Friday, November 6, 2009

"I'd leave Milan only to go to heaven..."

"...and even from there I'd probably miss my house on the Navigli." (The Navigli are Milan's canals - yes, Milan has canals!). Words of famous Milanese poetess Alda Merini who passed away this week at age 78. She struggled with mental illness throughout her life, and I actually got to know her work when I saw her read at a benefit concert held in the garden of the mental hospital where she was once a patient. Unfortunately, much of her work has not been translated into English but I found this description of her: "Charmingly perverse, cynically joyful, lustfully feminist, and bawdily philosophical...she remains one of Italy's best kept secrets." Below a YouTube video where you can hear (in Italian) one of her poems and then hear her speaking. It begins "I'm crazy, crazy, crazy...with love for you."



Here's an excerpt of one of her poems in English from the book "Unpaid Ballads:"

Don't give me long songs and don't say
that I am frigid
nor that I carry baskets of dense silence
on my fragile shoulders.
Don't say that I'm dreaming again of the wind,
don't say telltale words of love
or of reassurance.

10 comments:

Fran said...

fantastica alda merini. her words are so powerful, intense... here's my tribute to her http://www.babelesque.net/2009/11/alda-merini/ i even tried to translate one of her poem - i apologize in advance.

Michellanea said...

Fran,
Sì è fantastica. A volte mi ricorda Sylvia Plath che è una delle mie poetesse preferite. Anche Sylvia Plath era molto ironica ma forse più triste e "dark." E' anche vero che si è suicidata infilando la testa nel forno - e con due bambini piccoli in casa! Poverina...Grazie per il Follow Friday. Mi dimentico sempre di farlo!

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I don't know her work.

After reading that excerpt it's clear I need to.

It could be the mood I'm in these days but her words...sigh.

Michellanea said...

NYC/Caribbean - I did not know about her until just a few years ago. But they've been talking a lot about her on the news in the past few days since she just died this week. And especially since she was from Milan, it's been a big deal here. What I like about her is that many of her poems are melancholic and funny/optimistic at the same time. Definitely does fit a certain mood!

Anonymous said...

Michelle,
exquisite. One of the things I find exciting about art is the fluidity of the borders between masculine and feminine.
Now one of the things I love about Italy. That men greet with kisses and sometimes link arms to go for a stroll? Yes...
And also, that individual artistic expression seems to be valued among all kinds of Italians. Music words, movement or images giving voice to the anguished, the profane, the absurd are generally respected even by really devout Italians or those who don't "get" it- tend to say... " Io non m'intendo, insomma..." What humble frankness no notion of insecure bagging there.
Of course dare I say it- in everyday life for female earthlings in Italy gender expectations can feel like a straitjacket!
I guess as an extension of that genuine human interest,the pleasure of conversation, art becomes part of that tapestry of discutable items.
Ya gotta love it!
Poor Sylvia was straitjacketed till her soul suffocated. That's how the sixties were; fulfillment in motherhood. But motherhood...madonna, that's another post.
Giana

Anonymous said...

"I'd live Milan only to go to heaven..."

Wow she really must have been nut! LOL!

How are ya?
Autumn

Anonymous said...

leave I meant...

la ragazza d'oltremare said...

So glad you mentioned Sylvia Plath, who happens to be my favorite. poet. ever. Male or female.

I knew I liked ya!

Michellanea said...

Giana,
Yes, motherhood is another post. I'm not so sure the constraints of motherhood have changed all that much since the 1960s, quite frankly. I wouldn't have said that before I became a mother but now that I am one, I feel differently. Sigh.

Autumn,
I'm pretty well. The weather is incredibly dreary and that gets me down, but that is to be expected this time of year. How are you???

La Ragazza,
Yep, reading The Bell Jar is a rite of passage for every American girl during those angst-filled years. Though, like you, I still love Sylvia Plath and it wasn't just a phase for me.

Deirdré Straughan said...

I am halfway certain I did a (prose) translation for her maybe 10 years ago, without having a clue who she was. I do remember that she was willing to pay well for a good "literary" translation - a very rare willingness.