Arts section editor & writer
Alex Valente is a half-Tuscan / half-Yorkshire freelance translator, teacher, and writer. He is interested in the translation of comics and poetry, translates comics and poetry, writes about comics and poetry and translation. Which are all instruments of progression, like it or not. May or may not be part robot.
(30.03.17) – The Women are Laughing in the Gym
the women are laughing in the gym
on smooth backs words run to the music,
thoughts and dreams on sweaty mats.
solitary machines with white towels sing the intimate exhaustion of a quietness
Original Italian by Caterina Sinibaldi, after Alex Valente’s translation of Andrew McMillan’s ‘the men are weeping in the gym’, ‘le donne ridono in palestra’
(16.03.17) – Not Yet Spring
Spring? It’s still early February
and there is plenty of snow to fall, still:
still plenty of cold to bite.
And yet, now that I consider it
and take a better look around,
the announcement of Spring is not just
on the mouth of the flower seller
left on the corner of the road.
Original Italian by Ada Negri (1870-1945), ‘Non è ancora primavera’
(03.03.17) – The Summer of Stars Less Striking
The summer of stars less striking
encouraged locals and strangers
to hope in a return of ancient climates.
On the yellow grass unstable in the sparse
humours drinks remained half-full
another fuel to have sleepless nights.
Original Italian by Biancamaria Frabotta (1946 – ), ‘L’estate delle stelle…’
(16.02.17) – Review: Kimi No Na Wa, Or, What’s In a Name
A quick preface to the following, which also serves as a way to convince myself that I am … allowed to write about this, rather than the Bologna protests, or the political mess in Rome, or the current turmoil on the Italian left-of-centre party PD, or the upcoming women’s general strike. Those are things at the front of my mind – but I will take this week to find a little glimmer of beauty in a sea of constantly rising anger, instead.
(02.02.17) – Friend Sister Comrade Enemy
Friend sister comrade enemy
for one gesture of yours my pain
could still change and dissolve
at the tip of a mulberry tree
on the sleigh of two planks nailed
by the boy who behind the stable
would caress between our legs with feathers so soft.
Original Italian by Edith Bruck (1932-), ‘Amica sorella compagna nemica’
(19.01.17) – Little Girls Must
little girls must be
with long hair
or short if sweaty
Original Italian by Alessandra Carnaroli (1979-), 'le bambine devono'. Part of Sartoria Utopia’s Calendario Utopico 2017.
(22.12.16) – The Small Things
Original Italian by Azzurra D'Agostino, 'le piccole cose'. Featured in the Calendario Utopico 2017, in May.
I moved back to Prato, Italy, last March. I thought I’d left behind the UK poetry scene, so very different in Italy in so many ways. Then, my own hometown organises a whole series of free events, including poetry nights – and invites Inua Ellams to perform his An Evening with an Immigrant show. Did you really think I wouldn’t attend, notebook in hand?
(06.12.16) – Time to Fucking Stand
Content warning: mentions racism, xenophobia, bigotry, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and the general mess that is 2016.
And so the world has suddenly changed, again, seemingly even louder than before. For a lot of people who claim to be interested in following politics, nationally or internationally, the events of the past month can feel like a shock. We’ve all trying to find someone to blame, someone to accuse, someone to stand in front of us as we look in a mirror, and global media has been having a field-day of think-pieces on the issue. But quite frankly, who cares?
(23.11.16) – From ‘Prayers of the Place of the World’
word, my place in the world,
word who says things,
word who says stories,
who says war and says death,
Original Italian by Francesca Genti (1975–), da 'Preghiere del posto del mondo', in the ‘Ma il mondo, non era di tutti?’ anthology (Marcos Y Marcos)
(10.11.16) – The Tree Clock
You were always really
early for any appointment, made
the whole world seem,
late, the world felt bad
Original Italian by Vivian Lamarque (1946-), ‘l’orologio degli alberi’
(27.10.16) – Interesting People
We are interesting
Our arms are
as are our teeth,
every sign of resistance
shows something interesting.
