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Isabella, poems by Isabella Morra, translated by Caroline Maldonado


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Isabella Morra (c1520-1545/6) was born into an impoverished aristocratic family in Southern Italy. Forced to live in strict isolation in the family castle in Valsinni on a steep cliff above the Ionian Sea, she devoted herself to writing a series of extraordinary poems, amaro, aspro e dolente (‘bitter, harsh and sorrowful’), about her longing for escape. When she was twenty-six she was brutally murdered by three of her brothers in an honour killing. She was buried in an unmarked grave, and her poetry was forgotten for several hundred years. Today Isabella Morra is regarded as a unique and powerful voice in sixteenth-century Italian literature, a precursor of Leopardi and a possible influence on Tasso. Benedetto Croce wrote her biography, praising her poetry for its ‘passionate immediacy’. Two plays about her life and work have recently been staged in Paris and in Rome. The Io Isabella International Film festival is dedicated to her memory. This is the first complete UK edition of Isabella Morra’s poetry, and includes a series of poems written by translator Caroline Maldonado about the life and brutal death of this remarkable young woman in the context of femminicidi and honour killings in our own time.

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