Augusto Lentricchia Collection
Notebooks of poetry and prose.
5 cubic ft.
Italian-American; prose reflective of the immigrant experience.
Prepared by Dr. Fred Gardaphe.
All too rare are examples and accounts of the uses of literacy by Italian immigrants
of the early 20th century. As such an account, the notebooks of Augusto Lentricchia
are an important contribution to the knowledge of Italian American culture and for
that reason I consider them to be important and of great value. Having read and studied
them, I have come to the conclusion that they are unlike any other materials I have
come across in my more than 25 years of doing research in the field of Italian American
studies. Over that time I have researched Italian American materials in a number of
places. The most important archive is currently maintained at the Immigration History
Research Center of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. It is a wonderful archive
that contains the papers of a number of Italian American immigrants, primarily professionals,
but nothing the likes of what is found in the Lentricchia notebooks.
What we have with the Lentricchia manuscripts is first-rate evidence that the immigrant
was not a placid, apathetic, illiterate human being who was so busy working that he
could not think deeply about life and his situation and express those thoughts in
writing. The content of these notebooks gives us an extremely rare look at the thinking
of a working class immigrant as he reflects on his situation as an immigrant and as
an exploited worker. Most of the poems, in the early notebooks, reflect a radical
bent that has nearly been erased in the consciousness of Americans of Italian descent.
These notebooks restore that spirit and will be of great interest to scholars specializing
in the working class studies and the history of American radical thought.
But these notebooks are not only important specimens of radical thinking, they are
also extremely important for the style in which they are written. The Italian language
used by Lentricchia struggles toward the standard but is clearly reflective of a local
dialect, making it a primary source for the linguistic study of Italian dialects as
well as Italian American English or what one scholar has labeled as ltalglish. The
poems that are written in English represent the struggle for clear communication in
a second language. This interplay among the dialects of English and Italian, or code
switching, is a phenomenon worthy of a major article, if not an entire book.
These notebooks, besides giving us insight into the thinking of a single man, represent
the rare reflection of an entire generation, most of whom did not keep such records
of their lives through writing, or, if records were kept, they were, for the most
part, destroyed by subsequent generations. I have no doubt that scholars throughout
the country in the fields of linguistics, immigration culture, American studies, American
literature, sociology, history, folklore, psychology, will find important data in
Beyond the obvious interest of those who study and write about American immigrant
culture, these notebooks take on the role of giving students and scholars insights
into the heritage of one of America's greatest living literary scholars and critics,
Frank Lentricchia. Lentricchia, in a number of his major works, refers to Augusto
Lentricchia and to these notebooks. There is no doubt that those scholars and students
of his works will find great insights into Lentricchia's criticism and his recent
creative works, for these notebooks have been thoroughly absorbed by Lentricchia and
serve his creativity more than any other book he's read.
I have translated a number of the poems, which, with a head note composed by Frank
Lentricchia, will appear in the spring, 2001 issue of Voices in Italian Americana, the journal of record in Italian American Studies. There is no doubt that the response
to these translations will be strong and perhaps even generate a project through which
all the poetry will be translated and published in a bi- or tri-lingual edition.
A leading scholar in early Italian immigrant literature written in Italian, Martino
Marazzi, currently a fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America
at Columbia University, has reviewed these translations and writes: "These are certainly
quite interesting and full of raw energy that is rarely found in manuscripts. There
are a great number of rhetorical twists that echo the work of such masters as Arturo
Giovannitti and other major Italian poets from the early 20th century. We Italian
scholars will certainly benefit from these translations and from knowing that such
a resource will be available for our studies."
These are just a few of the major projects that will result once these are made available
to researchers through the SUNY-Stony Brook special collection archives. No doubt
there will be others that we cannot yet imagine.