Original Italian by Laura Accerboni (1985-), from ‘La parte dell’annegato’
(13.10.16) – There’s a Snake in My Boot – Checking in With Italy
It feels like the international landscape of politics is readying itself for some massive shift, in the geological, tectonic plate sense. We’ve had the rightwing rising across European countries, from Hungary to France, via the UK and Austria, to name a few. We have the constant shitshow that is the US presidential election campaign. We have the war stages of Syria, Lybia, Iraq, with Daesh’s fluctuating relevance and interference. We have the stifling of oppositions and minorities across India, Hungary, Turkey. We could go on.
So what is Italy up to, in all this joyous mess? Italy which is, I’ll remind you, the inadvertent (except for all things geographical) front stage for the Mediterranean migration fluxes, one of the minor players in the EU’s whatever-it-is-it’s-doing-right-now, and trying so very hard to stay internationally relevant — as it has been strenuously doing for the past however many years.
(29.09.16) – Travel While Dying
I travel while I was dying and I was
absent or maybe only
alone: still before the last anchor
of the world as homeland of
I travel where the present is consumed
in the black womb of the light, see-through
like the dark waiting for the moon
it’ll come and it doesn’t come and I
Original Italian by Sonia Gentili, ‘Viaggio mentre morivo’
(15.09.16) – The Source
The day when you have only one thought
the sea shivers and the wheat moves the field
everything calls for the return
though the roads have never been this many
to choose but one, clearly
Original Italian by Evelina De Signoribus (1978 – ), ‘La fonte’
(01.09.16) – A Childhood Memory
We built a house on the sand
then we stamped on it.
On its ruins our supreme leader
decreed it was time to go
Original Italian by Maddalena Lotter (1990-), ‘Un ricordo d’infanzia’
(18.08.16) – The Blue of Deletion
which now is blade and shears
flaking wall shadow
Original Italian by Maria Attanasio (1943-), ‘Rosso…’
(05.08.16) – The Cake is Not a Lie – Nerdsphere and Fitness
Content Warning: body issues, body shaming
In recent weeks, people with access to the internet on a regular basis have probably not been able to avoid reading news about a new application for smart phones, featuring a trendy geek icon that never really went away: Pokémon GO. As revealed in a totally legit super serious study by artist Justin Hall on Dorkly, the Niantic game is, in fact, part of a ploy to create superstrong, superbuff supernerds. True story.
(21.07.16) – That He Was Real
– They say nothing is real –
I make up a language
because I’m embarrassed
Original Italian by Margherita Rimi (1957-), 'Che c'era vero'
(07.07.16) – Criterion
From the closed recesses of a star
you ask me the real portion
of the clothed hypothesis
you cannot imagine
you do not know the rustle
of the river undivided by an ethos
Original Italian by Selenia Bellavia, ‘Criterio’
(23.06.16) – First Love, Of Course
It was love, but we didn’t notice
none of us knew
years have passed
for us to forget everything, the breathing and all the rest
we’ve thrown out those t-shirts
summers and summers ago
maybe even the following year;
that night we watched the stars
who said wishes are lonely?
Original Italian by Valentina Pinza (1982-), 'Primo amore, naturalmente'
(06.06.16) – Maybe Tuesday
They come, small line of dromedaries
in the desert. Thirsty words
lined up, also tied up
one to the other. One line
seemingly obedient. Consenting.
Original Italian by Ginevra Lilli (1972-), 'Magari martedì'
(26.05.16) – From ‘On Living’
From the following academic day Penelope
drags on her face a pale-sided sun
and, to one side, unravels, extraordinarily powerful
backwards, tightly wrapped up in
cellophane, for the nights to come, the great labour
Original Italian by Martina Campi (1978-), from Sull'abitare
(12.05.16) – 5 Reasons Why Italy Confuses the $#!t Out of Me
Italy. Land of saints, poets, and sailors, but also of pizza, mafia, and mandolins. Italy. One of the most beautifully received countries in the world, but also one of the most corrupt, even according to its own population. Italy. The country that somehow voted for Silvio Berlusconi more than once since 1992. The country that for some reason hosts the Vatican since 1929. My country of birth, and the country I have moved back to after eight years in the UK.
