This essay reflects on the constitutive bilingualism that characterizes the self-translation of twentieth-century poets in dialect into Italian. Here, Agamben proposes, the poem no longer dwells within the identity of one language but finds a true home in the white space that joins and divides the two texts, often printed on facing pages. Agamben traces back this poetic bilingualism to Dante, who contrasts the vernacular language, “which infants acquire from those around them,” and the language he calls “grammatical,” which we have to learn through a long course of study. This translative tension between two languages is not just an issue for poetry in dialect, but, as Hölderlin’s translations from Pindar and Sophocles clearly show, also defines every authentic poetic intention. Taking on this inherent bilingualism is, according to Agamben, the task of both the translator and the poet.

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