Giulia Rupi and John Sherer on translating Filippo Vignali

Giulia Rupi and John Sherer

on translating Filippo Vignali

Filippo Vignali’s poems hark back to the poetica del fanciullino, the “poetics of the child,” as described by the Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli. In this tradition, fragility, innocence, and vulnerability are the keys that open many doors, teaching us to be our truest selves and to feel unreservedly all things good and bad. These characteristics allow us to be more aware of the world around us, to open our eyes and see reality anew; we are called to use our intuition instead of our so-called mature, rational faculties.

The poems in Vignali’s book Le conseguenze dell’infanzia (Childhood Consequences) engage with childhood experiences never for the sake of mere nostalgia, but in order to investigate the radical possibilities of innocence. In these poems, innocence is not a beginning state from which one emerges, but instead a quality that one achieves through trial and difficulty: “Innocence can be built, / polished to a crystal’s purity; it can be young or old / as long as enough venom has been tasted.” Youth is a source of wisdom, a wisdom rekindled in the thoughts of a retrospective adult. And that’s as it should be, for adults — too often inured to apathy — are the ones in need of such wisdom.

In translating these poems, we chose clarity of voice over a stimulating reading experience. Vignali uses little punctuation — less confusing in Italian than in English; Italian grammar contains many structural cues that alert readers to which verbs and nouns go together, what adjectives are describing which nouns, and so on. These cues are less abundant in English, so translating the poems with a similar lack of punctuation risks puzzling the reader, and would offer only a superficially similar reading experience.

about the author

Born in 1973, Filippo Vignali lives in Rimini, Italy. He has cowritten a biography of the boxer Loris Stecca with Renzo Semprini Cesari and has written two novels: Piccolo mondo (2017) and Il presente di ricordare (2020). His collection of poems, Le conseguenze dell’infanzia, was published in 2018.

about the translator

Giulia Rupi is from Rimini, Italy, and graduated with a master’s degree from the School of Foreign Languages and Cultures at the University of Bologna. She currently lives in Madrid, where she teaches Italian and English and translates into English, Italian, and Spanish.

John Sherer is a writer based in Brooklyn. His poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in The Point, Hot Metal Bridge, Botticelli Magazine, Hyperallergic, and Gulf Coast. He is the poetry editor of the Festival Review.

photo by a DoubleSpeak staffer