Alfredo de Palchi


Translated and introduced by John Taylor
A Xenos-Chelsea Editions Collaboration

ISBN-10: 1-879378-64-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-879378-64-3
Bilingual, 183 pages, $15


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ALFREDO DE PALCHI was born in Legnano (near Verona) in 1926. After sojourns in Paris and Barcelona in the 1950s, he moved to the United States in 1956. He first became known in Italy when his poetry collection Sessioni con l'analista [Sessions with My Analyst] appeared in 1967 at Mondadori. In the United States, Xenos Books has published three bilingual editions of de Palchi's work: The Scorpion's Dark Dance (1993), Anonymous Constellation (1997) and Addictive Aversions (1999). In 2013, Chelsea Editions issued his Paradigm: New and Selected Poems 1947-2009, which includes the translation of much recent poetry previously available only in Italian.

His work has been widely analyzed by critics and fellow poets, notably in A Life Gambled in Poetry: Homage to Alfredo de Palchi (Gradiva Publications, 2011), Guiseppe Panella's The Poetry of Alfredo de Palchi: An Interview and Three Essays (Chelsea Editions, 2013), Plinio Perilli's Il cuore animale. Vita/romanzo e poesia/messaggio di Alfredo de Palchi [The Animal Heart. /Life/Fiction and Potry/The Message of Alfredo de Palchi] (Imperìa, 2016), Giorgio Linguaglossa's La poesia di Alfredo de Palchi (Edizioni Projetto Cultura, 2017), and several special issues of journals. He lives in Manhattan.

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JOHN TAYLOR is an American writer, critic and translator who lives in France. In 2013, he won the Raiziss-de Palchi Translation Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for his project to translate the Italian poet Lorenzo Calogero. This book was published as An Orchid Shining in the Hand: Selected Poems 1932-1960 by Chelsea Editions in 2015. Taylor has translated several French poets, including Philippe Jaccottet, Jacques Dupin, Pierre-Albert Jourdan, José-Flore Tappy, Louis Calaferte, and Pierre Chappuis. His critical essays on European literature have been gathered in five volumes by Transaction Publishers. He is the author of several volumes of prose and poetry, three of which have been published by Xenos Books: The Apocalypse Tapestries, Now the Summer Came to Pass and The Dark Brightness.

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"This stunning collection by Italian poet Alfredo de Palchi pairs autobiographical poetic prose with short poems inspired by a trip to his childhood home. Enlivened with themes that range from the erotic to the deeply mystical, Nihil is both a representative cross-sampling of de Palchi's work as a poet and an impressive testament to more than a decade's worth of writing begun more than seven decades into a poet's life."

World Literature Today, September 2017

"The poems themselves are like inhalations and exhalations in a gaseous world of forever. They are the vacuum before the cosmos. These poems are the disheartening fleeting of time. With everything there is, there is also lack. There is nothing, and there is everything all the same. What is being left out in any given poem becomes part of the challenge in better understanding the foundational, spiritual tones of the book."

Yellow Rabbits Reviews #24
Greg Bem, 7/10/2017

"What is most remarkable about this book is not only the length of de Palchi's career (spanning seven decades, the poet born in 1926), but that his recent work shows the poet venturing into poetic prose, or, perhaps one should say, a play between the two... It's alive with an adventurous poetic that allows the reader not so much to be the object of rhetorical suasion, but more importantly to be someone overhearing an exchange between poet and poem...

"John Taylor's work is exemplary in treating a poet like de Palchi, who's temperamentally as well as culturally challenging to carry over into English. Taylor's translating skills, combined with his knowledge of the poetry evidenced in his introduction, demonstrate how well-prepared this translator is to impersonate de Palchi's Nihil."

Paul Vangelisti
Journal of Italian Translation No. 370, 2018


From a personal letter from CRISTINA ANNINO, author of Chronic Hearing: Selected Poems 1977-2012:

ALFREDO, dearest Lion!

Nihil offers superb reading and delightfully makes the reader lose his or her existential bearings. Page after page, I feel as if I am dangling from a kind of Judgment and never propped up by the earth. As if the earth, the river, the same memories that have constituted the earth, the same Time that has made up the earth, were your jungle, your realm, whereas we had been sentenced to the perspective of an endless suspended punishment.

The prose parts, which especially reveal your poetic craft, create an apocalyptic impression in which gentleness-barred from the human race, which does not even establish its own kingdom-ultimately falls only to those unhappy animals that you embrace one by one. The victims.

Needless to say, a poetry like yours, which is stylistically challenging and has an almost primal design (you recreate Skins and Hides for all of us), should be read with care and with a good dose of extra aspirins. But after downing the first tube of this medical remedy, one breathes an absolutely eccentric air. In the sense that the center of everything is shifted. Of memory (Time), of socially established values (Earthly Life), and of God (whose vantage point you have adopted, denying that he ever had one). In other words, BANG! Something sprightlier than this cannot be written . . . nor, to my mind, with more rule breaking, more subverting of the parallels of latitude, of the tropics-and all this forms a kind of beauty! And a beauty that isn't repetitive: a given page is not repeated on the next page, which likewise refers to you.

