In this respect he had learned much from TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, whose formal diversities and virtuoso uses of poetic impersonality he adapted with great originality to his own purposes in Italian.
Sanesi was also a major translator of English and American poetry, making available for the first time much of the historical and modernist canons of British, Irish and American verse. He directed Italian versions of plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe and Eliot, and wrote and translated libretti for operatic productions, including Benjamin Britten's The Turn Of The Screw.
A sensitive, respected and enthusiastic art critic, he was greatly loved by those whose work he championed. He created his own form of quick and fanciful pictorial calligraphy, and exhibited and published it with great success. He was also a gifted teacher and broadcaster.
Sanesi was born in Milan and spent his childhood mostly in Prato, near Florence, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. His career as a critic began in the 1950s as a writer for Aut-Aut magazine and founder of Edizioni del Triangulo, a small company dedicated to publishing the poetry and drawings of contemporary artists and writers, including Kenneth Patchen, Enrico Baj, Gianni Dova, William Carlos Williams - and others.
In 1958, Sanesi made the first of many extended visits to south Wales; he travelled by train with a sailor's kitbag, directly from Milan to Oystermouth. He had come to work on a book about Dylan Thomas and to meet Thomas's friend, the poet Vernon Watkins, whose work he had also translated.
In that year, too, he met the painters Alfred Janes and Ceri Richards. Sanesi maintained an intense critical interest in these closely linked Welsh friends. He also met Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, and was to write about both with a deep insight into their roots in English visionary romanticism.
Following the publication, in 1958 and 1960, of anthologies of translated modern American and English poetry - including works by Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Wallace Stevens, WB Yeats, WH Auden, William Empson and David Gascoyne - Sanesi was authorised by Eliot to translate his works into Italian. In three superb volumes, published by Bompiani in Milan (1987, 1992 and 1993), he made the complete works of Eliot in poetry, drama and prose available to the Italian reading public. The 1980s saw also the publication of a masterly Italian version of Paradise Lost.
Sanesi was a crucial interpreter of British and American literary and visual culture to contemporary Italy and maintained an astonishing range of critical-creative activities. He wrote extensively and with great distinction on Italian art and literature, in books, magazines and newspapers, and was a regular contributor to Corriere della Sera. He taught at the universities of Parma and Verona, and was sometime professor of comparative literature at the Academy of Brera; he directed Italian versions of Shakespeare and Eliot at theatres in Bologna, Verona and Milan, and adapted Shakespeare and Marlowe for Swiss-Italian radio.
Throughout the 1960s, Sanesi edited the influential journal Poesia e Critica, and in 1972 founded the Munt Press, which published poetry and essays by international writers, including Octavia Paz and Simone de Beauvoir. From 1970 to 1975, he was artistic director of Palazzo Grassi in Venice.
He was, however, before anything else, a poet of outstanding gift, constantly writing and publishing from his mid-20s until his death. There are excellent English versions of his work by poets as distinguished as William Alexander, Richard Burns, Cid Corman and Vernon Watkins.
A man of great dignity and personal grace, Sanesi was elegant and courteous, charming and modest, although he had about him the slightest touch of the dandy. Respected as a writer by fellow artists, he was much loved by all who knew him. He leaves Anita, and a son, Federico.
Roberto Sanesi, poet and critic, born January 18 1930; died January 2 2001