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This article is taken from PN Review 271, Volume 49 Number 5, May - June 2023.

Luciano Erba’s Centenary Peter Robinson
‘I would like to enter history’, writes Luciano Erba (1922–2010) in his later poem of that name, ‘as a unit of measurement’, and from this seemingly self-aggrandizing opening he improvises an informal, arte povera lyric with a distinctly self-ironizing close:
I would like to enter history
as a unit of measurement
Watt Volt Faraday
or else give the name to a scale
like Mercalli Fahrenheit Réaumur
mine should be the tedium scale
point one November rain
point two the evening haunts
point three, four… take your pick
and so on, up to nine, myself.
Among Italian writers’ centenaries celebrated in 1922, including those of Bartolo Cattafi (1922–79), Beppe Fenoglio (1922–63), Luigi Meneghello (1922–2007) and Pier Paolo Pasolini (1922–75), all born in the year of Mussolini’s March on Rome which took place between 27-31 October, was that of Luciano Erba, who entered history by being born some six weeks earlier on 18 September. (For an illuminating guide to the year of Ulysses, Jacob’s Room and The Waste Land, nothing beats Kevin Jackson’s Constellation of Genius: 1922, Modernism and All That Jazz, whose author, alas, died a year short of his subject’s big anniversary). Around the turn of the millennium, I was fortunate enough to visit Erba on various occasions while working on The Greener Meadow, a selected poems published by Princeton in 2007.

The poet recently featured on the cover of Poesia no. 17 (January–February 2023). The issue includes an essay by Samuele Fioravanti, who edited a 2022 scholarly edition of L’ippopotamo (The Hippopotamus), alongside ...


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