Spatola, Adriano 1941–1988

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Spatola, Adriano 1941–1988

PERSONAL: Born Bruno Spatola, May 4, 1941, in Sapjane, Yugoslavia; died November 23, 1988; married Anna Fausta Neri, June 12, 1965 (divorced, 1984); married Bianca Maria Bonazzi, 1988; children: (first marriage) Riccardo. Education: Graduated from University of Bologna, c. 1980.

CAREER: Poet. Worked variously as an editor and lecturer.


Le pietre e gli dei, Tamari (Bologna, Italy), 1961.

L'oblò (novel), Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1965.

Poesia da montare, Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1965.

Zeroglifico, Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1966, translation by Giulia Niccola and Paul Vangelisti published as Zeroglyphics, Red Hill Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1977.

L'ebreo negro, All'Insegna del Pesce d'Oro (Milan, Italy), 1966.

La pinzochera, Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1967.

(Editor) La cortigiana, Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1967.

(With Luigi Ferro) Moltiplicazione, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1968.

Algoritmo, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1968.

(Editor, with Claudio Parmiggiani) Parole sui muri, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1968.

(Editor) Ezio Gribaudo: Il peso del concreto, Arte Fratelli Pozzo (Turin, Italy), 1968.

Verso la poesia totale, Rumma (Salerno, Italy), 1969.

(Editor) Miroglio, qualcosa di metafisico, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1970.

(Author of introduction) Guiliano della Cassa Alfabeto, [Modena, Italy], 1971.

Majakovskiiiiiiij, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1971, translated by Paul Vangelisti, Red Hill Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1972.

Quadri, miraggi, ritratti di Francesco Guerrieri, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1972.

Diversi accorgimenti, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1975, translation by Paul Vangelisti published as Various Devices, Red Hill Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1978.

(With Giovanni Fontana) Radio/drama: i(n) terazione, Geiger (Turin, Italy), 1977.

La composizione del testo, Cooperativa Scrittori (Rome, Italy), 1978.

Verso la poesia totale, G.B. Paravia (Turin, Italy), 1978.

Cacciatore di mosche, Telai del Bernini (Modena, Italy), 1980.

(Editor, with Paul Vangelisti) Italian Poetry, 1960–1980: From Neo to Post Avant-garde, Red Hill Press (San Francisco, CA), 1982.

La piegatura del foglio, Guida (Naples, Italy), 1983.

Impaginazioni, Tam Tam (San Paolo d'Enza, Italy), 1984.

(With Michele Cascella) Michele Cascella: "retrarre," Etruschuludens Editore (Rome, Italy), 1985.

Recenti Zeroglifici, Tam Tam (San Paolo d'Enza, Italy), 1985.

Il futurismo, Elle Emme (Milan, Italy), 1986.

La definizione del prezzo, Tam Tam (Sant'Ilario d'Enza, Italy), 1991.

Material, Materials, Recovery of, translated by Paul Vangelisti, Sun & Moon Press (Los Angeles, CA), 1993.

Contributor to books, including Poesie visive, Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1965; Teatro italiano, Sampietro (Bologna, Italy), 1966; Italian Poetry Today: Currents and Trends, edited by Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann, New Rivers (St. Paul, MN), 1979; Another You, edited by Paul Vangelisti, Red Hill (Los Angeles, CA), 1980; and The New Italian Poetry: 1945 to the Present, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1981. Contributor of poetry and graphics to periodicals, including Verri, Malebolge, and Quindici. Coeditor of poetry magazine Tam Tam: Rivista di Poesia, Apeosia, e Poesia Totale.


Anne Vilmont, Le carnivore, Dellavalle (Turin, Italy), 1969.

(With Ginetta Vittorini) Violette Leduc, Teresa e Isabella e la donna col renard, Feltrinelli (Milan, Italy), 1969.

(With Giulia Niccolai) Michael Edwards, Nell'India Antica, Libreria Martello (Milan, Italy), 1975.

(With Giulia Niccolai) Ellen MacNamara, Gli Etruschi, Libreria Martello (Milan, Italy), 1975.

(With Giulia Niccolai) Marjorie Rowling, Nel medioevo, Libreria Martello (Milan, Italy), 1975.

John Cage, Dopo di me il silenzio, Emme (Milan, Italy), 1978.

