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Amelia Rosselli

Born in Paris in 1930, Amelia Rosselli was the daughter of English activist Marion Cave and Carlo Rosselli, a Florentine Jewish intellectual who became a hero and eventually a martyr of the European anti-Fascist Resistance. Rosselli grew up as a refugee between France, England, and the United States. She eventually settled in Rome.

A self-described "poet of research" as well as a translator, musician, and musicologist, she was the author of eight poetry collections, including the Italian volumes Variazioni belliche, published by Garzanti in 1964 with her manifesto on a new prosody and an afterword by Pier Paolo Pasolini, Serie ospedaliera (Mondadori, 1969), and Documento (Garzanti, 1976), the English volume Sleep (Rossi e Spera, 1981; Garzanti, 1992), and Primi scritti: 1952-1963 (Guanda, 1980), containing prose poems and lyrics in Italian, English, and French.

Her prose writings are collected in Diario ottuso (Istituto Bibliografico Napoleone, 1990) and Una scrittura plurale: saggi e interventi critici (Interlinea, 2005). A bilingual edition of her selected poetry and prose, Locomotrix, edited and translated by Jennifer Scappettone, was published in 2012 by University of Chicago Press. Scappettone was awarded the Raiziss/ de Palchi Prize from the Academy of American Poets for her translation.

Rosselli translated several poets, including Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, and is widely considered one of the most important Italian poets of the second half of the twentieth century. Rosselli took her own life at her home in Rome in 1996.

By This Poet


Poem dedicated to Spatola

The sea has white points that I don't know and tempo, so good
it wags good in my embrace, I corrupt sweetly—
and slight it laments the aches at the knee touched to me.
Without spite I remind you of an immense day of joy
but you forget true knowledge. If the night is a
trueful abature I would like again to play with the sweet
belles mister who taught you that giving or the true, is
not true.

Sensing sweet tyranny die I recall you,
eager siren—but the face stripped of a lucid prediction
of other faults and docile submissions promotes idiot
hopes in me.

Grave misfortunes solicit.

The truth is a death entire.

Variations [Excerpt]

The butterfly disclosed in your eyes
for an instant was my joy in being
so sorrowed by your refusal. An instant,
a being—and the wall opens its tetric mission
to the fields. Involving your happy 
mirror in my adoring hands I with-
drew the figure of a hero, and you opened the sky
and the wall to my window. Inside
your figure were mirrors, eternal
paradise, my underwater reverie, subjected
to biting of yours distinct from common
phraseology, winter suntan and illusory sign
of your envy.


    The course of my journey was a delicate flame
of silver, o girlhood that reawakens when
all the ships have lifted anchor! Course of
my girlhood was the river that drilled a silent
mount against a scarlet sky. Thus did the 
dance of death unwind: hours of prayer
and of pomp, the hours entire that break now
upon the bristling journey and damp beach, ice
that moves.


     All the world's a widower if it's true that you walk still
all the world's a widower if it's true! All the world
is true if it is true that you walk still, all the
world's a widower if you do not die! All the world
is mine if it is true that you are not alive but solely
a lantern to my oblique eyes. Blind was I left
by your birth and the consequence of the new day
is naught but night for your distance. Blind I am 
because you walk still! blind I am that you should walk
& the world's a widower & the world is blind if you walk
still seizing my celestial eyes.

Hospital Series [Excerpt]

Severe the threefold sentences. En route with the archipelago we were
swept up by the current, inorganic event, land and sea spit
blood instead. As you split, I stared at myself in the vast 
archipelago that was my mind, very severe, logical,
desperate before so much void: a battle, two, three battles

lost. But the furor of our looks, you lantern
who thought to guide, I routed crank, but the furor
of these two looks of ours blocked: the victory taken for
granted the battle conquered the bandits stronger than us, the union 
of two souls a tarantella.


The unhappy moon bowed down in its lament.

Innocent rivulets, halfempty boats, the mountains' lakes agape
premise that I should be yours, and obedient.


    Your aquarelles discomposed my
mind loquacious for the winterice. With the mess of
spring, storm-tossed ship, I cut footholds still
among the merry-go-rounds colored with cunning: your my
drowned treasure. The paintbrush sweetly shook
in the modesty of a hovel discomposed for the winter
that was a continual cruelty, a sleep of yours hidden
from my prayers, a straying from the railway
that often rather veered toward my head, reclining 
when there was light.

    And the light discomposing itself in equal parts evolved
economical colorations on the map of the railroadman.

    Pallid, enervated, irascible, you warded off swallows
while I painted on, equally enamored of 
nature and of my need.