glbtq: an encyclopedia of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender & queer culture
home
arts
literature
social sciences
special features
discussion
about glbtq
   search

 
   Encyclopedia
   Discussion
 
 

   member name
  
   password
  
 
   
   Forgot Your Password?  
   
Not a Member Yet?  
   
JOIN TODAY. IT'S FREE!

 
  Advertising Opportunities
  Permissions & Licensing
  Terms of Service
  Privacy Policy
  Copyright

 

 

 

 

 
literature

Alpha Index:  A-B  C-F  G-K  L-Q  R-S  T-Z

Subjects:  A-B  C-E  F-L  M-Z

     
Penna, Sandro (1906-1977)  

For Sandro Penna boyhood was the embodiment of desire and the inspiration for all of his poetry.

Penna was born in Perugia, but after the age of sixteen, spent most of his life in Rome. By some standards, his life was uneventful, unambitious, lonely, scruffy, and sordid. One does not have to endorse this view. Penna made firm choices about the two things in life that interested him most: poetry and boys.

Sponsor Message.

He did not live a public life, even if his private life was generally conducted in public places. Furthermore, his poetry never developed beyond its earliest forms and topics; he was content to spend his life perfecting the narrowness of his craft.

Penna's friend, the bisexual poet Umberto Saba, helped him get published. He gradually accumulated a distinguished collection of friends and admirers, including the novelists Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia.

For several years, he had a competition with Pier Paolo Pasolini to see who could make love with the greater number of boys along the overgrown banks of the Tiber and in the scattered urinals of Rome's ugly urban landscape. It was Pasolini who most consistently championed Penna's poetry.

Boyhood was Penna's inspiration and his topic. In his verse, the figure of the boy is a personification of love. Boyhood itself is Eros demythologized, the embodiment of desire. The words ragazzo and fanciullo become even more resonant than lad had been to homosexual English poets at the turn of the century.

Boys exert a uniquely transformative power not only on the landscapes they inhabit, but also on the lesser mortals with whom they come into contact. Penna identifies with them in their adolescent loneliness, envies their camaraderie, and joins them in erotic solidarity on hot Roman evenings.

Each poem is as fleeting as the encounter it records. Each constitutes a moment of intense feeling, often a concentrated mixture of past loves and present desires. Penna does not write with the intellect but with the focus of emotions that are physically based.

His poetry takes pleasure in pleasure, re-establishing the shock of joy. In a particularly expressive phrase, "L'amore era con me nella mia mano" (literally, "love was with me in my hand"), he articulates both a sense of loss and a crucially ambiguous association of mutual and solitary masturbation.

One poem sums up Penna's attitude to criticism of his thematic narrowness. Responding to the complaint that there are always young men in his poems, the poet replies: "Ma io non so parlare d'altre cose. / Le altre cose son tutte noiose" ("But I don't know how to write about anything else. Everything else is just boring"). If his sexual interest is a limitation, it is one he accepts with cheerful equanimity.

Gregory Woods

     

    
 interact  
   
Contact Us
 
Join the Discussion
 
 find 
   
Related Entries
 
More Entries by this contributor
 
A Bibliography on this Topic

 
Citation Information
 
More Entries about Literature
 
   
spacer
Popular Topics:

Literature

 
Michelangelo Buonarroti
Michelangelo Buonarroti


Byron, George Gordon, Lord
Byron, George Gordon, Lord


Modern Drama
Modern Drama


Camp
Camp


Selvadurai, Shyam


Musical Theater


African-American Literature: Gay Male
African-American Literature: Gay Male


Philippine Literature


St. Sebastian
St. Sebastian


Japanese Literature
Japanese Literature

 
 


   Related Entries
  
literature >> Overview:  Italian Literature

Until quite recently, male homosexuality has had a discontinuous, fragmented, and largely condemnatory history in Italian literature, and lesbianism has been almost totally ignored.

social sciences >> Overview:  Italy

Although it is a founding member of the European Union, Italy lags beyond other member states in the protections and respect it accords to glbtq citizens, especially gay and lesbian couples.

literature >> Pasolini, Pier Paolo

Most of the fiction and much of the poetry of Pier Paolo Pasolini, one of the great Marxist homosexual artists of the twentieth century, was shaped by his fascination with the lives of subproletarian youths.

literature >> Saba, Umberto

The bisexual poet who published under the name Umberto Saba wrote poems that expressed his love both of his wife and daughter and of adolescent boys.


    Bibliography
   

di Fonzo, Giulio. Sandro Penna: La luce e il silenzio. Roma: Edizioni dell'Ateneo, 1981.

Garboli, Cesare. Penna Papers. Milano: Garzanti, 1984.

Pecora, Elio. Sandro Penna: Una cheta follia. Milano: Frasinelli, 1984.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Woods, Gregory  
    Entry Title: Penna, Sandro  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated November 16, 2002  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/literature/penna_s.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates  
 

 

This Entry Copyright © 1995, 2002 New England Publishing Associates

www.glbtq.com is produced by glbtq, Inc., 1130 West Adams Street, Chicago, IL   60607 glbtq™ and its logo are trademarks of glbtq, Inc.
This site and its contents Copyright © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.
Your use of this site indicates that you accept its Terms of Service.