Dante Maffia

Claudio Grisancich, born in 1919, is, according to Franco Brevini, "the best poet from Trieste after Giotti," a statement that was not made offhandedly, but after a careful evaluation of the importance of Grisancich's poetry. In 1966 he was hailed by De Franceschi as a beginner "who takes your breath away: his themes are those of every day, but burnt like Cayenne pepper in a very slow fire, full of ties and hidden cracklings" and he was historicized by Roberto Damiani in 1980 as someone who has given birth to "a disintegrated, crude, impassioned poetics, stirred by dark regrets, insulting prophecies, cumbersome resentments, contrition, violence; a sanguine poetry, then, suffered, anxious, but also plastic, symbolic, compact and at times metaphysical." In short, we are far removed from Giotti's example and from all the experiences of the poets from Friuli and Venezia Giulia; far because Grisancich stirs the waters of language in a diachronic and synchronic way, attaining new and enlightening results. To achieve this, he had to make an effort in order not to isolate himself intellectually from his contemporaries and find shelter behind the privilege of those who fundamentally do not believe in poetry as catharsis or salvation. Yet, one does not read a single word against poetry; it is useless but it must be written, and not be written, as Montale used to say, as if it were useful to someone or something.
Grisancich has experienced approaching maturity as a prelude to death, and for this reason in his early poetry he raised a song, a wall of syllables, against decay and everything that was proof of the past and the rapid passage of emotions.
In 1972 he published Dona de pugnai and in 1989 Crature del pianzer crature del rider, but he did not foreswear writing for the theater and the media, an activity that made him an important figure in a city like Trieste, among the most essential and crucial for European culture even today.
After his first attempts, which were somewhat aggressive and scornful, as Damiani writes, there followed verses in which irony has something irreverent but not desecrating, and in which poetry is concrete and portrays reality with stubborn insight. Later, beginning in the eighties, Grisancich began to look inwardly, to analyze himself without turning to philology in order to find a language adequate to his needs, but reducing the influence of his readings, eliminating as much as possible "the dialect tone" from his dialect, until he created a new dialect structure as remote as possible from previous experiences.
Of course, reaching this point was not easy. Grisancich has had relapses and second thoughts, flights to his early manner and a rejection of dialect, and only later did he achieve that bareness of style that now characterizes him. What is attractive in Grisancich is his itinerary, which apparently seems uneven, but which, if one looks carefully, is a crescendo that aims to establish an authentic relationship with the world. One can read in his effort to make the verse absolute (with echoes of the early twentieth century with Ungaretti and even Marinetti) the tension of a man who does all he can to remains simple and who at the same time wishes to become a beacon that lights the way. "He tends toward a rigorous spareness of diction, betting everything on rhythm. The use of gradually shorter verses, often reduced to one word, and aligned in the center, corresponds to a sudden contraction, an implosion of the autobiographical subject matter. There barely remains a wisp of voice, like the spine of a fish, clinging to a core of hard substance." These are words taken from Brevini's "Introduction" to Crature del pianzer crature del rider and they offer a picture of Grisancich's voice, which has gone from being impetuous and rugged, from powerful and mellow, to "Orphic lightness."

Noi vegnaremo, Trieste 1965; Dona de pugnai, Trieste 1972; Crature del pianzer crature del rider, Trieste 1989; With Roberto Damiani, Grisancich wrote a comedy in dialect titled A casa tra un poco. Also with Damiani he edited the anthology Poesia dialettale triestina, cit; whose first edition goes back to 1975 and the latest, updated, to 1989.

I. De Franceschi, Il piccolo, June 19, 1966; R. Damiani, Enciclopedia monografica del Friuli Venezia Giulia, vol.3, part 2, 1980; F. Brevini, Introduction to Crature del pianzer crature del rider, cit.; idem, Le parole perdute, cit.; R. Damiani-C. Grisancich, Poesia dialettale triestina, cit; A. Serrao, Via terra, cit.

