APT Basilicata

APT Basilicata

Basilicata turistica

Scotellaro Rocco

a cura di Giovanni Caserta

Born in Tricarico on April 19, 1923, died in Portici on December 15, 1953, before his collection of verse È fatto giorno (Milano, Mondadori) was published and awarded with the 1954 Viareggio Prize. It was a real literary event taking place in the bloom of Neorealism: it seemed as if what had happened with prose was going to happen with poetry. A secular tradition, just broken by Leopardi and Pascoli, who were the first to introduce humble objects into poetry, was now violated by Scotellaro, who brought into his verse a world which had always been kept out of poetry, that is to say peasants, bricklayers, donkeys, goats, mules. He did the same with such social issues as strikes, land occupation and assaults at town halls. Poetry was getting closer to political speeches, and therefore, as Rafael Alberti said, it was going out in the calle, that is to say in the streets, according to the tradition of the public recitaciones, which belonged to classical Greece as well as to the socialist and to the Hispanic and Hispano-American tradition. It is not unusual to find in Scotellaro stylistic features which remind us of Rafael Alberti, Garcia Lorca, and Evtusenko.

Rocco Scotellaro, was a socialist, and mayor of Tricarico, but even in politics he remained a poet, or rather, he made poetry a political instrument, that is to say, an instrument of freedom and liberation. Sometimes this implied pedagogic, and even demagogic, attitudes, but his sincerity and enthusiasm were undeniable. Groundlessly accused with graft, Scotellaro served time for two months in Matera before being acquitted. He decided to resign as mayor and leave politics at the age of just 27. He decided to become the humble poet of his land to offer his experience to the world. He was thirty years old when he died of a heart attack.

The collection È fatto giorno, finely edited by Carlo Levi, was followed by Margherite e rosolacci (1974, Milano, Mondadori), a collection of miscellaneous and unpublished verse edited by F. Vitelli, and by a new edition of È fatto giorno, edited by F. Vitelli (1982, Milano Mondadori). This edition consisted of the autograph version of the book prior to Levi’s editing, which, as it was to be expected, ended in producing a quite different poetical image and a muddy and approximate portrait of the poet himself.

The great success and the fame he gained in 1954 caused the hurried publication of any kind of unpublished material, even though fragmentary and unfinished, such as L’uva puttanella (1955, Bari, Laterza), no more than the outline of an autobiography, and Contadini del Sud (1954, Bari, Laterza), consisting of the stories of five peasants, narrated by the protagonists themselves, based on a questionnaire arranged by the author. This work, too, was at the drafting stage. Nor did the unpublished material which followed matter, as far as the aesthetic outcome was concerned. We are talking about Franco Fortini’s La poesia di Scotellaro (1974, Matera, Basilicata), Uno si distrae al bivio (1974, Matera, Basilicata), and Giovani soli (1984, Matera, Basilicata). These works count only when compared to Levi’s edition of È fatto giorno, which is to be regarded as the highest expression of Scotellaro’s poetry, and only if considered as contributions to a better understanding of a pugnacious witness to the struggles for the reconstruction of the South. He turned poetry into a choral and epic matter, by replacing “I” with “we”, or by theorizing a Pandean naturalism which considered things, animals, and men as united by the thirst for justice and equality.

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