Italian Club of St. Louis February Program Recap: An Unexpected Poet
by Dr. Anthony Perrone
The Italian Club welcomed guests from the DeGregorio, DiMartino and Ferrara families whose ancestors hailed from Palazzo Adriano, the town of Antonino Bufalo, the subject of our February meeting. Antonino Bufalo (b. 1854, d. 1929), was a farmer by birth, a provincial road inspector by profession and a self taught poet by avocation. Like other classical poets from antiquity he chronicled with a keen sense of observation, intuitive interpretation and lyrical inspiration, events that unfolded in his town, in his personal life, in Italy and the world at large, spanning a period of approximately thirty five years from the early 1890’s to the late 1920’s.
The St. Louis connection of his manuscript began in 1929, the year in which the poet died. One of his three sons, who had emigrated to St. Louis a decade earlier, went back to Palazzo Adriano to settle the family estate with his siblings. On his return he brought with him some of his father’s effects, among which was this manuscript of four hundred plus now brittle pages of legibly handwritten hendecasyllable verses, grouped in royal octave stanzas, written in archaic Sicilian dialect. It is a professionally bound volume that has never been printed, nor published.
In 2011 his St. Louis granddaughter inherited the manuscript and, with her two nieces, wanted to find out what the manuscript was all about. For this purpose they were referred to Professor Anthony Perrone who would translate it from Sicilian to English for them, a task of devotion that would take some two years.
The February meeting was a forum for the presentation of the literary work of Antonino Bufalo and the touching story of discovery, dedication and serendipity that brought the work of this unlikely poet to life. His legacy has become an invaluable component that has enriched the cultural heritage of his family, his Palazzo Adriano, as well as the cultural heritage of the Italian American community of St. Louis.
Thanks to the talents and efforts of Dr. Perrone and the devotion of Antonio Bufalo’s grandchildren, the beautiful rhythm of his language allowed us all to share the joys and sorrows of family, the chronicles of war, the challenges of the age, through the eyes of Antonio Bufalo, a most brilliant and talented poet. Thank you to all for bringing to life and sharing this very special literary work.