Salvatore Quasimodo and the Tragic Sensibility

Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.” – Salvatore Quasimodo, Italian poet and essayist. Quasimodo won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1959 “for his lyrical poetry, which with classical fire expresses the tragic experience of life in our own times.”

Some quotes from Salvatore Quasimodo:

“Religious power, which, as I have already said, frequently identifies itself with political power, has always been a protagonist of this bitter struggle, even when it seemingly was neutral.”
“The antagonism between the poet and the politician has generally been evident in all cultures.”
“The poet does not fear death, not because he believes in the fantasy of heroes, but because death constantly visits his thoughts and is thus an image of a serene dialogue.”
“We wrote verses that condemned us, with no hope of pardon, to the most bitter solitude.”

And a poem:

“Street in Agrigentum”

There a wind remains that I recall afire
within the manes of horses as they slanted
their way across the planes, a wind that chafes
the sandstone and erodes the very hearts
of derelict caryatids cast down
Onto the grass. Soul of antiquity
Gone gray with age and rage, turn back and lean
into that wind, breathe of the delicate moss
clothing those giants tumbled out of heaven.
How lonely what is left to you must be!
And worse: to break your heart to hear once more
that sound resound and dwindle out to sea
where Hesperus already streaks the dawn:
a sad jew’s-harp reverberating through
the throat of that lone cartman as he slowly
ascends his moon-cleansed hill again through dark
murmurings of the Moorish olive trees.

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