Bettarini, Mariella 1942-
BETTARINI, Mariella 1942-
PERSONAL: Born January 31, 1942, in Florence, Italy; daughter of Luciano (a musician) and Elda (Zupo) Bettarini. Education: Received teacher's diploma, 1964.
ADDRESSES: Home—Florence, Italy. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Salvatore Sciascia Editori, Corso Umberto 1111, 93100 Caltanissetta, Italy.
CAREER: Elementary school teacher and writer, Florence, Italy, 1965—. Affiliated with Isolotto (Roman Catholic social reform group), late 1960s, and Testimonianze (Roman Catholic intellectual journal), 1970-71; helped publish avant-garde literary journals Quartiere and Quasi, late 1960s-early 1970s; Salvo Imprevisti (title means "Barring the Unforseen"), cofounder, editor, and publisher, beginning 1973.
Il pudore e l'effondersi (booklet; title means "Modesty and Self-Effusion"), Citta di vita (Florence, Italy), 1966.
Il leccio (title means "The Holm Oak"), Centauri (Florence, Italy), 1968.
La rivoluzione copernicana (title means "The Copernican Revolution"), Trevi (Rome, Italy), 1970.
Terra di tutti e altre poesie (title means "Everybody's Earth and Other Poems"), Sciascia (Rome, Italy), 1972.
Dal vero (title means "From Reality"), Sciascia (Rome, Italy), 1974.
In bocca alla balena (title means "In the Mouth of the Whale"), Salvo Imprevisti (Florence, Italy), 1977.
Diario fiorentino (title means "Florentine Diary"), Sciascia (Rome, Italy), 1979.
Ossessi oggetti/Spiritate materie (title means "Obsessed Objects/Spirited Matters"), Barbablu (Siena, Italy), 1981.
Il viaggio/Il corpo (title means "The Voyage/The Body"), L'Arzana (Turin, Italy), 1982.
La nostra gioventù: 18 gennaio 1976, Sciascia (Rome, Italy), 1982.
Poesie vegetali (title means "Vegetable Poems"), Barbablu (Siena, Italy), 1982.
Vegetali figure: 1978-1982, introduction by Mario Luzi, Guida (Naples, Italy), 1983.
I Guerrieri di riace di Mario Grasso, Sciascia (Rome, Italy), 1984.
Tre lustri ed oltre: Antologia poetica 1963-1981 (title means "Fifteen Years and Beyond"), Sciascia (Rome, Italy), 1986.
Work represented in anthologies, including Poesie femminista italiana, edited by Laura di Nola, Savelli (Rome, Italy), 1978; and Etrusca-mente, Gazebo (Florence, Italy), 1984.
(Translator) Simone Weil, Lettera a un religioso, Borla (Turin, Italy), 1970.
Storie d'Ortensia: Romanza (prose; title means "Ortensia's Stories"), Donne (Rome, Italy), 1978.
Felice di essere: Scritti sulla condizione della donna e sulla sessualita, Gammalibri (Rome, Italy), 1978.
(Editor, with Silvia Batisti, and author of introduction) Chi è il poeta? (title means "Who Is the Poet?"), Gammalibri (Rome, Italy), 1980.
Psicografia (narrative work; title means "Psychography"), Gammalibri (Milan, Italy), 1982.
Amorosa persona (novel; title means "Amorous Person"), Salvo Imprevisti (Florence, Italy), 1989.
Case, luoghi, la parola: 1993-95, Fermenti (Rome, Italy), 1998.
Per mano d'un Guillotin qualungue (1992-93), Edizioni Orizzonti Meridionali (Cosenza, Italy), 1998.
(With Gabriella Maleti) Nursia (1988-1991), Edizioni Gazebo (Florence, Italy), 2000.
SIDELIGHTS: Mariella Bettarini is a contemporary Italian poet whose verse is relentlessly personal; in her forceful words, however, is evidence of the significance of such external forces as interfamilial relationships, politics, and feminism. Bettarini was born in wartime Italy in 1942 into a family ruled by a domineering father; her negative experiences with him while she was a sad and sickly child made a strong impact on her and perhaps even fueled her drive toward a literary career. A controlling male figure often lurks in her verse, whether as an overt symbol of her father or a more abstract representation of paternalistic Italian society in general. Bettarini's father abandoned her mother for another woman when she was a teenager, and this dramatic tear in the fabric of her family made her more introspective. Traumatized, she retreated into books, and at the age of eighteen began writing verse herself. The first small successes resulting from these efforts further alienated Bettarini from her jealous father. She earned a teacher's diploma in 1964 and soon afterward began teaching elementary school in Florence, her native city.
