Sicilian Poetry


Vincenzo Ancona (1915 - 2/23/2000)

portrait of Vincenzo Ancona

Vincenzo Ancona carries forward the rich tradition of Sicilian Folk Poetry following in the steps of poets like Pietro Fullone (?-1670). Ancona was born in the western province of Trapani in the harbor town of Castellammare del Golfo, which in ancient times was the port for the Elymian town of Segesta. At the age of 41 he emigrated to Brooklyn with his wife and four children. His poetry reflects his long experience of Sicilian artisan life and his more recent American experiences.

Arba Sicula initiated a project called The Poets of Arba Sicula and selected Vincenzo Ancona for Volume I entitled Malidittu La Lingua: Damned Language LEGAS, New York, 1990, 212 pp. The book comes with two cassette tape recordings of most of the poetry in the book.

Like all the books published by Arba Sicula, this is a dual language book with Sicilian on one page and the English translation on the facing page. The translations were masterfully done by Professor Gaetano Cipolla, the current president and editor of Arba Sicula.

The title poem, Malidittu la lingua, has seventeen verses. Here's the first verse in Sicilian, together with the English translation, as well as an audio file with Ancona's recitation.

Press play ▶ to hear the audio. (see the note)
Malidittu la lingua!

S'un mi la 'nsignu sugnu ruvinatu,
sta lingua 'nglisi c'un sacciu parrari.
Quantu malifiguri c'aiu pruvati,
sparti di chiddi ca ancora a pruvari
Pi la me lingua sugnu un avvucatu,
ma cu li mura pozzu ragiunari
picchí sta maliditta lingua 'nglisi
è fatta di papocchi e mali 'ntisi.

Damned Language!

If I do not learn English soon, I'll be ruined.
Damn this language I don't know how to speak!
So much embarassment have I endured,
not mentioning what else may be in store.
In my own language I'm a Cicero,
but I feel like I'm speaking to the wall
when I speak English; this accursed tongue
is made of scribblings, ciphers---it's all wrong!

Translation by Gaetano Cippolla


If you need the free QuickTime Player plug-in to play this audio file, it's available in Windows and Macintosh versions at: the Apple web site.

Return to... Top of Page
or to... Sicilian Poetry

This page is maintained by Art Dieli.
Last updated 11/11/09