A trilingual writer who described herself as “a poet of exploration,” Amelia Rosselli has only recently been recognized as one of the major European poets of the twentieth century. Born in Paris in 1930, she was the daughter of the martyred anti-fascist philosopher Carlo Rosselli and the British political activist Marion Cave. Raised in exile, in France, Switzerland, England, and the United States—in interviews, Rosselli remembered her years in the US with great fondness—she finally settled in Italy after the war, first in Florence and then in Rome. Except for a year she spent in London in the mid-seventies, Rosselli never left Rome, where, devastated after years of struggling with mental illness, she took her own life in 1996. The tragedy of her father’s death and the loss of her mother when she was only nineteen were central to Rosselli, defining her in many ways: from her “trilingual language” and cosmopolitan upbringing—though she thought of herself more as a refugee—to her political engagement and deep social consciousness. Rosselli was the author of eight collections of poetry (one, Sleep, in English), a translator of Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, among others, and an accomplished musicologist and musician who played the violin, the piano, and the organ. The Dragonfly was first published in its present format as the opening section of the collection Hospital Series (Milano: Il Saggiatore, 1969).
About Their Work:
La Libellula (The Dragonfly) is Amelia Rosselli’s acknowledged first major work and contains all the elements of her mature vision: trilingual wordplay, musicality, and political engagement. With its vertiginous propulsion and rotational structure, this single-long poem, a canto, hovers on the edge of the surreal, where meaning continually multiplies and then negates. The reader must engage her work as she instructs — intuitively. Her inventive refraction of Italian literary tradition sought a more authentic liberation, “in all the nation’s life, in all the dismal / boroughs, in all the putridous world, exists / just one me, exists just one you, — exists charity.” Now recognized as one of the most significant voices of post-war Europe, her visceral writing challenges the constriction of language as not only a fascist legacy but also as a critique of the banality and materialism of reconstruction.
Books (for purchase):
The Dragonfly: A Selection of Poems: 1953– 1981 (Chelsea Editions, 2009)
Hospital Series (New Directions, 2015)
Obtuse Diary (Entre Ríos Books, 2018),
The Dragonfly (Entre Rios Books, 2023)
Notes Scattered and Lost (Entre Rios Books, forthcoming 2024)
Read for Margin Shift: