In the early 1830s the poet Giuseppe Belli (1791-1863) unleashed an explosion of sonnets in the romanesco dialect of his native Rome, writing an incredible 1747 poems in the five years from 1831-5. Marinaded in a lifetime’s exposure to the splendour and squalor of his city, and using the licence of dialect to purchase a subject matter and diction that no other European poets were dealing in, he resolved ‘to leave a monument that shows the common people of Rome as they are today’. Figures from every course of life – housewives, mothers, beggars, lovers, businessmen, popes, idiots, whores, doctors, thieves, lawyers, priests, chancers, pen-pushers, bin-men, shop girls, actresses, grave-diggers, depressives, servants, sex-addicts, gossips and hundreds more – speak of themselves and each other in all the grubby beauty of their unfettered human preoccupations, and in a plain-speaking diction that Wordsworth and Coleridge in their preface to the Lyrical Ballads could hardly have imagined possible. The whole is like a Canterbury Tales or a Decameron of sonnets, rendering up a complete society.
– from Mike Stock’s introduction in MPT Series 3/7 Love and War.
– photo from Wikipedia