EXPIRED: 11/1/09 – Alda Merini, 78, wrote poetry and smoked. She lived for the former and died due to the latter.
Considered one of the most important poetic voices of 20th century Italy, Merini was often a troubled soul and she spent several periods in mental health facilities. There, she said, she found “life.” She became even more tormented after the death of her second husband in 1986.
In 2004 she asked for a “hot man” as a 73rd birthday present. She got her wish.
Born in Milan in 1931, Merini began writing poetry at 16, publishing her first collection, “La presenza di Orfeo”, when she was 22. She went on to win many Italian literary prizes and was nominated for the Nobel Prize by the Académie Francaise in 1996 and by PEN Italia in 2001.
Her early poems were full of hope, but her later works reflect her inner torment and longing for love. Sadly, she had many unrequited loves.
In Italy her 1984 collection, La Terra Santa (The Holy Land) is considered her greatest work and it won her the Premio Librex Montale in 1993. The most comprehensive collection of her poems in English is Love Lessons, translated by the American poet Susan Stewart.