Franco Loi
(Italy, 1930)   
Franco Loi

Franco Loi was born in Genoa. His father came from Sardinia, his mother from Emilia. In 1937 the family moved to Milan.

For the young Loi his first seven years were a crash course in dialects and languages: Genovese with its influences from all over, the dialects of his parents, the lingo of Milan.

Growing up in the 1930s and 40s, in the aftermath of World War One and the Great Depression, the rise of Fascism, World War Two and the rise of the Left after 1945, instilled in Loi a political awareness that would find expression in his poems as a deep compassion with the ‘people of the street’, the ordinary people who invariably fall victim to the ‘systems’.

From 1965, Loi published his poems in ‘Milanese’, usually with his own Italian translations in the margin. To Loi, official Italian had gradually become a dead language, the language of the ruling elite, of the press, of radio and television. His self-made ‘Milanese’ was free from the corruption of that official language. A curious fact about the ‘Milanese’ that Franco Loi uses in his poems is that he ‘discovered’ it fairly late. His early publications, which reached only a small circle of readers, were in Italian proper. Loi is not a dialect poet in the traditional sense: one who shields the intimacy of his regional culture from the big, bad world. To Loi the ‘vernacular’ of his choice is an uncontaminated medium with which to wage lyrical war on the world at large. From 1965, Franco Loi has, in mostly bilingual editions, published a series of poetry collections which have attracted an ever widening readership in Italy and abroad. The Angel was published in an unusually large edition in Italy, and for more than a year Loi read from it in theatres all over Italy.

© Willem van Toorn (Translated by Ko Kooman)

[Franco Loi took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2002. This text was written on that occasion.]


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