Poems translated by Adeodato Piazza Nicolai

la colomba
contro el marciapie
muceto de nebia
co'l papavero
de 'sta colpa
de mi
te ga volesto el conto.

r. la colomba / contro il marciapiede / mucchietto di nebbia / calpestato / con il papavero / anche / di questa colpa / da me / hai preteso il conto.


a dove
against the sidewalk
a handful of fog
mangled together
with one poppy flower
for this guilt
of mine
you wish an accounting.


co xe ora de 'ndar
su'l pianeròtolo
me vien voia de brazzarlo strento
mio mio pare mio
ma ridemo forte
omini che no' se dà bado
el ganzo de la porta
incatena la vita

'gnidùn per sé.

Pianerottolo. quando è ora di andare / immobili / sul pianerottolo / mi vien voglia di abbracciarmelo stretto / contro / mio mio padre mio / .. / ma ridiamo forte / uomini che fan finta di esserlo / il gancio della porta / incatena la vita // ognuno per sé.

The Landing

Standing still
when it's time to go
the two of us
there on the landing
I want to clasp him
tightly against me
my own father my own
but we laugh heartily
men can't be bothered

the locks on the door
imprison our life

each one to himself.


me tanto piasi
me la blangio proprio
co i canta in ostaria
diese quindese otavi
le vose
piturade in t-el'aria
e i canterini
ch'i se varda un co' l'altro
su la boca
quei tondi de la musica
ch'i fa
de murago passando
'n'androna drento
la panza povera de piaza goldoni
missià tra aventori ch'i canta.

Murago* - mi piace tanto / me la godo proprio / quando cantano all'osteria / dieci quindici calici / scompagnati / le voci / pitturate nell'aria / e i canterini / a guardarsi uno con l'altro / sulla bocca / i tondi della musica / che fanno / / così / da murago passando / per un androne dentro / la pancia povera di piazza goldoni / io / frammezzo avventori che cantano.

* nome di un'osteria tipica a Trieste.


I really like it
I truly love it
when ten or fifteen glass mugs
start singing in the bar
the voices
painted in the air
and the singers
who stare at each other
at the round O's
the music makes
of their mouths


from Murago past
the vestibule and onto
the stones of Piazza Goldoni
stand among singing drinkers.

*Murago is the name of a well-known tavern in Trieste.


son 'ndà trovarla
la vestalia
el muro d'i spagnoleti
sentà 'rente el sburto
de la finestra
tignindome el palmo de la man
'verto tra le sue
la me contava
tuto el mio passà
iera dolze drento de mi
tuto el sofferto
crature che va
in-t-el fiume indiferente
de la vita

crature del panzer
crature del rider.

Cartomante - sono andato a trovarla / gialla / la vestaglia / gialla / la parete per le sigarette / fumate / seduto accanto allo sporto / della finestra / tenendomi il palmo della mano / aperto tra le sue / mi diceva / tutto il mio passato / ed / era dolce dentro di me / tutto il sofferto / creature che vanno / sul fiume indifferente / della vita // creature del pianto / creature del riso.

Card Reader

I went to visit her
her robe
was yellow
the wall was yellow
from cigarettes smoked
while sitting
on the window sill
holding the palm of my hand
open in hers
she read all my past
all the sorrow
lay sweetly within me
creatures who flow
deep within an indifferent
stream of existence
creatures of grief
creatures of joy.


pugno de bora
mètime sora
tuto quel che no' servi
longo fora 'sta mia strada
bùtime in alto
'ncora 'na volta
te ga un zigo che spaura
te ga 'l mio mistero
sora sora
più sora
'ncora 'na volta
fa de mi bandiera.

Bora - pugno di bora / mettimo al di sopra / di tutto quello che non serve / frugala / minuziosamente questa mia strada / trovami / sollevami in alto / ancora una volta / . / tu / tu hai un grido che agghiaccia / tu hai il mio mistero / bora / sollevami su su / più su / ancora una volta / fa di me bandiera.

( I testi sono tratti da Crature del panzer crature del rider ) Le traduzioni sono dell'autore.


fist of the Bora
lift me past
all useless things
ransack clean
this endless road of mine
find me
cast me up
one more time


You give out
a terrible shriek
you hold
my secret
lift me up
more and more
once again
make a flag out of me.

*Bora, a cold northeasterly wind that blows upon the city of Trieste.

**I am grateful for the guidance provided by Dino Fabris' own English translations of
these poems by C. Grisancich.