California Italian Studies
"Divine Women" and the Poetry of Alda Merini
- Author(s): Wittman, Laura
- et al.
This essay examines the contradictory qualities of the divine throughout the works of Alda Merini. Contrary to claims that her work is uneven, ‘emotional,’ or lacking a theological acuity, I show that her exploration of the divine is original both in terms of concept and of poetics. Specifically, I propose first that Merini understands the divine as a chiasmus, whereby the embodied human is ‘ravished’ by God, but God too is ‘ravished’ by human flesh; second, I show that Merini experiences a uniquely feminine and modern version of the mystical ‘dark night’; finally, I discuss her double strategy for renewing poetic metaphor, whereby the flight into suggestive language typical of modern poetry is undercut by returns to the literal. I conclude that Merini’s poetry is a provocative clash between the immediacy and presentness of prayer, and the ironic vocation of modern poetry.