«I loved hackneyed words that no one dared. I was enchanted by the rhyme flower love,/ the oldest difficult one in the world./ I loved the truth that lies at the bottom…». Law with participation Sergio Rubini. He reads and watches the audience of rhyme and verse enthusiasts at the headquarters of the Bellonci Foundation in Rome. And while declaiming the verses of twentieth-century and contemporary authors inspired by the beginning of spring and the flower/love rhyme, «the oldest, most difficult in the world» (Umberto Saba, I loved) seems to return to his show «I among you», in which he recounted the poetic texts that formed him and that he loves: from Sanguineti to Prevert, from Pavese to Neruda. Many of them are present in the reading that the Foundation wanted to celebrate World Poetry Day, March 21, and announce the 135 books selected for the first edition of the new Strega Poesia Prize.
Who is in the scientific committee
The publishers proposed 120 titles, one for each, to which were added 15 additional titles requested by the Scientific Committee, made up of Maria Grazia Calandrone, Andrea Cortellessa, Mario Desiati, Elisa Donzelli, Roberto Galaverni, Valerio Magrelli, Melania Mazzucco, Stefano Petrocchi , Laura Pugno, Antonio Riccardi, Enrico Testa and Gian Mario Villalta.
Saba, Ungaretti, Anna Achmatova, Montale, Sandro Penna, Alda Merini, Cesare Pavese, Antonia Pozzi, Pasolini, Amelia Rosselli… the one that Rubini has chosen to accompany the news is engaging and unusual: the titles of the books proposed for the first edition of the new prize (here the complete list). Stefano Petrocchi, director of the Bellonci Foundation, announced them in the presence of the Scientific Committee: «At least 120 of the books are already physically here, in our headquarters, we are waiting for 15. But the committee has already started reading them for weeks and will have to define the five finalists – said Petrocchi -. And already scrolling through the list we find some gleanings: there are 82 poets and 53 female poets; the youngest author is from 2003, the oldest was born in 1939».
Morgan, Giorgia Soleri and the return of Camon
«Among male and female poets who have applied – he reveals – there is a Witch narrative Award: Ferdinando Camon who won in 1978, with An altar for the mother, who has always been a poet as well as a writer. There are poets and artists who move on the border between several genres: Lelio Bonaccorso is a great cartoonist; Alessandro Carrera is the translator of Bob Dylan’s lyrics; there is the young influencer Giorga Soleri; and there are music personalities like Morgan». A pre-selection made by the scientific committee will be announced at the end of April, and we will see how many it will lead to the final selection of the five, which will be announced on May 19 at the Turin Book Fair. Then the prize will be awarded on October 5 in Rome, at the Temple of Venus, inside the Colosseum Archaeological Park.
The fear of social media and the opportunities of the web
«I am very happy with this new award, which was born at a time when we realize how social networks deform, shape the brain matter of our teenagers – observes Maria Grazia Calandrone -. And I’m happy to be here to skim through so many books: so much poetry has arrived, even by authors I’ve never heard of, and I hope to find a discovery, a pearl». But if on the one hand we are afraid of social media, on the other it is poetry itself that is making its way among young people with what are the most modern means of communication, however dangerous. Today social networks have become a digital stage, a sharing area that generates real literary cases, also followed by the younger audience.
There are hundreds and hundreds of new authors born on Instagram, and poetry readers have never been so many, especially among boys. In the States, where these readers are estimated to be around 28 million, there are literary cases such as that of 25-year-old Amanda Gorman – 3.9 million followers on Instagram – who took the stage at Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony on January 20, 2021. Only a year ago, CNN heralded “the new Golden Age of poetry.” And in the same period, the Amazon Prime Video streaming network launched in the US the first series entirely dedicated to the poet Rupi Kaur, another queen of Instagram, 4.5 million followers, acclaimed by actress Emma Watson.
The balm that feeds a part of us
«There is a great hunger for poetry, like a balm that feeds a very undernourished, withered part of us. In the current landscape where the language is so impoverished, poetry is a force that can set in motion an inner change», wrote the poet Mariangela Gualtieri last October, at the first announcement of the new prize established by the Bellonci Foundation. «We must also announce other dates – Petrocchi takes the word again – because as for the narrative Witch, but with less intensity, the finalist authors of Poetry will also present their books in a mini tour that will follow various festivals, and we will be happy to be able to to know these poets and poets to readers scattered throughout Italy». In fact, they will be guests in various Italian locations particularly active in the promotion of reading: on 27 May, «38° parallelo», Marsala; on 3 June, «Cervo Ti Strega», Cervo; on 14 July, «Museo MAXXI», headquarters in L’Aquila; from 13 to 17 September «Pordenonelegge», Pordenone. “This is because one of the aims of Strega Poesia is to make reading poetry a common gesture again”, remarks Laura Pugno. «There are pearls in these mountains of books: I am discovering extraordinary verses by authors and authors that I have never heard of. And not because I don’t read them, on the contrary ».
«Leopardi said that prose is the nourisher of verse, but the opposite is also true: poetry too is the nourisher of narrative – Andrea Cortellessa intervenes -, to the extent that among the latest winners of the Strega libri there are also authors who started with poetry, as is the case with Mario Desiati». Moreover, writing in verse is in a moment of great vivacity and turmoil, underlined by the Bellonci Foundation, «as evidenced by some recent collections of poetry that have become long-sellers, the multiplication of readings and poetry slam shows and the birth and renewal of series dedicated ».
New series and 20% more titles
Poetry lives, therefore. Dedicated editions are born and renewed, as evidenced by the Report of the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) on the state of publishing 2022, which shows a growth of around 20% in published poetry titles. Yet «there is not so much poetry, which in itself risks being an abstract and generic concept, as poems – underlines Petrocchi -, different writing experiences that all deserve listening and representation. The Strega Poesia Award was created to give them visibility, signaling the production of the highest literary quality and meaning in the contemporary world». An award that could not be missed, the Foundation underlines, “since writing in verse is instinctively connected to reflection on the last things and at the same time refers to a native expression of the word, linked to natural breathing and singing”. After all, it is an art form that has never lost social prestige.
The Strega Poesia Prize is promoted by the Maria and Goffredo Bellonci Foundation and Strega Alberti Benevento, in collaboration with Bper Banca and the Colosseum Archaeological Park, media partner Maremosso, technical sponsor Ibs.it