Omaggio ad Alda Merini, poetessa Posted by on Nov 6, 2009 in Culture, Italian Language

On Saturday 31st October I heard the sad news that la poetessa (the female poet) Alda Merini had died from cancer, aged 78. I only discovered her poems a couple of years ago, and I was immediately taken by their delicate sensitivity. Through her poetry, Merini describes her inner torment, longing for love, and mysticism.

Alda Merini was born in Milano on the 21st of March 1931. She started writing poetry at an early age, and when she was 19 two of her poems were included in the Antologia della poesia italiana 1909-1949 (Anthology of Italian Poetry 1909-1949) edited by Spagnoletti. Alda Merini published the first of several books of her verses in 1953, however in 1961 she was taken into psychiatric care due to mental health problems and did not publish any more work for over 20 years. Finally in 1984 she published La Terra Santa, in which she describes her experience of being in the psychiatric hospital, and frequent references to this experience reappear in her later work. Despite being a troubled soul, Alda Merini never lost her sense of irony and irreverent wit, and in 2004, for the occasion of her seventy-third birthday, she asked for a “hot man”. Her friends duly organized a visit from the male stripper Ghibly.

Merini won many Italian literary awards and was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize, firstly by the Académie Francaise in 1996, and then in 2001 by P.E.N. Italia. A selection of her works have been translated into English by the American poet Susan Stewart in “Love Lessons: Selected Poems of Alda Merini”, published earlier this year by Princeton University Press.

I’ve chosen a self-portrait poem to share with you entitled Alda Merini taken from the collection Vuoto d’amore (Void of Love), published in 1991. Here it is below with my own translation into English.

Alda Merini

Amai teneramente dei dolcissimi amanti

senza che essi sapessero mai nulla.

E su questi intessei tele di ragno

e fui preda della mia stessa materia.

In me l’anima c’era della meretrice

della santa della sanguinaria e dell’ipocrita.

Molti diedero al mio modo di vivere un nome

e fui soltanto un’isterica.

I tenderly loved some very sweet lovers / without them ever knowing anything. / And over them I weaved spider’s webs / and I was prey to my own material. / In me there was the soul of the prostitute / of the saint of the bloodthirsty and of the hypocrite. / Many gave a name to my way of living / and I was simply a hysterical person.

Grazie Alda!

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  1. andreas:

    Salve Serena!
    E’ una bella poesia, ma assai triste.

  2. Serena:

    Salve Andreas!

    Sono d’accordo, è una poesia triste, ma Alda Merini ha avuto una vita molto tormentata a causa della sua malattia mentale: ha avuto 4 figlie, ma gliele hanno portate via, ha avuto amori difficili, e ovviamente è stata ricoverata in manicomio!

    Cordiali saluti da Serena

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