Italian Poet Elio Pagliarani (1927-2012)

Critically acclaimed Italian poet Elio Pagliarani died in Rome earlier this month on March 8th, at age 84. The author of works such as “La Ragazza Carla” and La Ballata di Rudi, Pagliarani was a poet and literary critic best known for his affiliation with the avant-garde Gruppo ’63 movement. His critical approach to both the subject matter and language of his poetry is credited with helping to alter the course of the genre in Italy in the Twentieth Century.

Pagliarani was born in 1927 in Viserba, a small town on the Rimini coast. The poet inherited his staunch Socialist outlook from his father, and even as a youngster, he showed great sensitivity towards mathematics, poetics, and social justice. After graduating from Padua with a degree in political science, Pagliarani moved to Milan, where he worked as a teacher and also joined the editorial staff of L’Avanti!, the Socialist daily newspaper. He published his first book of poetry, Cronache e Altre Poesie, in 1954.

Unsatisfied with Neorealism and its hold on the Italian literary scene, Pagliarani became increasingly interested in both T.S. Eliot and fellow Italians Cesare Pavese and Pier Paolo Pasolini, in whose works he found inspiration for his own rethinking of the genre. Pagliarani described his approach to poetry as “critical” realism. From Eliot he adopted an interest in the language of poetry itself, while in his subject matter he consistently focused on the issues and daily lives of the lower classes—economics, injustice, work, and poverty. “Intervento,” first published in 1959 and also included in the 1966 Gruppo ’63 anthology, formulated and solidified many of these views and is considered to be a watershed moment in Pagliarani’s career.

In 1961, Pagliarani and fellow poets Alfredo Giuliani, Edoardo Sanguineti, Nanni Balestrini, and Antonio Porta created the influential I Novissimi anthology, and in 1962, Pagliarani followed this success with La Ragazza Carla e Altre Poesie, still considered to be among his strongest work. Pagliarani remained active on the international poetry scene throughout his life. In 1971, he founded the magazine Periodo Ipotetico; he worked for Nuova Corrente; and from 1988, he served as the editor-in-chief of the poetry magazine VIDEOR. A later work, La Ballata di Rudi, was honored with the Viareggio Prize for Poetry in 1995.