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Alda Merini, la poetessa che sa ascoltare il vento

Alda Merini was an acclaimed Italian poet, born in Milan on the 21st March 1931.

“Sono nata il ventuno a primavera/ma non sapevo che nascere folle,/aprire le zolle/potesse scatenar tempesta”.

I met her in 2008. 

December 12 2020
Reading time: 7 min

di Ilaria Verunelli

A volte succedono cose strane, un incontro, un sospiro, un alito di vento che suggerisce nuove avventure della mente e del cuore. Il resto arriva da solo, nell’intimità dei misteri del mondo” (Alda Merini)

I personally met Italian poet Alda Merini in 2008. With a team of journalists, I was working at an investigation about Basaglia Law, 30 years after it entered into force. I had already interviewed two prominent Italian psychiatrists, Giovanni Battista Cassano and Peppe dell’Acqua, embodying two different schools and approaches to mental health (if you are curious to know more about them you can read here and here).

I was humbled by the idea to collect the testimony of a poet who had experienced years of seclusion in a mental home and whose work I was hugely estimating.

We were three young journalists, Antonio Prudenzano, Camilla Tagliabue* and I. We met Alda Merini in her house in Milan, in Ripa di Porta Ticinese 47. It is a characteristic corner of the old city where now stands a plaque dedicated to her.

(*Antonio Prudenzano is Editor in Chief at Il Libraio; Camilla Tagliabue is cultural journalist at Il Fatto Quotidiano)

She was incessantly smoking – rarely, you could see her without a cigarette –, though her health was already strongly compromised.
The interview was an amazing conversation about evil and liberation, about poets (“operai di pensiero”, quoting Salvatore Quasimodo) and happiness, life and death.
Her answers were a poem itself, because, as it became apparent to all of us, the imaginative power of Alda Merini’s pen was spilling over every other aspect of her life.

Her memory was impressive. She could recite her poems easily, without a book in front of her. Her favorite, she told us, was La Terra Santa.
She quickly understood that I was in love with her work. A gifted woman, with an impressive sensitivity, she was immediately able to read the emotions of her interlocutors.
She stared at me; she grabbed one of her books laying on a shelf behind her and wrote a dedication  (“Alla cara Ilaria”) on it. It was her present. 
I met her again, later on.

In 2010, after her death, I went with some friends to her house for a memorial day.

We ended in a small bar, talking about this “ancient mystery” called Alda Merini. At our table Italian photographer Giuliano Grittini was sitting, too. He gave us something he had created to remember an artist who he had portraited and with whom he was acquainted.

Citazione obbligatoria: ilariaverunelli.com

To know more:

If you are curious and you want to learn more about Alda Merini, you can read this short article (page 4).

Alda Merini’s official website

Alda Merini in translation

Alda Merini in music

Italy in their own words

WATCH THE VIDEO: Italian poet Alda Merini reads “Lirica Antica” and “Genesi”