griswold and Poe, a war that outlasted Poe.

Once Poe was departed, Griswold’s hostility toward him took on a new and almost surreal twist. He pseudonymously published an obituary of Poe that amounted to character assassination. But Griswold was just getting warmed up. He subsequently made the claim – a dubious one, it appears – that he was Poe’s literary executor and was therefore authorized to edit a posthumous collection of Poe’s works, for the supposed benefit of Poe’s survivors.

Poe’s survivors didn’t see any of the profits from the collection. If that wasn’t enough, a third volume included more attacks on Poe. According to one account:

[Griswold] even forged letters from Poe to exaggerate his own role as Poe’s benefactor and to alienate Poe’s friends.

Poe’s choice not to return to the University of Virginia became expulsion for wild and reckless behavior. Poe’s honorable discharge from the army became desertion.

Once again, Poe’s friends came to his defense, but Griswold had done his work well. For every magazine that carried a condemnation of Griswold’s infamy, three repeated his titillating slanders.

Talk about an inability to “let it go.”

There was no escape, apparently, from being the focus of Griswold’s passions, not for Poe, but also not for his first wife, Caroline, who might have elicited more devotion from him in death than she ever had while alive.

Upon being informed that both she and their third child had died not long after delivery, he became the soul of despondency.

Deeply shocked, Griswold traveled by train alongside her coffin, refusing to leave her side for 30 hours. When fellow passengers urged him to try to sleep, he answered by kissing her dead lips and embracing her, his two children crying next to him. He refused to leave the cemetery after her funeral, even after he other mourners had left, until forced to do so by a relative.

Griswold had difficulty believing she had died and often dreamed of their reunion. Forty days after her entombment, he entered her vault, cut off a lock of her hair, kissed her on the forehead and lips, and wept for several hours, staying by her side until a friend found him 30 hours later.

A colorful character, and one who apparently attached some significance to doing something for 30 hours.

One scholar who has documented some of Griswold’s behavior suggests that Griswold was mentally ill. He does come across as obsessive. And those he felt strongly about couldn’t even be the focus of attention upon their deaths.

When I review some of the descriptions of narcissism, it’s very tempting to go through a checklist and say,”Yep – that’s Griswold, all right!” But does diagnosing him really make him any more sympathetic? Isn’t anybody just a good old-fashioned son of a bitch anymore?


Filed under Alpha Unit, American, Culture, Guest Posts, History, Literature, Narcissism, Novel, Personality, Poetry, Psychology, US

Just How Many Poets Are NOT Queer, Anyway?

I’m going back through a lot of poetry these days for some reason, mostly native English language stuff. I find it annoying that so many of these guys were queer! It seems like just about all of my favorite poets were a bunch of queers, or often bisexuals. I mean, I still love these guys and all, but it’s sort of deflating to my image of these dudes.

It’s rather distressing because I like poetry. I went back reading the poets of centuries past and this same fagginess seems to creep up yet, even though back in those days this was a definite no-no. Novelists seem to be less queer, but there’s a fair amount of fagginess there too. Being a novelist is definitely a straighter occupation.

I don’t even want to go into playrights. When I was living in Los Angeles in the early 1980′s, I got into the theater scene a bit, and it was gay as Hell. The guys of course, but quite a few of the women too. You can actually do all right in these scenes if you’re a good-looking, masculine straight guy. The women are a bunch of frustrated fag hag types, often sort of bi, but you know how women are, they say they hate macho guys, but they just can’t resist the bad boy in the scruffed up leather jacket even though they sort of hate him, macho pig that he is.

Anyway, in these scenes, and in Hollywood and places like that in general, you can clean up in you have good game, good looks, or some combination. There are all sorts of single women there who are pretty frustrated. Most of the guys are either married or queer, and there aren’t many single guys to go around. You’re hot property, if you don’t mind being surrounded by hungry queers and bi guys (these latter are everywhere in those gay neighborhoods) lusting after you all the time. Actually, that is pretty annoying right there!

Anyway, brings me back to my original question. What is it about literary writing that turns guys queer, or seems fit mostly for queers? One could argue that writing poems is a pretty faggy thing to do, and that makes sense. It’s not exactly tackle football. But that begs the question of why so many of these literary women, especially the poets, are a bunch of lesbians! I mean, if poetry is feminizing, why aren’t female poets these swaying, coquettish Southern belle types afraid to get their hands dirty?

Either that or just being a poet attracts weirdos and misfits in general, sexual and otherwise. That’s about the only sense I could make of it.

Another thing I noticed is that most all of these guys are depressed. Many were manic-depressive, and alcoholism seems to be epidemic among poets in the last century anyway. Pretty similar with novelists. Lots of depressives, lots of boozers. Many were suicides in one way or another. It’s starting to make me depressed just reading about all these guys.

Why? Is writing depressing? Is depression good for the creative spirit? How could it be, as it’s so enfeebling?

One reason I got into journalism is that journalists are fairly sane types. They had a reputation, at least at city papers, for being squares. Some were sort of eccentrics, but they worked hard, often all night. They drank, but they also worked. They were sort of these hard-bitten types. They were either family men or straight bachelors, but city room journalism isn’t a very faggy job. It’s kind of macho, actually. Check out any old Hollywood movie where they show the newsroom guys.

I still don’t see why you practically have to be queer to be a poet. Poetry is kind of cool. Anyway, it’s a good way to get chicks, cuz a lot of women are romantic, and a lot of them love writers and even poets. At least that’s been my experience anyway. C’mon guys! Crank out those poems! Chicks dig em!


Filed under Depression, Heterosexuality, Homosexuality, Literature, Mental Illness, Mental Patients, Mood Disorders, Novel, Poetry, Psychopathology, Sex, Theater, Vanity, Women