Nelo Risi, Come gli insetti

April 2, 2010

 Nelo Risi, Poesie scelte (1943-1975). Ed. Giovanni Raboni. Milano: Arnoldo Mondadori Editore, 1977.
From “Dentro la sostanza” (1960-1965).
Come gli insetti                                      Like insects
Sciami neri sciami gialli                           Black swarms yellow swarms

vissuti sempre in baracche                     living all the while in hovels

sotto la buona spinta                                 from under a decent upper-cut

levatevi in massa, sciamate!                   lift yourselves up en masse and swarm!


Sono sciami di colore                                These colours swarm

turbe straccioni parla                               ragged rabbles speak

a miriadi riempono l’aria                         myriads fill the air

cadono a frotte e abbattono                   fall in swarms and demolish


le vacche grasse.                                         fat cows.


The power of Risi’s poetry resides in both the unpretentiousness of the present-continuous tense of verbs, amplified by the bareness of the poetic structure and the universality of metaphor. Of course, these and similar poems are a running commentary on Italian society and politics of the 1960s, of the strength of the burgeoning mass media, of a restless but essentially apathetic and switched-off generation, emerging from World War II. The insect metaphor is Risi’s response to the movement of the masses, where crowds originate and where they end up, the aimlessness of crowds and who is pulling and pushing them. There are essentially hopeless dreams of revolution and dramatic change and there is the wonderful break between the puny insects and the gross mass of the “fat cows”. Who or what the ‘fat cows’ might be is open to question – those who live off the insects, those who support the life of larger animals.  Aurally, Risi contrasts soft “s” and “c” sounds (sciami, straccioni, sotto/spinta) with the stronger “b” (baracche, buona). Where the first stsnza is dependent on the “i” vowel, interest is created by a subtle to the “o” vowel in the second. Contrasting all with outwardly peaceful pastoral setting are images of violence implying war (spinta, cadono, abbattono).


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