Italy still confuses the *insert passionate hand gesture here* out of me.
(28.04.16) – Beauty
Look, everything returns, even the markings on the wall
and behind the bushes the eyes of our heavens
without a reason to be tend towards a return,
they return not to forget, how much each
and every one finds their own pleasure – adspice:
Original Italian by Rosita Copioli (1948-), 'Beltà'
(14.04.16) – Now
we are the word, the movement
the undertow and the tree’s crown.
Room, street corner,
Original Italian by Elisabetta Destasio (1968 - ), 'Ora'
(31.03.16) – of the world
you lower your head to cross the doorway and beyond the threshold the world breathes
with vision, a restless wave that carries the smell of houses, damp,
rust, ashes, petrol, ages that vortex towards dusk
Original Italian by Maria Luisa Vezzali (1964 – ), ‘del mondo’
(22.03.16) – An Ordinary Day
In the match
between what we call good
and we despise as evil
today a bomb will make noise
smoke will assault the eyes
scattering shards on screens
a woman’s tears
will stand still
Original Italian by Alessandra Racca (1979-), ‘Un giorno qualunque’
(17.03.16) – Its a Language Fing
Unless you’re an internet native, have dyslexia, or just didn’t read it, the title of this piece is probably irritating you to no end right about now. It took me a while to intentionally write ‘wrong’. I do not apologise.
I was having a conversation with an ex-student and friend a couple of weeks ago, about how language is being dealt with by certain university courses, and we stumbled over some of the commentary brought about by Nietzsche and Cixous. The points, respectively, boil down to: we use language to create truths that underpin our concept of reality; that reality is predominantly, and prescriptively, structured — mostly in a kyriarchal way. While I am not disagreeing entirely, the danger is to view language as more of an abstract entity than what it really is.
(03.03.16) – Venice, Again
and the taste of your distant steps.
Water sliding over waves of words,
telling each other of dreams and struggles.
Original Italian by Verusca Costenaro (1974 - ), 'E Ancora Venezia'
(18.02.16) – Of The Stomach
of the stomach
is a fist in your throat,
Original Italian by Valentina Ferrari (1991 -), ‘Dello stomaco’
(04.02.16) – Comics, A Progressive Medium
Repeat after me: comics is a medium, not a genre. Good? Good. Let’s start from there. Comics is (yes, plural noun, singular verb) a medium. As such, it has the power to channel ideologies, reflect society, provoke ripples in current trends, generate new ones, validate certain opinions, undermine others, and most of all — it influences a gigantic audience, it creates a dialogue between readers and authors.
Sometimes that dialogue is out of sync. Sometimes a side shouts louder than others. Sometimes it falls short of everyone’s expectations and hopes. And sometimes, really good things happen, and excellent conversations take place.
(21.01.16) – What People Think
‘It’s a wordy problem
even not being able to say
not being able to explain
explain your words
to those listening.’
Original Italian by Manuela Dago (1978-), 'Cosa pensa la gente'
(07.01.16) – Black’n’Beautiful
And they call me
Original Italian by Ribka Sibhatu (1962-), 'So bella nera'
(24.12.15) – A Whatever Rambling Moment
A whatever rambling moment
which, by the way, they decided to call free internal discourse or interior monologue or stream of consciousness.
There must be – I just wrote mustard instead of must be and noticed it right away – some sort of difference dammit, I mean I’m sure there is but the essence at the end of the day is the same: they’re all ramblings.
Original Italian by Leyla Khalil (1991-), 'Un attimo qualsiasi di sproloquio'
(10.12.15) – The Dark Side of the Force
Star Wars. One of the biggest franchises not only in its field, but spanning a multimedia galaxy, has now become even larger after being acquired by Disney. Ranging from books to comics, toys to videogames, music to clothing, costumes, and theme parks. Drawing in accolades, from die-hard fans to casual viewers, from across the world. Star Wars. One of the most impactful, politically muddled, and bizarrely misguided products – and symbols – of Western media.
