Three Micropoems from Dimenticatoio

translated by Jamie McKendrick

The Mothers

Far from being goddesses or sibyls:
the poor mothers
suffering from migraines
crushed by the heart’s servitude.


Dear Life

Dear life,
you chose colourless places,
anonymous hours,
the tritest occasions.
You chose the wrong companions.



It takes genius to make a language,
to draw nails out with your teeth.


Translations from the Italian
By Jamie McKendrick

Leonardo Sinisgalli (1908–81) was an Italian poet and art critic active from the 1930s to the 1970s. He was born in Montemurro, Basilicata, and studied engineering and mathematics in Rome. After completing his engineering degree in 1932, he moved to Milan where he worked as an architect and graphic artist. He was a close friend of the poet Giuseppe Ungaretti and painter Scipione. He worked on architecture and graphic-design projects in Milan. Sinisgalli's writing focused on themes from ancenstral southern Italian myths, the conflicts of existentialism and realism, and the scientific culture of the day. Sinisgalli founded and managed the magazine Civiltà delle Macchine (1953–59). He also created two documentaries that consecutively won awards at the Biennale di Venezia and edited radio broadcasting programs. He died in Rome in 1981. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

Jamie McKendrick has published five books of poetry, most recently Crocodiles and Obelisks (2008). He edited The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems, and his translation of Valerio Magrelli's poems, The Embrace (2009; released in the US under the title Vanishing Points), won the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize and the John Florio Prize. His previous translations published in WLT include Magrelli's "The Duck-Hare Individual" (November 2009) and Antonella Anedda's "Archipelago (a collapse)" (July 2011).