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The Collected Poems of Giorgio Orelli

12 Swiss Books 2016

The collected poems of Giorgio Orelli are now available in a single volume that includes an introduction by Pier Vincenzo Mengaldo as well as the posthumous collection The Edge of Life. The first poems date back to the 1940s, and the last, to 2013, the year of his death. Orelli had a long life, but he was a poet of relatively scant output and he was, above all, very selective. His books show a continuous formal evolution and, at the same time, a tenacious loyalty to his themes and locations. The consistency and overall quality of his work are impressive. Even among the texts he wrote at the age of 90, there are some masterpieces that seem to reach a new level of simplicity and transparency. Orelli’s work is notable for the way in which it discerns and reveals the details of everyday life, giving them an enhanced meaning.

Orelli was also a poet who tackled social issues (a fact well known to politicians, opportunists and other reprobates, against whom his pen “scratched”) and a good storyteller, both in verse and in the short prose pieces that he included in his poetry books. Themes of transience and death are always present in his work, but they appear as shadows and outlines that, however threatening, render the colours of life even brighter. Or they appear as the opposite: like the frenzy of azaleas that concludes his famous poem about the blackbird killed and crushed in the darkness of a tunnel. Orelli is fundamentally a realist poet; he loved day-to-day reality too much to distance himself from it completely, but that did not stop him from writing poems that have aspects of fantasy and fable to them, sometimes even the dreamlike and the metaphysical, because these dimensions are part of our lives as well.

Among his best-known poems, there are encounters on the streets of Bellinzona; adventures that are slight, but still adventures; dialogues composed of a few memorable lines. Orelli’s driving force, that which takes him on his journeys, whether walking or cycling, is language. For him, each encounter is also a linguistic event into which he can introduce the Italian poetic tradition (that of Dante, first and foremost), puns and Freudian slips, the wonderful inventions of children, the sometimes alienating snippets of a foreign language or the telling witticisms of a dialect. All of this coexists in the poetry of Orelli – just as it was embodied in the poet himself – with extraordinary vivacity and naturalness.

TITLE Giorgio Orelli. Tutte le poesie
PUBLISHER Mondadori, Milano
PUBLICATION DATE October 2015
PAGES 480
ISBN 978-88-04-65816-0
TRANSLATION RIGHTS Emanuela Canali, canali@mondadori.it

 

12 Swiss Books 2016

Giorgio Orelli (b. Airolo 1921 – d. Bellinzona 2013) is unanimously considered one of the greatest Italian language poets of the late twentieth century. He also wrote short stories and essays of literary criticism. Anthologies devoted to his poetry have been published in English, German, French and Serbian. Orelli’s example and work have been decisive for the literature of Ticino for the last forty years. PHOTO © AyseYavas/Keystone