Anna Aresi on translating Valerio Grutt

Anna Aresi

on translating Valerio Grutt

These poems are excerpted from Dammi tue notizie e un bacio a tutti (Send Me Your News and Kisses to All), a raw and earnest collection in which the poet journeys through the death of his mother, Giulia, who died from cancer after a brief but fierce battle. Mother and son are warriors who, lightsabers in hand, fight against the incurable illness. The poet courageously explores the feelings provoked by this suffering, unafraid to name and experience even the most heartbreaking of them. The book, however, doesn’t speak only of grief and pain, but also of profound love, ardent hope, and eventually even a kind of happiness that, while not dismissing the pain of loss, reconciles it within life.

Firmly grounded in the grassroot origins of his poetic and artistic upbringing in anarchist and counterculture circles, Grutt brings together elements from Italian folk culture with echoes of Italy’s high poetic tradition of, for instance, Eugenio Montale. In his peculiar, down-to-earth yet highly lyrical style, Grutt does not shy away from exploring all corners of reality and human experience.

This collection is very close to me, because when I first read it I had recently discovered that I was pregnant with my second child. For the first time in my life when reading a book — this book — I identified with the mother rather than the child. Whenever the poet called out to his mother, I was the person being called, not the caller. That’s why I chose to keep the invocations in Italian; I felt that the sense of emotional urgency they convey would be weakened if translated into English. Moreover, while it is common for English speakers to use “I love you” both for parental and romantic relations, “ti amo” is generally used between lovers, and its use here for his mother heightens the intensity of the poet’s love. This book played such a crucial role in the development of my identity as a mother, woman, and human being, that I stayed with these poems and mulled over translations of them in my head for the following three years. As often happens, translating the text was a way of metabolizing the poetic experience, making it my own so that I could in turn offer it to English readers.

about the author

Valerio Grutt is an Italian poet, musician, and visual artist. An anarchist at heart and eclectic by nature, he has experimented with a vast range of expressions involving words, music, and rhythm, from hip hop to copywriting to explorations of the healing powers of poetry. After a brief stint as the director of the University of Bologna’s Center for Contemporary Poetry (2013 to 2016), he has returned to a life of vagabond quests: “I am someone who is constantly searching, writing, creating... I do not want limits or borders; I am a stray dog with a f*cking zest for life.” (translated from Italian)

about the translator

Anna Aresi is an Italian translator and educator based in Rhode Island. She has translated poetry by English writing authors, such as Ewa Chrusciel, Forrest Gander, and Ilya Kaminsky into Italian, and poems by Edoardo Olmi, Mariangela Gualtieri, and Laura Corraducci into English. She occasionally translates from Russian too, and in 2021 was among the winners of the All-Russia State Library for Foreign Literature and The Institute for Literary Translation “Writers of the Silver Age about War” translation contest, with a poem by Anna Akhmatova.