Roberto Baronti Marchiò was born in Rome in 1959, where he now lives. He teaches English Literature at Cassino University (Italy) and since he was very young he has shown a great passion for writing (Cave Prize – 1976) and then continued to work with many journals and as a translator (of W. H. Auden, G.M. Hopkins, Martine Bellen, Rutger Kopland). In 1990 he won the Montale Prize in the section devoted to unpublished writings.
It is not possible to separate the three phases of his artistic apprenticeship (his academic career, his interest in translation and his activity as a poet) but it is necesary to consider them as integral parts of his poetics, since they shape and drive his writing towards a biographic tendency which is never merely confessional and in which the lyrical subject ‘uses’ himself – so to say – to talk with us and about us.
After a first influence exercised by the 20th century avant-gardes, his poetry has been characterized by a minute work on language and on musicality, also through the use of evocative neologisms and through the presence of a sometimes unusual or refined vocabulary, in which predominate – from a phonetic point of view – ‘bitter’ allitterative sounds or a deliberate negation of euphony, as in the case of ‘Home’: “The texture eludes me, and the cadence, / and here at a standstill with language / my gaze lost among the pages / brutally torn from the sleepy haze of my heart, / I scream among the thick walls / of my drawings in the air / but slowly proceed to mineralize, / like a snail, a home.”
Another peculiar element of his writing is represented by his ability to merge the influences derived from the most representative contemporary Italian poets – such as Giovanni Giudici (‘Assisi’; ‘Orientals’) or, before him, of Montale’s ‘poetics of objects’ (‘In the Basement’; ‘Foam’) with Ezra Pound’s Modernism and with W. H. Auden’s irony (‘Diet’), without forgetting the lesson of the Oriental, particularly Japanese, masters of allusive landscape in the haiku poetry (‘After Li Po’). In the words of Maria Luisa Spaziani, “Learned, rigorous and evocative, with some Oriental reminiscences, Roberto Baronti Marchiò is incisive and memorable in his wide array of words” which range from the pursuit of an elegant lyricism “to politically-engaged and strongly-conscious lines”.
In fact, his interest in language is linked to his careful observation of the world and of human existence with a sorrowful meditation on the gradual dissolution of time and memory, whose residual meaning Baronti Marchiò anxiously searches: “But I continue to follow myself / along the steep paths / of distant memories / and in this velodrome / I chase a self / that is always in front of me / and see him in the distance / only from behind.”
His poetry is simultaneously limpid and powerfully metaphoric, lucid and passionate, in which the meditative or sadly ironic tones counterbalance the danger of an overcoming silence, abandon and loss of meaning. Referring to Giovanni Giudici again, Baronti Marchiò’s is “a life in verse” which, for the mere fact of having become poetry, is transfigured into something different, often turning from individual confession into social condemnation.
7 Poeti del Premio Montale, All'Insegna del Pesce d'Oro, Milan, 1991