In fact, everything here refers to you. Not as in standard autobiographical poems, but rather with an "I" that must be scrutinized in order to learn, to know, that there is no other "I". That you are making a clean sweep. You who treat illness as it were an old hag, a perched vulture, while your cats are cogitating and opposing her, unafraid of the stench. . . In brief, Nothingness-Nihil-is much greater than you. Perhaps this can also be read in the very word "nihil": that you neutralize everything, that with your genetic strength you reduce even Nihil to nothing, that we could instead grasp how Nothingness is represented by the commotion of the world.

This is why one has the impression that this book cannot be reduced to its pages! Superb Lion, wounded, bruised and never vanquished!

Thank you, Alfredo, for giving me the opportunity to read Nihil, and thank you for being in the world in this way!

A big kiss from your friend Cristina




A circa cento metri dalla mia casa, dietro le mura della chiesa scorre il fosso saltato con la pertica per entrare in campagna; seguendo la strada che attraversa il fosso tra filari di fiorenti biancospini e campi di angurie, arrivo al Terrazzo che portando con sé il nome del paesotto si perde e si mischia tra fossi e boschi; là il Terrazzo si allarga dove d'estate una schiera di ragazzi nudi, in rincorsa uno dietro l'altro, si butta nell'acqua erbosa pulita da bisce acquatiche non spaventate dal continuo tuffarsi dei ragazzi; qualche temporale veloce e la gara finiva con una corsa a casa, ma non sempre; capita di trovarmi a saltare ancora nella fossa sotto tuoni e fulmini; con paura e indumenti inzuppati sottobraccio mi riparo sotto la ramaglia di un alberone alto senza attrarre un fulmine; furbo? In altre parole illustra la scena solare ...

frutto propizio seno biondo
d'una calata di sensazioni

nel belato d'alberi la luce astringente
tutto scompiglia: il verde-
il cielo-cielo e il rombo:

About a hundred yards from my house, behind the walls of the church, runs a ditch that could be jumped over with the pole to enter the countryside; following the ditch then the road that crosses over it, with its two whitethorn hedges in bloom, I arrive, from fields of watermelons and shacks, at the Terrazzo stream which, bearing the name of the little town, blends with and then vanishes among the ditches and woods; further on, the Terrazzo widens at a place where in summer naked boys, chasing after each other, throw themselves into grassy water teeming with snakes hardly startled by the boys' constant diving; some quick rainstorms and these feats would finish up with a race home, but not always; for I sometimes jump into the ditch while it is still thundering and lightning; my drenched clothes under my arm, I fearfully take shelter under the branches of a tall tree without attracting a lightning bolt; clever? In other words, the sunny scene is illustrated by ...

propitious fruit blond breast
heavy with an onrush of sensations

in the bleating of trees the astringent light
upsets it all: the green-
the sky-sky and the rumble:


Dai pali del telegrafo e della elettricità sulle strade deserte, dietro mura tiro sassate mirando chicchere di vetro e di porcellana; il mistero dell'universo è raccolto in quelle chicchere e nel ronzio come il mistero della vita è rinchiuso nelle acque; l'abissale concetto.

Al palo del telegrafo orecchio il ronzio
il sortire incandescente da quando
le origini estreme
provocano la terra
accensioni e dovunque mi sparga
chiasso d'inizio odo.

Behind walls on the deserted streets I shoot stones with my slingshot at telegraph and utility poles, aiming at the glass and porcelain insulator caps; the mystery of the universe is gathered in those caps and in the humming of the wires, even as the mystery of life is locked up in the waters; the unfathomable concept.

My ear at the telegraph pole I catch the hum
the incandescent emergence ever since
the earliest origins
have provoked the earth
I perceive
sparks igniting and wherever I'm scattered
I hear the uproar of beginnings.


ma vi è prepotenza di esseri inferiori credenti della crudeltà, per considerarsi coraggiosi; sono vili di nascita di sentimento di religiosità quanto lo sono i sacerdoti che benedicono la caccia la pesca e la truculenza faticosa al mattatoio, assassini tutti indenni; gioia che si accumuna a quella del gobbo che getta cani e gatti nell'indifferente largo fluviale; nessuna grazia.

Ciminiere fabbriche
del concime e dello zucchero
barconi di ghiaia e qualche gatto
lanciato dal ponte
snatura questa lastra di fiume
questo Adige.

but here overbearing inferior human beings believe in cruelty so they can consider themselves brave; they're vile from the very birth of their religious feelings as are priests who bless hunting, fishing, and the arduous truculence of the slaughterhouse, murderers who remain completely unharmed; joy like that of the hunchback who tosses dogs and cats into the vast indifferent river; no pardon.

Smokestacks fertilizer-
works and sugar refineries
barges loaded with gravel and a few cats
flung from the bridge
pervert this slab of river
this Adige.


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