Prepared by John Lawrence Sharpe, CPRM, Inc., Hillsborough, North Carolina
There was little Italian emigration to the United States before 1870. However, Italy
was now one of the most overcrowded countries in Europe and many began to consider
the possibility of leaving Italy to escape low wages and high taxes. Most of these
immigrants were from rural communities with very little education. From 1890 to 1900,
655,888 arrived in the United States, of whom two-thirds were men. A survey carried
out that most planned to return once they had built up some capital. Most Italians
found unskilled work in America's cities. There were large colonies in New York, Philadelphia,
Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit. From 1900 to 1910 over 2,100,00 arrived. Of these,
around 40 per cent eventually returned to Italy.
Willing to work long hours on low wages, the Italians now began to rival the Irish
for much of the unskilled work available in industrial areas. This sometimes led to
hostilities breaking out between the two groups of workers. The Italians were also
recruited into the garment industry and by the outbreak of the World War I had replaced
the Jews as the main group in the manual labor trades.
The Italians developed a reputation for becoming criminals. This was mainly due to
high-profile criminals such as Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, Joe Masseria, Albert Anastasia,
Salvadore Marazano, Vito Genovese and Frank Costell. However, a study in Massachusetts
revealed that the Italian-born, who comprised 8.0 per cent of the population of the
state, made up only 4.2 per cent of those confined in penal institutions. Prejudice
against Italians and anarchists contributed to the false conviction of Nicola Sacco
and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in 1921.
Italians became active in trade unions and produced several leaders such as Arthuro
Giovannitti and Carlo Tresca. Second-generation Italians became important figures
in progressive politics. This included figures such Fiorello LaGuardia, Vito Marcantonio,
and Emmanuel Celler. During the period 1820 and 1920 over 4,190,000 people emigrated
from Italy to the United States. Only Ireland (4,400,000) and Germany (5,500,000)
came anywhere near these figures. By World War II there were more people of Italian
stock living in New York City than in Rome. An investigation carried out in 1978 revealed
that since 1820 over 5,294,000 people emigrated to the United States from Italy. This
amounted to 10.9 per cent of the total foreign immigration during this period.
The story of Italian immigrants is seldom recorded in their own words. It is very
rare to find stories, poems, and historical accounts about the world in which they
lived. Rarer, indeed, is the capacity of these immigrants to use with facility their
native language and at the same time English as a reflection of their concern to adapt
to their adopted land.
Scope and Content
There are eight sections containing more than 1360 pages of handwritten text in the
hand of Augusto Lentricchia. Also included in this collection are scrapbooks of newspaper
and other clippings, dating from 1922-1979.
Rights and Permissions
Stony Brook University Libraries' consent as the physical owner of the collection
does not address copyright issues that may affect publication rights. It is the sole
responsibility of the user of Special Collections and University Archives materials
to investigate the copyright status of any given work and to seek and obtain permission
where needed prior to publication.
"Le Memorie Di A. Lentricchia, Volume Primo"
Dates: The earliest date in this journal is February 1, 1922 and the last entry is
dated October 10, 1922. However, there are dates in 1923, 1924 and 1925, and 1926
on the pages that are between the first and last pages.
Pages of text: There are 400 pages of text with a 12 page index at the end of the
Description of contents: The entire notebook is written in Italian. The majority
of the works are poems of several verses and are written in blue ink. There are a
few photographs placed within the poetry or prose. There is a complete index at the
end of the 400 pages.
Size: hard cover lined ledger; 20 cm x 27 cm.
"Memorie Di A. Lentricchia Volume II Rilegato Secondo Volume"
Binder for contents of Box 3 (contents removed for preservation reasons).
Size: 23 cm x 28 cm.
White envelope containing three manila folders. Each folder has lined pages of poetry.
Dates: Folder 1 has entries that range from 1927 to 1928
Folder 2 has entries that range from 1928 and to 1932
Folder 3 has entries that range from 1931 to 1933
Pages: Folder 1 has 150 pages of handwritten poetry and a few prose items that are
written front and back of lined paper that appears to have been taken from a bound
Folder 2 has pages 151 to 300. It is also written on lined paper that was taken from
a bound notebook.
Folder 3 has pages 301 to 309. It is also written on lined paper that was taken from
a bound notebook.
