Salvatore Quasimodo Critical Essays


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Salvatore Quasimodo lived and worked in a period which harbored innumerable contrasting poetic voices. His courageous attempt to extricate himself from the arid, desolate sphere of an excessively introspective style pointed the way to a new poetry—a poetry which, without losing its lyric essence, aspires to a modern aesthetic in which civil ethics and poetic vision can coexist.

Unlike that of his two great contemporaries, Quasimodo’s poetry can be divided into two sharply distinct periods. In his first phase, prior to World War II, Quasimodo wrote hermetic poetry characterized by highly compressed images, allusive language, and a pervasive existential anguish. In his second phase, Quasimodo became convinced that hermetic poetry had exhausted itself in excessively self-absorbed, contorted, and abstract imagery. He came to believe that the poet’s moral duty was to be socially committed and to express the collective despair, sorrow, and frustration of his time, a position first made clear in the collection Ed è subito sera (and suddenly it’s evening).

This second phase of Quasimodo’s poetry—characterized by a more discursive style, the use of a plainer language, and, above all, a strong ideological and social content—need not be interpreted, however, as an unequivocal rejection of his hermetic past, but may rather be seen as an evolution (dictated, perhaps, by the historical situation) toward new themes and a more decisive...

(The entire section is 408 words.)