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Vagabond book reviews

Collected Poems 1920–1954

by Eugenio Montale
translated by translated and annotated by Jonathan Galassi

Collected Poems 1920–1954 cover

I walk all the way to Italy and backwards in time to meet Montale. He pans the landscape as we survey the lemon orchard, the canebrake, the ivy with her corymbs. I notice the dust on my shoes no longer seems real. There are whispers of love and I remember myself falling. Maybe this is why we delight in a magician’s sleight of hand; it confirms our suspicions that things are rarely as they appear.

– CL

What you knew of me
was only a coat of white,
the tunic that veils
our human fate.

And maybe behind the canvas
was the still blue;
only a seal closed out
the limpid sky.

Or there was the outrageous
transformation in me,
revealing a glowing clod
of earth I’ll never see.

So this husk remained
my veritable substance;
the fire isn’t quenched
for me was called: ignorance.

If you see a shadow
it’s no shadow—it’s me.
If only I could tear it off
and offer it to you.

– from Cuttlefish Bones

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