Quasimodo's first poems appeared in the Florentine periodical Solaria. Initially he was a disciple of the Hermetic poets Giuseppe Ungaretti and Eugenio Montale. After the publication of his first poetry collection, Acque e terre (1930; "Waters and Land"), Quasimodo gradually became a leader of the Hermetic poets. After 1935 he abandoned engineering to teach Italian literature at a conservatory in Milan. Quasimodo's later poetry collections--Oboe sommerso (1932; "Sunken Oboe"), Odore di eucalyptus (1933; "Scent of Eucalyptus"), and Erato e Apollion (1936)--have the dry, sophisticated style and abstruse symbolism of Hermeticism but include many poems that veer away from personal preoccupations to contemporary issues. With two final collections, Poesie (1938) and Ed e subito sera (1942; "And Suddenly It's Evening"), his Hermetic period came to a close.
After the war Quasimodo's social convictions shaped his work from the publication of Giorno dopo giorno (1947; "Day After Day") until his death. Many of his poems recalled the injustices of the fascist regime, the horrors of the war, and Italian guilt. Later poems in the same vein, simple in language, exhibit a concrete and immediate imagery. Later volumes include La terra impareggiabile (1958; The Incomparable Earth)--with an inscription from Aeschylus, "I say that the dead slay the living"--Tutte le poesie (1960), and Dare e avere (1966; To Give and To Have and Other Poems).
Between the mid-1930s and his death, Quasimodo published an astonishing
range of translations, including a group of Lirici greci (1940); plays
of the Greek tragic playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides
(collected in Tragici greci, 1963); poems of the Latin poets Catullus,
Ovid, and Virgil; six plays of William Shakespeare; Moliere's Tartuffe;
and the poetry of the 20th-century poets E.E. Cummings (United States)
and Pablo Neruda (Chile). He edited two anthologies of Italian poetry
and wrote many significant critical essays, collected in Il poeta e
il politico e altri saggi (1960; The Poet and the Politician and Other
Essays) and Scritti sul teatro (1961), a collection of drama reviews.
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