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This review is taken from PN Review 29, Volume 9 Number 3, January - February 1983.

THE SUN COMES LATER Rocco Scotellaro, The Dawn is Always New, translated by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann (Princeton) £8.00, £3.80-pb

Rocco Scotellaro was born in 1923 in the Lucanian town of Tricario, the son of a shoemaker and a woman of forceful and demanding character. After his father's death when he was only nineteen, it fell to Scotellaro to be the main support of his family. By the time he reached the age of twenty-three he had chosen to take on the burdens of the whole community as Tricario's first socialist mayor. The socialist defeat in the 1948 election inspired one of his bitterest poems, 'Black Puddle, April 18', one of the very few poems in this collection where he directly attacks the power of the padroni:


Again today and for two thousand years
we'll wear the same clothes.
We're still the mob
the mob of beggars,
the ones who rip off the bosses' masks
with our teeth.


In 1950 his political opponents had him imprisoned on patently false charges of embezzlement. After protests from fellow-writers and intellectuals-among them Carlo Levi, Moravia, and the agrarian economist Manlio Rossi-Doria-he was released, and despite his great reluctance to leave Lucania, was persuaded to take up a post at The Observatory of Agricultural Economy at Portici, near Naples, where he died three years later at the age of thirty.

Given this background it was inevitable that Scotellaro should be a poet of coscienza, and you could find no finer examples of 'the poetry of the committed individual' ...


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