Allegria, by Giuseppe Ungaretti

Winner, 2021 National Translation Award in Poetry
Winner, 2022 Joseph Tusiani Italian Translation Prize


Famed for his brevity, Giuseppe Ungaretti’s early poems swing nimbly from the coarse matter of tram wires, alleyways, quails in bushes, and hotel landladies to the mystic shiver of pure abstraction. These are the kinds of poems that, through their numinous clarity and shifting intimations, can make a poetry-lover of the most stone-faced non-believer. Ungaretti won multiple prizes for his poetry, including the 1970 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. He was a major proponent of the Hermetic style, which proposed a poetry in which the sounds of words were of equal import to their meanings. This auditory awareness echoes through Brock’s hair-raising translations, where a man holding vigil with his dead, open-mouthed comrade, says, “I have never felt / so fastened / to life.”

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“What a joy to have this new translation of Ungaretti, a great lyric poet so masterly translated by Geoffrey Brock. I will buy any book of poetry that Brock has translated. He is simply that good. But it is especially clear here, in the pages of Allegria, where the shortish lines test the translator’s ability to deliver nuance with light touch, precision, and almost Mozartian grace. The poems themselves praise the fleeting moment in the middle of crisis, praise the spark of tenderness in the time of misfortune, praise the breadcrumbs of rememberings in the hungriest of times, when no one remembers and everyone zigzags around the room, around the street, around one’s heart. This book will give you ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’ It is a beautiful gift.” —Ilya Kaminsky

“With his latest translation, Brock does justice to one of the masterpieces in Italian poetry, one which had a long-lasting influence on subsequent generations of poets . . . Brock then once again offers to the English-speaking readership a collection of poems which in their brevity and crystalline clarity resonate with our modern taste.” —Elena Borelli, Reading in Translation

“Ungaretti’s un-paraphrasable and highly nuanced poems create a unique challenge for the translator, namely neither to smudge or adorn his forthrightness nor to tamper with his rhythms and acute enjambments. Brock’s performance is nothing less than masterful… Brock’s Allegria returns us to a poet of clarity and strangeness who both comforts and stiffens our spines when he says, ‘all you need for courage / is one mirage.’” —Ron Slate, On the Seawall

“Brock’s new translation of L’Allegria…is as faithful and rewarding as any English rendition of Ungaretti’s work could be.” —Nicola Vulpe, The Manhattan Review

“Among many worthy competitors for the inaugural Tusiani Prize, Geoffrey Brock’s rendering of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s Allegria stands out for its sustained excellence in all the major categories by which a successful translation is judged. Allegria, never before translated in its entirety, is the central work by one of the two or three greatest Italian poets of the twentieth century. The radical minimalism of its style makes it notoriously difficult to re-create successfully in English. Brock has everywhere met this challenge through a measured and thoughtful recasting of each poem. His English versions capture the essence of Ungaretti’s style and vision, while standing independently as satisfying works of art.” —Judges’ Citation, Joseph Tusiani Italian Translation Prize

“The slender poems celebrate life… This elegant translation preserves Ungaretti’s economy and his pursuit of poetic purity.” —Judges’ Citation, National Translation Award in Poetry

“Brock is uniquely qualified to meet the challenges presented by one of the most difficult poets to render in any language.” —Graziano Krätli, World Literature Today