Franco Beltrametti

Friend Franco Beltrametti would be 70 today, ‘cept he split this mortal coil on August 25th 1995. One of the many-tongued poets I so delight in, he was also a sweet friend over the years – we met at the Amsterdam One World poetry festival in the early seventies & then again & again in Paris, London, Luxembourg and many other cities over the next twenty years It was a major delight to get his marvelous collage / concrete poem postcards, letters and objects in the mail every so often – he was as much a visual artist than a poet, in fact. A project we had concocted, an anthology of poetry that would bring together all poets writing in a language not their mother tongue, and to be called Blows Against the Mother tongue, is still on my projects’ list and material is slowly accumulating, reaching from Li Po and Ovid to Anselm Hollo and Franco himself. He was a good friend to many poets from Switzerland to Japan, whichever way you want to travel that route, and especially close to James Koller, Gary Snyder and Tom Raworth, on whose website you can find much about their connection. Here’s a short bio of the man, from his website:

Born October 7. 1937 in Locarno, Switzerland. Studied architecture in Zürich. In 1965 he leaves on the Siberian Express for Japan, where he meets Gary Snyder, Cid Corman & Philip Whalen among others. In the spring of 1967 he arrives on board of the freight ship Washington Bear on the American West Coast for the first time. Here he meets Jim Koller, Joanne Kyger, Lew Welch & many others. In the 70. he plays a decisive role in bringing these poets to Europa, first by including them in many anthologies then published mainly in Italy, & later by inviting them to participate in the One World Poetry festivals held in Venice & Amsterdam late in that decade. Until his unexpected death Franco kept a close contact between the two continents & its poets. His autobiography was published in Volume 13 of Contemporary Authors, Gale Research Inc. Detroit & London 1991. California Totem was written in 1974 when Franco had returned to California & was building his house in the Sierra Nevada in the neighborhood of Gary Snyder, Dick Baker, Allen Ginsberg & Steve Sanfield. These poems allow a look at the myths of this moment: Gertrude Stein, Jack Spicer, Jaime de Angulo, Condor, Coyote & the Fur-She-Watermelon are part of a creation myth in which the forming of a microcosm serves to show the creation of the whole world. California Totem is the first volume in a series co-published by the Fondazione Franco Beltrametti & Stadtlichter Presse that aims at releasing Franco’s works in English & German translations. Volume Two, Nadamas, a novel from the 60., was published in September 2004. More information can be found here or at

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1 Response

  1. mongibeddu says:


    Thanks for writing this; I only just met Franco’s son Giona, who was in the U.S. to visit Jim Koller and Joanne Kyger. Pictures here. How great it was to learn about Franco’s time in Sicily (“a comrade,” Carla said), and to read his work, some of it, which Giona and Jim kindly gave me. A great spirit!

    Ben F.

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