An artist, poet, translator, and teacher, Jennifer Scappettone was born and raised in New York. The recipient of a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, in 2005, she has lived in Italy, Virginia, Japan, California, and Chicago. Scappettone’s poetry has appeared in the anthologies The Best American Poetry 2004, The City Visible: Chicago Poetry for the New Century (2007), The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral, The Best American Experimental Writing 2016, and others. Her translations of the work of Amelia Rosselli from the Italian were published in Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli, and received the Raiziss/De Palchi Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Scappettone teaches at the University of Chicago.
Jennifer Scappattone (JS): I am a poet and scholar of U.S. and Italian nationalities who grew up in New York, across the street from a highly toxic landfill recalling our family’s ancestral land outside of Naples, a zone laced with illegal poisonous dumps. I translate Fascists and anti-Fascists; Italian feminists and a notorious misogynists; inheritors of Futurism and the historical avant-garde; and contemporary poets who are attempting to grapple with the millennial burden of the “Italian” language, channeling or annulling voices from Saint Francis through autonomia.
AR: Describe your current or most recent project. Why is it cool? What should we know about it?
JS: I have several current translation projects. One is a translation of an “aeronovel or aeropoem” by F.T. Marinetti composed in 1944, amidst the German occupation of a divided Italy during World War II. It is a desperate, breathless, un-punctuated, and unstable text that—in a gasp of last-ditch fascism—imagines the resurgence of Venice as a kitschy female colossus of Murano glass. That’s clearly as cool as it is problematic. Though it isn’t a prize-winning strategy, I believe it is necessary to understand Fascists and misogynists/woman-worshippers from the inside, through their own writing, in an epoch such as ours. No channel could be more intimate and potentially seditious.
I’m also translating selections from Reasonable Chesspiece, a collection of poetry by the art critic and founder of Lotta Femminista, Carla Lonzi. I am undertaking this project in collaboration with Judith Kirshner, who has studied Lonzi’s art writings for decades and will provide a historical introductory narrative, and Silvia Guslandi, a talented young translator who is working on the tape-recorded interviews of Lonzi’s Self-Portrait, a paradoxically titled collection of interviews with male artists from Lucio Fontana to Cy Twombly. We will bring the pieces together in the hopes of drawing more attention to Italian feminism—both in English-speaking countries and in Italy, where it is dead and mostly forgotten.