SIDELIGHTS: Though born in Yugoslavia, Adriano Spatola was thoroughly Italian in his upbringing and in his poetry. His family lived in Imola, Italy, during Spatola's youth, but in 1958 the young man moved to the bigger city of Bologna to attend law school. While at the university, Spatola became involved in literature, contributing poetry to the school literary magazine, Babilu. The turning point came in 1961 when, hearing Luciano Anceschi lecture on poetry, Spatola decided to forgo his law career and study Italian literature instead. As Dictionary of Literary Biography writer Elana Urgnani noted, Spatola "was not academically oriented enough to take his studies seriously, yet he never dropped out of school. He finally received his degree from the University of Bologna at the beginning of the 1980s.

By that time Spatola had made his name as a poet of the neo-avant-garde school, an emerging genre that attracted many of Italy's young intellectuals beginning in the 1960s. He was a founding member of Gruppo '63, a collective intent on broadening contemporary literature. By 1964 Spatola was creating posters for the journal Malebolge, a task described by Urgnani as "an inventive inspiration" for the young poet. He moved to the board of editors of Quindici, a political journal that hosted not only poets but also sociologists, critics, and political activists.

Spatola's early poetry includes Le pietre e gli dei. His only published novel, L'oblò, which also appeared in the early 1960s, "is written in a difficult, lyrical, surrealist, convoluted prose," according to Urgnani. By the same token, Spatola's poems are often not limited to words on a page but use graphic design to enhance their imagery. Such "zeroglyphics" include experiments in which the poet "chose printed characters as anonymous as possible—very large and bold-faced, as in newspaper headlines or advertisements," noted Urgnani. "But the breaking up of the writing is rather clear and elementary. It maintains a rational appearance, similar to the vertical and horizontal grid on which the normal typecase is based. His purpose was to correct the apparent candor and the false pretenses in linear or 'literary' poetry." In L'ebreo negro—a metaphor for the Jews' treatment during the Holocaust—Spatola's title poem, according to Urgnani "is descriptive only in a broad sense; images generate other images as if by parthenogenesis. Punctuation is absent, and the first verse is all in lowercase letters."

Five years after publishing L'ebreo negro, Spatola released Majakovskiiiiiiij; the title is a pun on the name of poet Vladimir Majakovskij and "is supposed to sound like a dying scream," Urgnani explained. In the work the poet laments the close of the 1960s as not only the end of a decade but the end of an era characterized by Majakovskij's poetic experimentalism. To Peter Caravetta, writing in Altro Polo, the poem as a whole "evidences no meaningful referents to concrete reality, to that of the reader, that is. From the purely linguistic to the philosophical, this poem expands and errs in the no-man's-land of the sign that hails its being, proposes and re-appropriates itself in a maniacal contortion within the tension of its vacuousness." Caravetta concluded that "the poem is about the revolution!"

During the final years of his short life, Spatola worked as an editor and lecturer while continuing to produce poems with a strong sociological and political standpoint. As Urgnani stated, Spatola "was a poet with expressive strength and social sensibility; he engaged in changing the surrounding world in both aesthetic and political terms. He was an organizer of culture, a theoretician, and at the same time a historian of those movements in which he took part."



Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 128: Twentieth-Century Italian Poets, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI) 1993.


Altro Polo, 1980, Peter Caravetta, "A Reading of Spatola's Majakovskiiiiiiij," pp. 89-111.

Booklist, February 15, 1978, Val Morehouse, review of Zeroglyphics, p. 984.

Choice, September, 1983, review of Italian Poetry, 1960–1980: From Neo to Post Avant-Garde, p. 102.

Italian Quarterly, winter-spring, 1996, Barbara Zecchi, "L'Oblò di Adriano Spatola: Il racconto del racconto che non c'È," pp. 40-60.

Library Journal, December 15, 1982, review of Italian Poetry, 1960–1980, p. 2304.

Los Angeles Times, January 23, 1983, Kenneth Funsten, review of Italian Poetry, 1960–1980, p. 3.

Small Press Book Review, October, 1982, review of Italian Poetry, 1960–1980, p. 8.

Studi Novecenteschi, December, 1990, Luigi Fontanella, "Gli Esordi poetici di Adriano Spatola," pp. 379-398.

World Literature Today, winter, 1984, R. Schulte, review of Italian Poetry, 1960–1980, p. 86.