Poetic Diaries 1971 and 1972 is one of the Nobel Prize–winning poet Eugenio Montale’s final works, and it reveals the last act of the twentieth-century master to be one of splendid negation.
Poetic Diaries 1971 and 1972 is ruled by a brusque economy, and Montale’s is, here, a poetics of magnificent reduction. The poet meditates on the very conditions of his art: language reveals itself to be madness, and poetry a broken promise. The Muse has become a scarecrow: “She still has / one sleeve, with which she conducts her scrannel / straw quartet. It’s the only music I can stand.” And yet music it is, and time and time again Montale attains a contrarian grandeur that renews faith in the art he punishes. These poems are dense and dramatic, evasive and erotic and vividly alive.