It was inevitable. As a self-professed nerd, casual toy collector, avid comics-reader, in the presence of one of the biggest releases in cinematographic history about to hit screens worldwide, I could not not dedicate an article to Star Wars. As a Norwich Radical writer, on the other, I also cannot not recognise the immense (infinite?) power and sway the franchise holds, in popular and consumer culture. Just how much of it is really looking forward, and how much is stuck in A Long Time Ago..?
(26.11.15) – Constellations
Coppering of stars, gold
illuminated designs, visible flashing
vanguards of a thousand million invisibiles,
sigils of a space that’s close and signs
of remote spaces
Original Italian by Gilda Musa (1922-1999), ‘Costellazioni’
(12.11.15) – Shelter
She was running to shelter, covering her head.
She belonged to a tired image
not dissimilar from any other woman
surprised by sudden rain.
Original Italian by Antonella Anedda (1955-), from Notti di pace Occidentale.
(29.10.15) – Deep Discomfort
Poems are not mats
on which to lie and catch some sun
and say It makes me think, how lovely!
that it really is like this.
Original Italian by Valentina Diana (1968-), from Bastarde Senza Gloria
(16.10.15) – The Horrors of Horror
‘In the beginning, there were giant evil gods. Then we arrived, and started telling stories of things that go bump in the dark, of what lies between the cracks, of what lurks under the bed. Fears began to take shapes, looking more like tales of caution and of danger. They took the shape of bogeymen and chainsaw wielding killers, nightmare creatures and monsters from the deep. Afraid of sexuality? Vampires, werefolk and secluded cabins will tell you not to. Alcohol and drugs also covered. Religious terrors? We have possessions, exorcists, ghosts and devils aplenty. Coulrophobia, arachnophobia, nyctophobia? Here’s a clown-looking spider that waits for you at night.
Whatever new things we discover scare us, we create a monster for them. We try to impose order, and keep it under control. We give it a recognisable, if unsettling and still scary, frame. Then, at some point, we pushed too far.’
(30.09.15) – Invective Against Autumnal Displays in Summer
Jackets in August
coloured, behind the glass
reminding me that soon
summer will be over
You’re so cute,
Original Italian by Alessandra Racca (1979-), from Bastarde Senza Gloria
(17.09.15) – Facing Forward – Colle Massenzio
‘The wind is always here in this place this time of year.
Maybe you depend on traditions like this one –
the points you connect collect the space
and you breathe. And you admire it,
you compare it to the sky triumphing
at the immeasurable height of its arches.’
Original Italian by Silvia Bre (1952-), ‘Colle di Massenzio – Prospettiva frontale’.
(03.09.15) – of the infertile voice
‘So I want to be like the rowan among the larch and the firs
covered by infinite snow. Layered by white
embraces, irreparable sluice of cold reason.’
Original Italian by Roberta Dapunt (1970-), from ‘Le beatitudini della malattia’.
(20.08.15) – It’s Not All Good, Fellas
‘You’re finally at university. In the first couple of weeks, you meet up with new flatmates and friends to play a game. Someone suggests yet another drinking game. Someone else mentions wink murder. Then you go for one in which everyone plays to win over the other team without knowing who belongs to which: will you be the uninformed majority, a simple civilian, or are you the informed minority – a mafioso?
Or, perhaps, your group decides to start an activity together. Maybe it’s an unofficial running team. Maybe it’s a reading group. Maybe it’s something else entirely. But it doesn’t matter. You’re the team. You’re the squad. You’re the mafia. Because the Mafia is cool. I mean, we know it’s a bad thing, of course. But they looked cool doing it. There’s organisation, and loyalty. There’s no harm in just using the word. Right…?’
(06.08.15) – Space Space I Crave
Space space I crave, all the space
to sweetly move, wounded;
I crave space to sing to grow
fall and leap across the ditch
of divine wisdom.
