Rediscovering Reality and the Self through Poetry with Elisa Biagini
"I strongly believe that a poet should go out and help us decipher the world."
and are taken away, like skin
on milk boiled
Elisa Biagini’s poetry begins with the smallest details of her own body. She believes that her perception of the world is centered in her own physical experiences- both in her body and in the everyday objects that fill her surroundings. “In her poems, the body is at the core of everything, and what exists under the flesh is an allegory of existence,” said writer Nathalie Handal in a Guernica Interview with Biagini. Biagini’s poetry captures large themes, such as the experience of death, through individual moments. She writes with the knowledge that her perception of the world is framed by her personal experiences but with an assurance that broader truths can be discovered through them: “I believe that, in order to be honest writers, we should write about what we know. Our body accompanies us through so many experiences. It’s the filter between us and the outside world.” Biagini explores how an understanding of our bodies can lead us to rediscover the reality we believed was unchangeable.
Biagini has developed her dark, mysterious, and whimsical poetic style over her career both as a poet and in education. Though she is originally from Florence, Biagini moved to the United States to earn her Ph.D. from Rutgers University in New Jersey. Afterwards she became a professor at Rutgers, NYU, and Columbia. Biagini has since returned to Florence and teaches poetry, travel writing, and art history at NYU Florence.
Her life in both Italy and the United States has solidified her position as an international poet. She has written collections in both Italian and English, and her work has been translated into ten other languages: German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Croatian, Japanese, Slovak, Russian, Serbian and Arabic. She has published seven collections in total: five in Italy and two in the U.S., and has been published internationally in a variety of literary journals and magazines including Lungfull, Barrow Street, and World Literature Today.
Though Biagini is from Florence, she tends to distance herself from identifying as a ‘Florentine poet’. She feels that the literary tradition created by Dante and Boccaccio is a burden. In an interview published on The Sign Press, she spoke about what being from Florence means to her: “I find it tiring to live here because of the tourists, the administration etc. and I don’t find any of this interesting enough to write about!”
While the city of Florence may not inspire her, she finds herself greatly influenced by poets outside of the city. While studying in the United States, she met fellow poet Alicia Ostriker who introduced her to American female poets such as Sharon Olds, Adrienne Rich, and Lucille Clifton whose works she would later translate into Italian. Biagini’s initial influence in poetry came from writers such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Sylvia Plath, and Eugenio Montale. According to Small Press Distribution, a nonprofit literary distributor, her most recent poetry collection, The Plant of Dreaming, is a creative discourse between Biagini and poets Paul Celan and Emily Dickinson.
Biagini has established herself as a accomplished international poet, but she is not afraid to take on collaborative projects that go beyond the page. She created her own visual artwork and curated the exhibit ‘Sistemi Emotivi’ (2007-08) with Antonella Anneda and Valerio Magrelli at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence.
Considering her written and visual art, Biagini’s style is mystical and compelling. "In a language that is part dream, part memory, part barbed wire, part a mouth full of teeth and part an ordinary kitchen or bedroom, the poet lures us and snares us," Ostriker says of her poetry. Through her explorative writing, Biagini has been able to confront her own life experiences. “Writing is learning to read the world,” she said. “[It] presupposes full and constant awareness of one’s actions, where abandonment exists but must be controlled.”
Biagini’s Published Works:
L’Ospite (The Guest) (2004)
Fiato: parole per musica (Breath: Words for Music) (2006)
Nel Bosco (In the Woods) (2007),
Da una Crepa (From a Crack) (2014)
Depuis une Fissure (From a Fissure) (2018)
The Guest in the Wood (2013)
The Plant of Dreaming (2017)
To learn more about Elisa Biagini
read her interview made by NYU Florence student Lisa Cochran
visit her website: www.elisabiagini.it
Elisa Biagini speaking as the Italian representative at Southbank Centre's 2012 Poetry Parnassus
Elisa Biagini will be hosting poetry reading from her newest collection The Plant of Dreaming, and discussing the craft of poetry.
Wednesday February 27th at 6pm at Villa Sassetti
Elisa Biagini will also invite NYU Florence students to participate in the poetry workshop "The Body Is a Page"
Thursday February 28th from 12pm to 2.30pm at Villa Sassetti