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A couple of months ago I was asked to produce some illustrations for The Italian Cultural Institute alongside the wonderfully talented Alice Spicer, James Albon, and my illustration daddy (aka former tutor) Jonny Gibbs. Carlo Pirozzi is putting together a new translation of Giuseppe Ungaretti’s poems titled The Joy, set to be published later this year.

I absolutely love illustrating poetry; I think it gives illustrators a chance to be a bit more conceptual in their interpretation and communication of ideas… which is a fancy way of saying I like it cause I can do what I want! So over the next 4 days I’m going to post up a poem a day with its corresponding illustration and a brief explanation.


What regiment are you from

A word
trembling in the night
An unfurling leaf

In the agonised air
the involuntary rebellion
of man confronting
his fragility


Ungaretti fought in the trenches in WW1, and during this time wrote and published the first edition of The Joy. I felt that Brothers was relatively straightforwards compared to his other pieces in The Joy, referring to soldiers in the trenches and symbolism representing fear and fragility. I really liked the second stanza; to me it represented both the shaking voices of someone who’s afraid, and also the fragility of the soldiers body. So for my illustration I wanted to represent the soldiers as trees (referring to nature, life and strength); they’ve all lost their leaves and are surrounded by trees that have been cut down. The central tree has two men starting to cut its branches off, so all the trees are confronted with their own fragility.