Sandro Penna, solitary and unconventional poet

Sandro Penna and Pier Paolo Pasolini

21 January marks the anniversary of his death. The Perugian Sandro Penna spent most of his life in the Caput Mundi, in Rome he juggled various jobs. He lived a solitary and quiet life, far from the clamour of the world.

In memory of the man and poet Penna, I have chosen ‘Mi nasconda la notte’ from his poems

Mi nasconda la notte e il dolce vento.
Da casa mia cacciato e a te venuto
mio romantico amico fiume lento.Guardo il cielo e le nuvole e le luci
degli uomini laggiù così lontani
sempre da me. Ed io non so chi voglio
amare ormai se non il mio dolore.La luna si nasconde e poi riappare
— lenta vicenda inutilmente mossa
sovra il mio capo stanco di guardare.
Hide me the night and the sweet wind.
From my home banished and to you come
My romantic friend slow river.
I look at the sky and the clouds and the lights
Of the men there so far away
always from me. And I do not know who I want
To love now but my pain.
The moon hides and then reappears
– Slowly moving uselessly
Over my head tired of looking.

In the grip of a state of agitation mixed with a sense of loneliness, the poet leaves the house and in the middle of the night plunges into nature, begins to walk along the riverbank, observes the sky, the clouds, the moon, and in the distance the lights that animate the houses.
Sandro Penna’s lyrical style contrasts with hermeticism, and it is no coincidence that Pier Paolo Pasolini counts him among the ‘anti-nineteenth-century’ poets. Whereas hermeticists believe that poetry is all the higher the further it departs from common language and, therefore, from the collective way of seeing and feeling, Sandro Penna uses a simple, clear, musical vocabulary, free of symbolism and easy to understand. His poems are often short, composed of just a few lines, which stylistically respect traditional metrical forms.

The common thread running through Penna’s poetry and life is the feeling of love, a homosexual love that, sometimes alluded to and sometimes explicitly, peeps out between the lines of his lyrics: ‘Always children in my poems! / But I do not know how to speak of other things. / The other things are all boring. I cannot sing you pious works.” The poet made no secret of his homosexuality, the use of a non-hermetic language to address delicate and for the time still transgressive themes is decidedly deliberate, as if to testify to his stylistic signature.

Sandro Penna, Poems, Mi nasconda la notte
Raccolta Strangzze, Sempre fanciulli nelle mie poesie!

Translated with Translator

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