John Ciardi, the most celebrated of Italian American poets, translates Dante's Divine Comedy.

Born in Boston, John Anthony Ciardi (1916-1986) stands among the pantheon of American poets of the twentieth century. He attended public school, Bates College, Tufts University and received a Master's degree from the University of Virginia. He also served in the American Air Force during the Second World War. An Italian American -his parents emigrated from the Campania region -- Ciardi nevertheless transcended his ethnicity by virtue of his broad appeal as a poet, critic, and translator.

In the post World War II period Ciardi taught in various universities until 1961when he left teaching to concentrate on literary pursuits. He had already achieved fame in 1940 when he published Homeward to America, an award-wining work that speaks to the division between the Old and New Worlds. His book How Does a Poem Mean, published in 1960 was widely used as a poetry textbook in high schools and colleges. In 1961 Ciardi attained another career milestone with his translation of Dante's Divine Comedy. One of several translations of this classic, Ciardi's effort that innovates by utilization of a tense, economical and modern verse idiom, is considered one of the best of the genre.

Ciardi served as poetry editor for the distinguished Saturday Review from 1956 to 1972 during which time he earned repute and elicited controversy for his frequent caustic criticism. For a time he also produced a radio program on etymology for National Public Radio. Critics maintain that Ciardi's writings possess the virtues of clarity, immediacy and accessibility. Other Italian American poets with direct roots to the immigrant generation include award winners Felix Stefanile, whose poetry has appeared in many of the most prominent journals and who founded the journal Sparrow, and Lewis Turco, both of whom had their works appear in the Saturday Review.

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