There is an old saying in Italy that goes something like this: “Italy a nation of saints, poets and sailors…”. Saints and sailors seems to have been somehow lost along the way, but when it comes to poets and writers we are still “present”.
For this reason I decided to write about an Italian poetess Alda Merini, who has been so much more, a woman also, a mother, a wife, a committed in mental institutions and the voice of a different Italy.
Her life has started on the 21 of march 1931, and her childhood was spent under the bombings of Milan during WWII, then as an evacuee in Vercelli with her mother and a baby brother. She starts to write poems very early. She marries and has children. And then comes the period of her committal in a mental institution in Milan, her daughters are sent away, and she has to face a very dark period of her life. When she comes out she starts to write again, and never stopped since her death in 2009. Her writings, her poems, aphorism and novel have the clear cut of sane insanity, but also a profound love for life, in all aspects good or bad.
Alda Merini’s words give us the possibility to step into reality from another door, a door made of pain, sorrow and fear through her periods in mental institutions, but also of profound love, love for her daughters and her husband, love for herself, her strength and weakness. When I discovered Alda Merini another writer: Janet Frame came to mind, not only for some obvious similarities, but mostly because in both of them I found a deep look into people, into feelings, but with a lightness that is stunning, if you think about how “madness” is portray in society.
I want to end this short visit to Alda with one of her aphorism to give you a glance in her world: “anche la follia vuole i suoi applausi” (even madness deserves its round of applause).
The Poetry Foundation has some fantastic information in English on her and some aphorisms.
Alda Merini was a renowned Italian writer and poetess. The President of the Italian Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, called her an “inspired and limpid poetic voice.” She received the prize of the Italian Republic in the area of poetry. She was born in Milan and died there in 2009 at the age of 78.