Sonnet of the Seven Chinese

By Franco Fortini Franco Fortini

Translated By Geoffrey Brock Read the translator's notes

The Augsburg poet once said he had tacked   
an image of the Man of Doubt   
to the wall of his room. A Chinese print.   
The image asked: how ought one to act?   

I have a photo on my wall. Twenty years ago   
seven Chinese workers looked into my lens.   
They look wary or ironic or tense.   
They know I do not write for them. I know   

they didn’t live for me. Yet sometimes I feel   
I’m being asked for more candid words,   
more credible deeds, by their doubtfulness.   

In turn I ask their help in making visible   
the contradictions and identities among us.   
If there’s a point, it’s this.

Source: Poetry (April 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the April 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

April 2009


Franco Fortini was born Franco Lattes in Florence in 1917 to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, but after the racial laws of 1938 he traded his hazardous surname for his mother's maiden name. Drafted into the army in 1941, he deserted in 1943 and joined the partisans. His first book of poetry, Foglio di via (Deportation order), appeared in 1946, and his last, Composita solvantur (Let componds be dissolved), appeared in 1994, . . .

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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Philosophy


Poetic Terms Free Verse

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