Before we praise Piccolo the Sicilian poet, we ought to praise Piccolo the poetic Sicilian. However much we talk of the universality of art, an intense regionalism has never yet been a diminishing factor in literature, though a great regional writer will, in the paradox of art, exalt the province that has chosen him as its voice into a great metaphor of universal experience. A visitor to Faulkner's Mississippi or Joyce's Dublin has been schooled to an intense awareness of and relish in the qualities that make those regions what they are, but those qualities are sharpened, by the magic of literature, into archetypes or symbols of a validity that transcends time and space. In Piccolo's poems we meet a Sicily latent in the country of the tourist guides and the history books, but it was Piccolo far more than, say, Lampedusa who was destined to draw out the latencies, read the signatures, crack the code. On the most practical level, the moderately sensitive visitor to Sicily would do well to read Piccolo before buying his ticket.
His provincialism is limited to love of a particular place; there is nothing backward or bumpkinish about his sensibility or technique (again we think of Faulkner and Joyce). Piccolo is most original when he seems to remind us of other poets—D'Annunzio or Cardarelli or Campana—for the assumption of another voice is a deliberate act which serves to draw attention to an enigmatic personality lurking behind one...
(The entire section is 476 words.)
Thomas G. Bergin
If readers, confronting the verses now assembled in this appealing book [Collected Poems of Lucio Piccolo] are a little troubled about "placing" Piccolo's verse, they may console themselves with the thought that they are in good company, for Montale [author of the volume's "Afterword"] was somewhat uncertain as to the masters Piccolo may have learned from, groping among such native names as D'Annunzio, Campana and Pea, pondering such possible foreign paternities as Yeats and Hopkins. To this company Leonardo Sciascia, a shrewd critic, adds Jorge Guillén. Had I the temerity to intrude my own impression, I would say that, reading Piccolo's lines, I am occasionally reminded of the sensitive lyrics of Giuseppe Villaroel, yet another Sicilian (and roughly contemporary), all but forgotten since his death in 1956. (pp. 228-29)
Piccolo is not always easy to understand … but I think, in substance, what we find in his verses is a contemplation of nature, richly embellished by personal association, observed religiously but with some skepticism, seen at once as unstable and eternal. Piccolo does not indulge to any great extent in the study of his fellow man, he has no "social message," nor does he (or so it seems to me) contemplate, save obliquely, his own Angst (wherein he differs from the hermetics). His report on what he sees is voiced in musical and artful cadences, in metrical and rhythmic patterns that can hardly be called...
(The entire section is 472 words.)
Perhaps no poet of so scant acknowledgement in his lifetime and so little actual poetry has been so well served in the mere six years since his death as Lucio Piccolo with the appearance of his Collected Poems…. (p. 194)
Piccolo's poems … show time suspended, static, being held onto and re-evoked in resonances and touches—l'ore sospese, l'ombre dei giorni—these figures of time and substances held indefinitely in consciousness recur and recur. But everything about Piccolo is strange, mysterious, improbable, full of the turns and twists of chance. And irony. (pp. 195-96)
Piccolo's poetry carries the weight of … melancholy, [of] austerity of sentiment, [of the] seedy magnificence which is Sicily. (p. 200)
But still the Mediterranean sun shines through the poetry of the recluse. And in this constant counterpart of sun and night, light and dark, there is omnipresent the eternal Sicilian theme. Piccolo's poetry is full of the melancholy of illusion, of loneliness and despair, and, at the same time, shot through with the language of light and sun …, and the enchantment of sea spaces and nature. (p. 201)
His poetry, at its finest and most moving, seems to tremble on the brink of discovery of another way of life, as if he were pushing at the shadows that separate him from it…. He speaks of revived echoes, the sob drawn from him, the voice which binds one to...
(The entire section is 451 words.)