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This review is taken from PN Review 199, Volume 37 Number 5, May - June 2011.

FIAMMIFERO STREGATO VALERIO MAGRELLI, Vanishing Points: Poems, translated by Jamie McKendrick (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) $27

In his Lezioni Americane - the Norton lectures he never delivered due to his untimely death - Italo Calvino wrote: 'Among the reasons why poetry is somewhat popular again among younger readers is its perceived image as a forum for un-cerebral catharsis. Yet, on the other hand, there are those who make “thought” the foreground of their activities. Valerio Magrelli is one of them.' Four years earlier, in May 1980, Feltrinelli had published Magrelli's first collection, Ora serrata retinae. Praise for the book was quick and unanimous. Four months later, by which time the book was in its second run, Magrelli had added Fellini to his list of admirers: 'You can't get away from Magrelli; he's a grande poeta.' Magrelli was only twenty-three at the time; and yet, like Mahmoud Darwish, Paul Muldoon and Michael Hofmann, he emerged ready-made: an enfant prodige. Praised both at home and abroad (by Brodsky and Paz), Magrelli is regarded by many as the most important Italian poet of the past thirty years, a standing confirmed with his three subsequent collections - which have won him such prizes as the Viareggio and the Montale.

Born in Rome in 1957, Magrelli attended a Liceo Classico Statale - albeit an experimental one - where 'the avant-garde was already canonical'. There he studied Pollock, Beckett, Cage and Joyce. In the summer of 1974, following a motorcycle accident which left him hospitalised for a number of months, he read copiously and began to write. Many of ...


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