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"Divine Women" and the Poetry of Alda Merini


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.

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