poetry > spring 2016

Da Mottetti

Eugenio Montale

Lo sai: debbo riperderti e non posso. 
Come un tiro aggiustato mi sommuove
ogni opera, ogni grido e anche lo spiro
salino che straripa
dai moli e fa l’oscura primavera
di Sottoripa.
   Paese di ferrame e alberature
   a selva nella polvere del vespro.
   Un ronzio lungo viene dall’aperto,
   strazia com’unghia ai vetri. Cerco il segno
   smarrito, il pegno solo ch’ebbi in grazia
   da te. 
              E l’inferno è certo.


translated from Italian by Michaela Kotziers

You know: I will lose you again, 
and cannot. 
Each word spoken, thought, 
or unthought,
every sputtering of mind into one
foot in front
of the other, crystallizes, waiting
to crackle
over the wharves like the ocean salt
that bruises the patterns of spring.

A forest of ironwork, 
ships steeped in dusk.
That ever-present drone
drags in from somewhere
already lost, 
dancing like a nail over glass.
I’m still searching for your sign,
yours that is gone,
yours that was you.
        And hell
        is coming loose.

Translator's Note

Eugenio Montale was born in Genoa, Italy in 1896.  He is associated with the “Hermetic” poetry movement—one marked by and at times criticized for the volume of emotion and inexplicable concepts. Montale was also a part of the Dolce stil Novo (sweet new style), dedicated to distilling the beauty in absence and longing.  Mine is a translation of the first poem of Montale’s series, Da Mottetti. The form is evidently different, and the first stanza’s changes were an effort to linger on the hesitations that inevitably follow loss. The second stanza focuses more heavily on “you” in an attempt at conveying absence without solitude, which I believe Montale was after in Da Mottetti.  Overall it is more of a molding of the original than a literal translation.

MICHAELA KOTZIERS is a junior studying English Literature and German at Penn. She began writing poetry in her first year of college and has since taken interest in translation, especially that of Old English poetry and with experiments in form.