The Prize – 60 years of literary commitment 

The LericiPea Poetry Prize was created sixty years ago by two friends: the writer Enrico Pea from the Versilia area, in Tuscany, and the publisher Marco Carpena from Sarzana, Liguria. It was a difficult period because Italy was still recovering after the war and the economic boom was no closer, but poetry was still vividly present in people’s heart.

Enrico Pea, who very often came to Lerici, wanted to create a prize dedicated to unpublished poetry. Only some of the poets awarded from 1954 to 1996 became famous, including: Giorgio Caproni, who won in 1956 with the poem “La piccola porta” (“The Small Door”), Maria Luisa Spaziani, whose poem “Suite per A” (“Suite for A”) was awarded in 1957. 

In 1958 Enrico Pea passed away leaving a void that the editor Marco Carpena tried to replace with Alberta Andreoli, a poetry-loving Milanese intellectual who had lived in La Spezia area for years. In the meantime, the Jury was changing and important Italian poets like Giorgio Caproni, Angelo Barile, Giuliano Gramigna, Eugenio Montale, Rafael Alberti, Carlo Bo, Libero Bigiaretti, Carlo Betocchi, Salvatore Quasimodo joined it.

The winners were young poets like Alberto Bevilacqua, or old esteemed ones like Carlo Betocchi. In 1986, when Marco Carpena passed away, the LericiPea Prize and the Publishing House were run by Alberta Andreoli. Meanwhile, Giorgio Caproni, Roberto Pazzi, Maria Luisa Spaziani, Folco Portinari and Francesco De Nicola had joined the jury. My memories exactly date back to those years. In 1989 I started collaborating with Alberta Andreoli and I fondly remember our meetings at Shelley Hotel, in Lerici, with the bright and ironic Folco Portinari, the young yet already popular Roberto Pazzi, and Maria Luisa Spaziani, very famous by then and always cultivated in her critical judgements. Among the winners of those years, I recall Silvio Ramat, (1989), Paolo Bertolani (1990), Dario Bellezza, (1991), Valentino Zeichen (1992), Fernando Bandini (1993) Alessandro Parronchi (1994), Maria Luisa Spaziani (awarded twice), Paolo Ruffilli (1996) and Giovanni Giudici.

Alberta Andreoli fell ill in 1996, and she offered me to take over the Prize. I accepted together with other friends: in 1997 the Lerici Pea Association was created and the Prize came back in 1998 with new owners (Adriana Beverini Bausani, Maria Grazia Beverini Del Santo, Gianni Bolongaro, Mayda Cangini Bucchioni, Pier Gino Scardigli and Pia Spagiari Benifei) and a new jury of experts (Roberto Pazzi, Marco Ferrari, Annalisa Cima, Vanni Scheiwiller, Stefano Verdino). The awarded poet in 1998 was the great Mario Luzi.

If I look back at the 30-year work done for the LericiPea Poetry Prize, so many memories came back to me. First of all, I can still see the Carpena print shop in Sarzana, where I first entered in 1989 with Alberta Andreoli. Every year, right there, she would put the LericiPea book together, which then became our memorable Anthology where the winning poems were published. 

The years go by, time passes. I can still see, in slow motion, the faces of the many poets we had the honour to award from 1998 onwards: Adonis, Bonnefoy, Ferlinghetti, Svenbro, Heaney, Enzensberger, Cheng, Kadaré, Sanguineti, Evtushenko. During my five years as president of the LericiPea Prize, I had the chance to get acquainted with so many great poets such as the Italian Mario Luzi, the Argentinian Juan Gelman, the Russian Bella Achmadulina, the Brazilian Marcia Theophilo and the Greek Titos Patrikios. I could describe all those poets – except for Mario Luzi, probably too great to be described – as “civil” poets, all with a strong passion reflected in their poems. 

Leaving their poetic work aside, I will never forget their “look”, their eyes. Luzi’s light-colored and opalescent eyes looked “beyond”, like a modern Homer. Gelman’s greyish-green eyes concealed a deep sorrow, as deep as it can be when your son has been killed and you grand-daughter kidnapped soon after she was born. Bella Achmadulina’s eyes were beautiful yet dull, emptied of that light that in 1950s had brightened the life of many young rebels against the communist power. Titos Patrikios’eyes, kind yet melancholy, were a modern Ulysses’ eyes, exiled in the name of the democracy that the Greeks had gifted the Western world with. And, eventually, Marcia Theophilo’s eyes, shining with determination. It was clear that she was fighting her personal, probably utopian battle to protect the Amazon Forest, as well as the whole planet. These poets, as well as all the people I had the privilege to meet during these years, contributed to expanding my awareness as a human being.