Bettarini's first published work, Il pudore e l'effondersi, appeared in booklet form in 1966. The twenty-eight poems, contemplative paeans to the beauty of nature, are somewhat uncharacteristic compared to Bettarini's more strident voice found in later works. During her early literary career, outside factors played a major role in shaping her development as a poet; the rising tide of leftist ideology that swept both Italy and Europe in the late 1960s was a particularly strong force. Political violence in Italian cities became commonplace, sentiment against the Vietnam War surfaced as a uniting factor, and young people watched their compatriots in France and Czechoslovakia literally take over the streets. A Florence-based Catholic reform group called Isolotto was Bettarini's first foray into radical politics. Isolotto was particularly outspoken in condemning the archconservative bishop of Florence, and during this era Bettarini and other Italians came to decry what they believed to be the suffocating influence of the Catholic Church on Italian society and intellectual life. Her participation brought on a reevaluation of her strict Catholic background and caused her to question the set of moral principles that had guided her life until then.
Yet her membership in groups such as Isolotto was also disillusioning. Bettarini came to believe that such organizations are often stymied by interpersonal conflicts that render them useless. She began meeting with a wider variety of Italian intellectuals, including left-wing ideologues, feminists, and avant-garde writers. She began to explore the relationship between politics and art, specifically with her own poetry. During this time she also looked into numerous schools of thought, including Marxism and the theories of Sigmund Freud. This newfound politicalization is evident in her 1970 volume of verse, La rivoluzione copernicana. The title poem relates to a fundamental shift in spiritual ideology and personal awakening, a shift compared to the medieval-era revelation that the sun does not revolve around the Earth. Bettarini's new voice is also evident in such selections as "I giorni dell'ira."
Because of her uncompromisingly personal beliefs and refusal to adjust her poetry, her political ideology, or her vociferous opinions to placate others, Bettarini has been isolated from Italian literary circles, and it has been difficult for her work to find a publisher or critical attention after publication. One way Bettarini has found to sidestep these obstacles has been to publish her own literary journal, Salvo Imprevisti, which she cofounded in 1973. Issues of the journal, which appear thrice yearly, explore a single theme or writer, and Bettarini injects many of her own convictions into its text. In a 1978 issue, she contemplated the role of poetry in contemporary society and reflected that the written word is not a "direct, immediate instrument, expression of proletarian angers, populist rhetoric. . . . I know that poetry is the free critical conscience of reality . . . the place available to dialectical encounter and conflict."
Feminism has also strongly influenced Bettarini and her work since the late 1960s. Many of her poems speak out against the tyranny of her early life and that of an Italian society controlled by the Catholic Church. Her father appears in various guises in her work and often stands in for the authoritarian male world in general. In discussing Bettarini's cathartic, first-person style, Dictionary of Literary Biography essayist Elio Costa observed that "beyond the invective, the great merit of this poetry is Bettarini's ability to transcend the personal and to project the violence onto an epic plane." A collection of her writings about women's place in society and the Italian feminist movement can be found in Felice di essere. The essays, book reviews, and letters are divided into two parts: "For a Women's Culture" and "Sexuality and Politics." In many of the pieces, she writes of contemporary feminist thought but personalizes it by incorporating her own experiences, and in doing so expresses the belief that feminist liberation begins not on the streets or in the schools but rather on the simplest of levels in one's own life.
One of the few allies Bettarini found in Italian artistic movements was the avant-garde writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini, a visionary who earned condemnations from staid Italian society for his shocking and critical images blaspheming the country's power structures. His murder in 1975 had a profound effect on Bettarini, and she wrote many pieces that paid homage to his vision, such as "Trittico per Pasolini," published in Almanacco dell Specchio in 1979. During this period Bettarini's poetry also shifted slightly more inward, becoming more contemplative and reflective. The critic Costa noted that one such example of this shift, Diario fiorentino, "displays the sureness and confidence of a mature poet. At work in these poems is the magnetic pull of the past and the attempt to find answers in the present to questions that had gone unanswered before." Other examples of Bettarini's introspective shift are evidenced in Il viaggio/Il corpo.
Bettarini has also explored other avenues of writing besides poetry. Storie d'Ortensia: Romanza recreates some of the tales she heard as a child from her great-aunt. The relative had been a staunch opponent of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who ruled Italy during the 1920s and 1930s. In 1980 Bettarini and Salvo Imprevisti collaborator Silvia Batisti published Chi è il poeta? The work is comprised of responses to a survey of three questions sent to forty leading Italian poets, thirty-three of whom answered. Bettarini later revised the long prose piece in Storie d'Ortensia and reprinted it with Psicografia. The volume is an attempt to exorcise the negative role the relationship with her father has played in her life. Costa termed it "a dark, foreboding work [but] nevertheless an important, perhaps invaluable, key to the understanding of Bettarini the person."
In the 1989 book Amorosa persona, Bettarini continued to fuse her verse with other forms of writing such as letters, recollections of dreams, and journal entries. Unlike much of her previous work, it is not written in the first person, but rather in the voice of a woman named Romilda. It took several years for Bettarini to find a publisher for the volume. At the conclusion of his essay on Bettarini, Costa noted that "as in virtually all of Bettarini's works, at the center of Amorosa persona, amid the crises and traumas and the hopelessness of love, is the stoic, unavoidable acceptance of life."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 128: Twentieth-Century Italian Poets, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1993.*