Original Italian by Alda Merini (1931-2009), from ‘Vuoto d’amore’
(23.07.15) – The Sky Still Holds Us
The sky still holds us
does not expel from its rotation
this round home of ours
and we reach the final ledge
with light articulated by stars
no longer looked at if not to call
Original Italian by Mariangela Gualtieri (1951-), from ‘Naturale Sconosciuto’
(09.07.15) – Transonnet XIV
I have no one but me, I am no other,
body of mine appealing to reason,
not to the plural echo of this hour,
nor to the promise of processing.
Original Italian by Loredana Magazzeni (1957-), from Transonetti ‘XIV’
‘The year is 2015: Ali Smith’s How to Be Both wins the Bailey’s Women Prize for Fiction. Malorie Blackman concludes her extraordinary term as Children’s Laureate. The Nebula Awards feature women in all but one entry. The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize is awarded to author/translator team Jenny Erpenbeck and Susan Bernofsky for The End of Days. 40 nominations for the Eisner Awards are women, ranging from writers to editors, colourists to pencillers, inkers and letterers.’
(14.06.15) – Fake Identity
Sooner or later someone finds out:
I am already dead
though alive. It is a stranger’s face
offered beneath the hair
suddenly pulled back,
the shadow behind the curtains
Original Italian by Fernanda Romagnoli (1916-1986), ‘Falsa identità’.
(28.05.15) – Go-fuckitis
The go-fuck-itselfness of a life
of relais-relax, really quite quiet
when it wants to squirrel away
calmly ticking like a Rolex.
Original Italian by Anna Lamberti Bocconi (1961-), ‘L’affanculite’.
(14.05.15) – Bitterness
A bitterness without word:
but absinthe and bile and venom
every bitter thing, from my bosom
gurgling to my throat stirred.
Original Italian by Amalia Guglielminetti (1881-1941), ‘Un’amarezza’.
(03.05.15) – Signal Boost: Can Translation be Radical?
This conversation starts in Norwich. The fault is mine, of course, as I start doubting my place within the Norwich Radical, and the role that I, as a translator of poetry, could possibly play in a radical, progressive, critical publication. Enter Cadi Cliff, editor and co-founder, green radical, and a mountain range of humanity.
This conversation, then, is a dialogue of sorts; a voicing of those doubts, translator to editor, reader to reader, uncertain radical to radical, on the place of translation, and poetry, within these virtual walls.
(30.04.15) – Country of love
And I, here to take in the old land
beauty and love call to me.
Lost souls find refuge here
– spirits parched for truth,
violated by the lies of history.
Original Italian by Grażyna Miller (1957-2009), ‘Paese d’amore’.
(16.04.15) – To my child-teachers
I keep your walking
glue each step to the ground
for you I wake up
draw my face
beneath fingers and water
Original Italian by Chandra Livia Candiani (1952 -), ‘Ai miei maestri-bambini’
(02.04.15) – Spring
Winter had even refreshed
the colour of rocks. Descending from mountains,
silver veins, a thousand silent rivulets,
Original Italian by Grazia Deledda (1871-1936), ‘La primavera'
(19.03.15) – The Mountains
Like immense women taking over the evening:
stone hands folded on their chest
they stare at crossroads, silent
in the endless hope of returns.
Original Italian ‘Le Montagne’, by Antonia Pozzi (1912-1938)
(05.03.15) – casual declension
Had I read better,
between the folds of chances
the cuneiform tract of the Sybil…
Original Italian by Eleonora Pinzuti (1973 – ), ‘declinazione casuale
(20.02.15) – If You Now Came To Knock At My Door
If you now came to knock at my door
and took off your glasses
and I took off mine which are the same
and then you entered my mouth
Original Italian by Patrizia Cavalli (1947 – ), ‘Se ora tu bussassi alla mia porta’
(17.02.15) – Be Non-Compliant – A Bitch Planet Review
‘In February, the Image Comics/Milkfed Criminal Masterminds Inc. series Bitch Planet reaches its third issue in an ongoing series (tentatively, out of 30). Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly), drawn by Valentine De Landro (X-Factor), coloured by Cris Peter and lettered by Clayton Cowles, the book features a wonderful design by Rian Hughes (covers and title) and Lauren McCubbin (backmatter) and is tightly edited by Lauren Sankovitch. There will be no invisible labour here.’
