“The blessed years of punishment” was what the italian poet Alda Merini (1931-2009) in a TV interview called her 15 years of being locked up in a psychiatric hospital. “A delirium where I could finally unravel myself”.
To Merini the many years of confinement lead to a sort of unrestrained introspection which continued even after she was released. The deeper she fell into herself the higher her poetry seemed to fly.
Twice she was nominated for the Nobel Prize yet without receiving it. Her work has been translated into English among other languages. Here is an excerpt from “The presence of Orpheus” dedicated to the much older lover Giorgio Manganelli who was also a poet.
I won’t prepare you by revealing myself to you
In a bound-about closeness
But just in case your hand, in touching me,
Might hold a memory of omens,
I’ll lie down, fused
With what is formless, melted within the darkness
As far as I can, secreted and alive, becoming chaos again”
During Merini’s lifetime she was praised by other contemporary poets such as Pier Paolo Pasolini and Nobel Prize recipient Salvatore Quasimodo. Without their appreciation and support her work presumably would not have been published.
As part of the music festival “Firenze suona contemporanea”, composer and director Andrea Cavallari staged a “theatrical action” in the fall of 2016 with the title “La pazza della porta accanto”.
Andrea Cavallari got to know Alda Merini when he was young and produced a stage performance with her. At this point in her life she had been released from the hospital and was living in her own house. But the many years of isolation while receiving electric chocks had forever changed her mental condition.
I spoke with Cavallari and with performer Alwynne Pritchard who took on the challenging role to portray the inner world of a poet whose exteriour world for a great part of her life was limited to a single room.
The entire article can be read on my Danish blog on art and culture in Italy.
In this videoreportage follows excerpt from my interview with Pritchard as well as footage from the performance.
The 2017 edition of the festival in Florence is coming up in September with Vanessa Beecroft as the main attraction.