Description of contents: Each of the three folders contain lined pages with three
hole punched in the sides. Most of the poetry is written in blue ink with a few poems
in red ink. Each of the poems has several verses and all of them are written in Italian.
Size: each folder is 24 cm x 29 cm.
1) University Notebook 1962, Augusto Lentricchia
Dates: January 5, 1918 to January 24, 1964
Pages of text: 215 containing 92 entries. There were 19 items laid in; they have
been removed and housed in a folder.
Description of contents:
111 poems with content ranging from Utica Strike to verses to his grandson on his
birthday on April, 23, 1964
A record of the guests and their gifts at his 50th Anniversary
An accurate index is included on the last pages of the book
Clippings and inserts include:
A picture from 1967 of the Earth
A copy of the Declaration of Independence
A letter to his grandparents
A letter about his grandson Frank attending Duke University; poems about grandchildren
Newspaper clippings on family and historical events
Size: 19 cm x 25 cm.
2) University Notebook 1964, Augusto Lentricchia (handwritten spine title" "Le mie
Dates: September 20, 1964, to June 23, 1979
Pages: 215 with 91 entries. There are also 7 items laid in.
Description of contents: One quarter of this holograph is prose and the remainder
is poetry. Historical topics in the diary range from the KKK to the war in Vietnam.
His poetry which usually has four verses often are his thoughts on family events.
The following is an example of some of the poetry:
Guerra alla Poverta
Why Do We March?
Ad un Soldato Morto Al Vietnam
Sogno Ideologico Parte seconda
Sogno ldeologico Parte Prima
All'amico Silverio Alteri che canto per me nel mio 50 anniversario matrimoneale
To our Grandson Frank Lentricchia, Jr., who graduated at Duke University, NC with
Ph.D. degree on June 7, 1966
Madre Natura e L'uomo
Dedica per il compagno A Albanese E la sua Consorte, due sonnetti
From the Treasure Chest: Friendships
Il matrimononio di Jackie ed Ari
La Chiesa e La Scienza
La Liberta a chi?
Included in the inserts are three poems written in pencil on lined paper and a letter
from his daughter.
Size: board binding; 19 cm x 25 cm.
"Ricordi Del Passato," A. Lentricchia
Dates: The dates of the clippings are not included but the events are clearly in
the early 1930s.
Pages: All fifty pages of the album and the inside of the front and back covers are
used to paste in the clippings.
Description of contents: The pictures and the subject matter of the album relate
to political events in the United States and Europe. Pasted beside a news item on
Hitler arresting two priests is a poem entitled "Cheer Up." On the lighter side, the
scrapbook includes pictures of the Rose Bowl Queen and the girls in the Ice Capades.
There are short clippings of poetry throughout the book. It also includes one original
Size: 24 cm x 28 cm.
1) "Paper 'clippins' of the Past," 1973
Dates: The clippings from newspapers cover the time period from 1969 to 1979.
Pages: A personal calendar with the title "Visible Week" 1973 is used as a scrapbook
for the newspaper clippings. 32 of the 116 pages are used. There are two short newspaper
clippings that are laid in.
Description of contents: Many of the clippings in this collection are related to
William Lentricchia and his family. Articles on medicine, religion and politics make
up the remainder.
Size: 22 cm x 23 cm
2) "Antica Storia di Morolo: mio Manoscritto"
Dates: 1976, 1979, 1980
Pages: The ledger has 148 pages: only 27 of them contain poetry and prose.
Description of Contents:
Letters to friends (in folder)
Storia Di Morolo
Per Raccontarlo a te
La Morale Del Papa
II Milionario E La Morte
La Storia In Rime Delia Rivoluzione D'Iran
A Madre Natura
For Kevin T. on his 5th Birthday
L' Addio Ai Miei Pensieri
Page 144 is an index of the diary and page 148 is a list of the birthdays of friends
and family. The living will for the author is laid in the front of the ledger. Letters
from friends were also laid in the ledger and are now housed in a folder.
Size: 19 cm x 30 cm.