(05.02.15) – This Poem is Called
the gutter punk blue.
it’s for you.
and it behaves badly.
Original Italian by Francesca Genti (1975 – ), ‘Questa Poesia si Intitola’
(22.01.15) We’ll Die Apart
We’ll die apart. It’ll be much
if I rest my cheek in our palm
for New Year’s; if in my own
you will trace another migration
Original Italian ‘Moriremo lontani’, by Cristina Campo (1923-1977)
(13.01.15) – Why I Teach (the Humanities)
‘This is not another defence of the Humanities as a subject worthy of study, funding, support.
This is not a defence of creative writing as a subject worthy of teaching, practising, support.
This is not a way to convince myself that teaching English Literature at a higher education institution in the UK is a career worth pursuing. Though maybe it is, maybe it is all of those.
This is not, in any way, a researched piece. The editors have allowed me to voice my thoughts on the matter because I wanted to say something about it.’
(08.01.15) – Come.
Come, come in and pluck me, pick me, try me…
squeeze me free me tease me…
stoke me code me renew me.
Increase… decrease… lose me.
Original Italian by Patrizia Valduga (1953-), ‘Vieni, entra e coglimi’
(23.12.14) – I am two.
I am two
it’s clear now
I am two plus one
minus one makes two
for I am twice
born and twice dead
Original Italian by Dacia Maraini (1936 – ), from ‘Viaggiando con Passo di Volpe’ (1991).
(02.12.14) – Revolt.
You made me into something dull
a petrified forest
one who cannot cry
for undone motherhoods.
Original Italian by Alda Merini (1931-2009), from ‘La Terra Santa’.
(13.11.14) – A comet, they said.
They said it was a comet
smashing into the hardness of Earth
that brought water to the rocks
of our planet.
Original Italian by Mariangela Gualtieri (1951 -), from ‘Naturale Sconosciuto’.
(01.11.14) – Puppeteer.
am a puppeteer
and do shows with two puppets only
her and her
Original Italian by Jolanda Insana (1937-)
(06.10.14) – Migration.
The impact will be
of a specific wound, hiding
the enigma – it’ll melt in airy
migration of a blood cloud
Original Italian by Carla Lonzi (1931-82)
(14.09.14) – War-Blinded.
Tall and serious, his brow stark
his face towards the wide sea…
But the eyes now dark
speak of a bitter history.
Original Italian by Virgilia D’Andrea (1888 – 1933)
(10.08.13) – Impatient of the Fewest Words.
«Impatient of the fewest words»
(dialogue between Emily and Paul*)
Standing, on the threshold
my eye in your
hand, your tongue
on my ear:
this is how we meet,
through touch, because
our pupil is stretched
by the effort, our tastebuds
Original Italian by Elisa Biagini (1970 – )
(30.07.14) – Sister friend whore.
As a painter hungry for beauty
I walk every street
And at sunset
I stop at the corners of the world
And paint your life
Original Italian by Paula Schöpf/Bloom (Sinti poet, 1953 – )
(08.07.14) – End of the Line.
The Sinti story has ended
The violins go quiet
The guitars have lost their voice
Young women no longer dancing
They have no more feet to dance
The fires have died
The night is cold
The mist has melted the Sinti hearts
Original Italian by Paula Schöpf/Bloom (Sinti poet, 1953 – )
(24.06.14) – Sonnet 208.
Love has made me so I live in fire,
a salamander, queen of her domain,
or that creature of similar vein
who born in flames, then in flames retire.
Original Italian by Gaspara Stampa - 1523-1554.
(09.06.14) – Woman in the World’s Tomorrow
I am pregnant with you,
woman who’ll live in the world’s tomorrow.
Original Italian by Sibilla Aleramo, ‘Donna nel domani del mondo’.