After Montale


After three years or so of intermittent work, my versions of thirty poems by the great Italian poet Eugenio Montale are now finished.
When I say they are finished I mean that I am content to let them go into print. It only remains for me to add acknowledgements and contents pages and supply the cover image, which will probably be the one you see above.

I have written about the subject of translation here   before. The introduction to the pamphlet goes some way to explaining my interest, motivations and intensions and I will be sharing  that here at some point. In the meantime here are two poems from ‘After Montale’. I have chosen these two because I have only just finished working on them (they are late additions and are yet to be seen by my editor- so much for ‘finishing’ ) and neither has been published elsewhere. The poem ‘The Big Deal’ seems particularly pertinent to the current political situation in the UK. I have posted both the original Italian and my version of ‘The Kingfisher’ for those who might wish to see both.

The Big Deal

What it was about nobody ever knew.
A rush of blood, an expression of discontent
or the pure embodiment of thoughtlessness.
What was left was illegitimate, uncertain,
neither fish nor fowl.

No one had ever wished these consequences
on them self; only on others.
The situation wasn’t manmade, the declarations
of stray dogs, and those perfect
monsters growling here and there.


Il Re pescatore 

Si ritiene
che il Re dei pescatori non cerchi altro
che anime.

Io ne ho visto più d’uno
portare sulla melma delle gore
lampi di lapislazzulo.

Il suo regno è a misura di millimetro,
la sua freccia imprendibile
dai flash.

Solo il Re pescatore
ha una giusta misura,
gli altri hanno appena un’anima
e la paura
di perderla.



The Kingfisher

Some believe
the Kingfisher searches for nothing
but souls.

I’ve seen more than one
dash the surface of dull water
with a flash of lapis lazuli.

His kingdom is measured in millimetres,
his flight
by an arrow of light.

Only the Kingfisher
has his measurements correct;
others only have a soul
and the fear
of losing it.





  1. The ‘arrow of light ‘ is marvellous, Roy. I look forward eagerly to these! I hope you’ll do readings – with at least some of the poems in Italian, too? Even non-Italian speakers like me will pick up the odd word, patterns, and the music… Very best wishes!


    • Thank you Alison. I think John Lucas will be planning a few readings with two other poets who are launching pamphlets of translations soon so I will definitely let you know where and when these are. Thank you so much, as ever, for your encouragement.


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