Peter Hughes: Poems from ‘Via Leopardi’


My versions of Leopardi’s first 21 poems came out from Equipage in 2017 under the title via Leopardi 21. The following poems are from the second half of his poetic output. My Leopardi project is influenced by Stephen Rodefer’s wonderful Villon versions, especially in the employment of footnotes. These poems are therefore dedicated to his memory, and that of John James, ‘il migio fab bro, whose moving cadences, deft manoeuvres & expert nightcap recommendations have kept me going for years.’

Peter Hughes, Bethesda, Epiphany 2021



via Leopardi 22  


talk about these northern constellations

nor did I expect to come back here  

& contemplate our eerie dispositions

from a high window in my parents’ house

back across the evening’s vacant courtyards

you reminding me of hedgehogs & compost

from goats & donkeys’ years ago

my vast imaginings about the future 

never had me standing here like this 

still wearing these unprepossessing trousers 

& staring through my back-lit reflection

at so much interrupted emptiness

I didn’t think I’d have to spend so long

among resentful locals either 

affecting interest in their football team

as all this ancient rain goes down the drain

the damaged van abandoned 

bobbing & rotating in the flooded lay-by


There is nothing quite like excessive rain running down the drains at night outside a house you used to live in. Anonymous new neighbours peer out suspiciously at this stranger then quickly draw the curtains.




via Leopardi 25


the poet gets carried away again

well reckless sex on an office chair with wheels

& this severely sloping floor

will always introduce an element

of unpredictability

yet I cannot agree with the Maestro

that happiness cannot exist

before we crash into the wall

on the good ship Lustprinzip

how like you this she stepped out of her 

towel & condensation & why not

fuck to a little velvet underground

as the sticky winter Sunday afternoon

or is it Thursday wondering which way to

turn not knowing from which of these angles 

to regard you & your current presences

well this will do as well as the next

what Jack wouldn’t have given 

to have shrugged off his cardigan

anxieties & cold despair

to have spent just an hour

as the sun goes down

& so do I

& the old year

groans & 


to an awareness of felicity

as you walk my plank

I walk yours &

what is that you’re rubbing

on & in my back

& front an unexpected blend of Beethoven aniseed

balls & hot chocolate

it smells a lot like guacamole

& still you hold my eye from that position

leaning slightly to the left then

banking into this tremendously 

tight bend


This poem was written to slip into one of those dummy books on a shelf in a furniture showroom which has sadly closed.




via Leopardi 27


love or death

love or hake

death or cake

approach it at an angle

those hours in Recanati

when you couldn’t think of love

without a little death

erecting an insubstantial

monument no sooner sensed

than woken from another

hopeless dream of goats

& gnats & scarecrows in west Cambridge

or just another Woody Allen film

I’m sorry that Tom Raworth’s gone

I contemplate his collage

where every multi-coloured window

is an opening on

love as well as death

could be an opening on

anything that was & is

or might be sometime soon

I recommend the fishcakes & prosecco

followed by the nutty chocolate hearts

keep an eye out for the odd bone

don’t go to bed

too late


The influence of Leopardi on Eddie Izzard was but one of the interesting topics covered in my rejected PhD. proposal to the University of Ancona, or maybe Ascoli Piceno. I’m pretty sure it was an A town.




via Leopardi 29


I was so attracted

by your static

allure Aspasia I a 

hovering sausage

dog with no legs

yet the closest I

got was you rubbing

me against your jumper

then sticking me

to the wall of the lobby

during the lowest point

of a birthday party for your kids

I thought you were a kind 

of goddess in Ugg boots

enveloped in a glowing

cloud of of mint & yogurt

flavoured hairspray

orchestrated by Berlioz

during one of his

more imbalanced sets

but now I see that all

your fascination was sprayed on

by the tanning studios of 

my own imagination

& maybe Hector’s

there will now be 

a short ballet

accompanied by a lot of

accidentally amplified clattering

& antique dust

from ancient men

cavorting in the footlights

sit down lads

it’s true I stood upon

your burning decks

in a Nelson hat

& cricket pads for far too long

but now it’s time to start again

o historically retarded

Anglophone administrations 

now the panto’s over

& Easter eggs & fireworks

are in the local shops

I’m sat in this pub garden

at half 3 in the morning

listening to a blackbird

even more fucked up than me

struggling to remember

who’s a firestarter


The government’s response to the latest set of emergencies has a lot to answer for. It is however reassuring to note that Eton & its stakeholders have been largely insulated. Also personal disillusionment after a relationship is sometimes a necessary phase, important for recalibration & balance.  But, like standing on one leg with your eyes closed, it should only go on for about forty-five seconds.


To read Peter Hughes’ Essay ‘On Translation’: On translation



Peter Hughes is currently based in north Wales where he writes, runs Oystercatcher Press and teaches creative writing. He has produced various innovative versions of Italian classics.
Recent poetry publications include Cavalcanty (Carcanet 2017), A Berlin Entrainment (Shearsman 2019), and Bethesda Constellations (Oystercatcher 2020). 




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