Ardengo Soffici
Translated from the Italian by Olivia E. Sears

Dip 7 brushes into your heart that was 36 years old yesterday April 7thAnd touch up that face worn down by the passing seasonsYou’ve ridden life like a nickel-plated carousel mermaidWhirlingFrom city to city from philosophy to frenzyFrom love to passion from royalty to povertyThere isn’t a church movie theater newsroom or bar that you don’t knowYou’ve slept in every family’s bedThere should be a carnivalOf all the sorrowsForgotten along with umbrellas in the cafés of EuropeGone in a cloud of smoke with handkerchiefs in the sleeping cars of express trainsheading north or southCountries hoursThere are voices that follow you everywhere like the moon or a dogBut also the whistle of a smokestackThat mixes up the colors of the morningAnd of dreamsNo, you won’t forget the fragrance of certain nights drowned in armpits of topazThese cold narcissus that I keep on the table by the inkwellWere painted on the walls of Room 19 of the Hôtel des Anglais in RouenA train was rambling along the quay late at nightBeneath our windowBeheading the reflections of multicolored lanternsAmong casks of Sicilian wineAnd the Seine was a garden of blazing flagsThere is no more timeSpaceIs a twilight worm coiled in a drop of phosphorusEverything is presentJust as in 1902 you’re in a garret in ParisSheltered by 35 square centimeters of skyMelting across the glass of the skylightLa Ville offers you again each morningThe flowering bouquet of Square de ClunyFrom Boulevard Saint-Germain bursting with trams and busesThe evening arrives with the hoarse cry of the paperboyOn Rue de la HarpePari-cûrses             L’Intransigeant              La PresseThe shoe store Chaussures Raoul still rivals the starsAnd I rub my hands stained with the liquors of sunsetLike that time I thought about suicide near Rigoletto’s houseYes my friendThe fortunate man knows how to live with uncertainty like the flowersLook at that gentleman strolling pastAs he lights his cigar proud of his manly vigorRestored by the page-four spreads in the daily papersOr that cavalryman galloping through the indigo darkness of his barracksA sprig of lilac between his teethEternity shines in the flight of a houseflyPlace the colors of your eyes side by sideAnd draw your own arcHistory is as fleeting as a nod at the train stationAnd the tricolor automobile of the sun keeps breaking its own record pointlessly amid the used machinery of the cosmosYou remember along with a kiss planted in darknessThe window of a German bookshop in Avenue de l’OpéraAnd the goat grazing on yellow broomAmong the ruined stairs of the palace of Darius at PersepolisYou need only look aroundAnd write as you dreamTo revive the face of our joyI remember all the climates that caressed my skin like a loverAll the countries and culturesShining on my desireSnowsYellow seasGongsCaravansCarmine of Bombay burnt gold of IranWhose hieroglyph I carry on this black wingSunflower soul the phenomenon converges here in the center of this danceBut the most beautiful song is still that of the naked sensesSilence music of the southHere and in the world circular poetryToday marries alwaysIn the crown of the rising rainbowI sit at my table and I smoke and stareA young leaf is trilling in the garden before meWhite doves flutter through the air like love letters thrown from the windowI know the symbol the code the electricalConnectionThe attraction of faraway thingsBut we’ll need fruit and lights and crowdsTo festoon this Easter with miraclesThe day sinks into the scarlet basin of summerAnd there are no more wordsFor that bridge of fire and jewelsYouth you’ll pass like the end of every playTant pis           Never mind        I’ll make myself a magnificent suit out of old posters

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Ardengo Soffici (1879-1964) was an Italian painter, poet, and art critic associated with Florentine Futurism. Years spent in Parisian artistic circles spurred Soffici to champion an artistic renewal in Italy, introducing French impressionism and cubism and a vibrant magazine culture.

Olivia E. Sears is founder of the Center for the Art of Translation and the journal Two Lines, which she edited for more than a decade. As a translator of Italian poetry, her work has appeared in Hyperallergic, Kenyon Review, Poetry International, Lana Turner, The Literary Review, The Arkansas Review, and Jubilat as well as The FSG Book of Twentieth Century Italian Poetry. The majority of Sears’s translations focus on poetry by Italian women from the past 100 years, from early twentieth-century Dada poet Maria d’Arezzo to the 1960s and 70s avant-garde poet Patrizia Vicinelli to contemporary poet and dramatist Mariangela Gualtieri. Her translation of Ardengo Soffici’s 1915 master work, Simultaneities and Lyric Chemisms, appeared in 2022 (World Poetry Books). As a poet, her writing on the natural world has appeared in multi-media installations and performances in galleries in Los Angeles, New York City, and San Francisco, often in collaboration with visual artist Aline Mare and botanical fabric artist Samuel Spurrier. A graduate of Yale University, she holds a doctorate in Italian literature from Stanford University.

New York, New York

A vital reconstruction of Italian Futurist poet Ardengo Soffici’s visual poetics, presented for the first time in English in Olivia E. Sears’s exacting translations.

With unexpected lyricism, buzzing between the entropic and the erotic, Soffici’s unrelenting poems manifest his milieu’s fascination with the metropolis. Guillaume Apollinaire called it “very important work, rich in fresh beauties.” This facsimile-style edition—with a foreword by Marjorie Perloff, helpful annotations, and an informative afterword by the translator—offers a glimpse into the vibrant early avant-garde, when modernity held tremendous promise.

“A very important work, rich in fresh beauties.”
—Guillaume Apollinaire

“Sears’s translation is superb. It is exciting to meet a new writer, so wonderfully introduced to us by Marjorie Perloff’s excellent preface. Brava!”
—Mary Ann Caws, editor of the Yale Anthology of Twentieth-Century French Poetry

“Ardengo Soffici’s Franco-Italian Futurist poetry will leave you shaken and stirred like that first martini of the afternoon. And Olivia Sears’s translation will make you see stars (as Soffici hits you upside the head) as well as heart-breaking wonders in the streets of Paris, Florence, and Rome: ‘Delight electric breath molecules expanding with the air along the geometry of open houses.’”
—James Brook, translator of A Blaze in a Desert: Selected Poems by Victor Serge

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