Widely considered to be among the most important Italian poets of the twentieth century, Sandro Penna was born and raised in Perugia but spent most of his life in Rome. Openly gay, Penna wrote verses celebrating homosexual love with lyrical elegance. His writing alternates between whimsy and melancholia, but it is always full of light.
Juggling traditional Italian prosody and subject matter with their gritty urban opposites in taut, highly concentrated poems, Penna’s lyrics revel in love and the eruption of Eros together with the extraordinary that can be found within simple everyday life. There is something ancient in Penna’s poetry, and something Etruscan or Greek about the poems, though the landscape is most often of Rome: sensual yet severe, sinuous yet solid, inscrutable, intangible, and languorous, with a Sphinx-like and sun-soaked smile. Penna’s city is eternal–a mythically decadent Rome that brings to mind Paris or Alexandria. And though the echoes resound–from Rimbaud, Verlaine, and Baudelaire to Leopardi, D’Annunzio, and Cavafy–the voice is always undeniably and wonderfully Penna’s own.