Joseph Tusiani

An award-winning poet who immigrated to the United States from San Marco in Lamis, province di Foggia, shortly after World War II, Joseph Tusiani was educated at the University of Naples in English language and literature.

Tusiani had written quite a bit poetry before emigrating, and soon proved himself to be is a master translator of Italian. He is perhaps best known for his translations of the poetry of Michelangelo, Tasso, Boccacio, Leopardi, and Dante (including a retelling of the Divine Comedy for young people).

Tusiani was the first Italian American to be named vice-president of the Poetry Society of America, a position he held from 1956-1968. He taught at American colleges for more than 35 years, and spent most of them at Lehman College in the Bronx. During his career he also had the opportunity meet world leaders such as President Kennedy.

He has published poetry in English -- "Rind and All" (1962), "The Fifth Season" (1964), "Gente Mia" (1978) -- and in Italian and the Pugliese dialect: "Bronx, America" (1991) and "Annemale parlance" (1994) and "Latin Carmina latina" (1994). Since retiring from teaching, Tusiani has completed three volumes of an autobiographical narrative epic. The first one is a novelization of his landmark poem, "La parole difficult" ("The Difficult Word"). The next two were "La parole nova" ("The New Word") and "La parole antica" ("The Ancient Word"). All three were written in Italian and are currently being translated into English.

His legacy has been preserved and honored through many scholarly works and dissertations, as well as documentary films such as "Finding Joseph Tusiani: The poet of Two Lands" by Sabrina Digregorio.

-- Fred Gardaphe