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The Monday Poem > The Overcoat by Alda Merini, (August 20)

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message 1: by Joan (last edited Aug 19, 2018 08:59PM) (new)

Joan The overcoat

Translated by Susan Stewart

A certain overcoat lived at our house for a long time
it was made of good wool
a finely-combed wool
a many-times-made-over overcoat
well-worn, a thousand times turned inside out
it wore the outline of our father
his very figure, whether worried or happy
Hanging on a hook or on the coat rack
it took on a defeated air:
through that ancient overcoat
I came to know my father’s secrets
to live that life, in the shadow.

(translation lifted from http://www.lunalunamagazine.com/blog/...)


Il pastrano

Un certo pastrano abitò lungo tempo in casa
era un pastrano di lana buona
un pettinato leggero
un pastrano di molte fatture
vissuto e rivoltato mille volte
era il disegno del nostro babbo
la sua sagoma ora assorta ed ora felice.
Appeso a un cappio o al portabiti
assumeva un’aria sconfitta:
traverso quell’antico pastrano
ho conosciuto i segreti di mio padre
vivendolo cosi, nell’ombra.

(da “La gazza ladra”)


message 2: by Joan (new)

Joan Dely & Marina Sonenbarke mentioned this poet in the “What Are You Doing Right Now” thread.
Alda Merini is internationally acclaimed, more information at https://www.aldamerini.it/


message 3: by Joan (new)

Joan This poem caught me because my Dad is in the advanced stages of Lewey Body Dementia- this poem really got to me.


message 4: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) Thanks for directing me here, Joan. This is a great poem and I don't think I had read it before. I used to have a book called Fiore di poesia. 1951-1997, which is a collection of Merini's poems written between 1951 and 1997. I can't find it anymore, I probably gave it to some friend as a present. I think there must be English translations of her poems, I encourage all poetry lovers to seek them out. As I said in the other thread, despite not really being a poetry reader, I love Alda Merini. As dely said in that thread, it would be advisable to research her life story a bit, in order to better understand her poems. She wrote about "madness" a lot, as she was herself in a mental health facility for many years.

I'm sorry about your dad, Joan. I understand why this poem might have spoken to you in a particular way.


message 5: by dely (new)

dely | 5214 comments I like the poem you posted. I don't like that much the translation because "pastrano" isn't exactly an overcoat. It seems in English it's called greatcoat or watchcoat. An overcoat is something more stylish, elegant, while a "pastrano" is something more rustic and rough.

I don't know which could be my favorite poem by her. From the ones I listed to the other day I liked a lot "To all women", but I can't find an English translation. I also liked others, above all those that talk about her stay in the madhouse, those about poetry and those dedicated to women but I can't find English translations.

I add here the Italian poem of To All Women but I hope you can find an English translation:

A tutte le donne

Fragile, opulenta donna, matrice del paradiso
sei un granello di colpa
anche agli occhi di Dio
malgrado le tue sante guerre
per l’emancipazione.
Spaccarono la tua bellezza
e rimane uno scheletro d’amore
che però grida ancora vendetta
e soltanto tu riesci
ancora a piangere,
poi ti volgi e vedi ancora i tuoi figli,
poi ti volti e non sai ancora dire
e taci meravigliata
e allora diventi grande come la terra.

I like also this one that talks both about being a mother and a woman. I can feel all her suffering.
My first mother-theft

My first mother-theft
took place on a summer night
when a madman took me
and laid me on the grass
and forced me to conceive a son.
Oh never did the moon cry so much
against the violated stars,
and never did my womb cry so much,
and the Lord never turned away his head
as he did in that precise instant
seeing my mother-virginity
violated, treated as his laughing stock.
My first woman-theft
took place in a dark corner
under the vehement heat of sex,
but a gentle baby girl was born
with the sweetest smile
and everything was forgiven.
Nevertheless I myself will never forgive
and that son was taken away from my womb
and entrusted into more “saintly” hands,
nevertheless I was the one who was offended,
I was the one who climbed above the heavens
for having conceived a genesis.

If I don't go wrong, the first time she went to the asylum she already had 4 children from her husband.


message 6: by Marina (new)

Marina (sonnenbarke) Beautiful poems, dely. The second one is so powerful. Thanks for posting them.


message 7: by dely (new)

dely | 5214 comments Marina (Sonnenbarke) wrote: "Beautiful poems, dely. The second one is so powerful. Thanks for posting them."

I think I like her poems because she says straight what she wants to say. It's not like other poems where you have to find out hidden meanings. I also like the fact that her poems don't have rhymes or counted syllables that somehow give a rhythm or a cadence to the poem and the reader is obliged to read it at that pace. The poems by Merini can be read at our own pace. At least this is the feeling I have, but I'm not at all an expert of poems!


message 8: by Joan (last edited Aug 20, 2018 09:51AM) (new)

Joan dely wrote: "Marina (Sonnenbarke) wrote: "Beautiful poems, dely. The second one is so powerful. Thanks for posting them."

I think I like her poems because she says straight what she wants to say. It's not like..."


I think I most enjoy that sort of poetry too - when there is a plot or story line to which I feel response.
To All Women is absolutely haunting. It brought to mind something my Mom told me, in the 1950's in Connecticut, if a wife wasn't pregnant every year or so the parish priest would call the couple in to find out what was wrong.


message 9: by dely (new)

dely | 5214 comments Joan wrote: "To All Women is absolutely haunting. It brought to mind something my Mom told me, in the 1950's in Connecticut, if a wife wasn't pregnant every year or so the parish priest would call the couple in to find out what was wrong."

I've read about it in a book I've read some weeks ago, but this was talking about peasant women in North Italy. If the priest saw that a woman had only 2 or 3 children, he was worried that something was wrong. But he asked only the woman, as if it would be her fault.
And from what they said about Merini's life the other day, she went the first time to an asylum because of her husband. She had enough of his betrayals, he sometimes was out of home also for some days. One day he came back and she hit him with a chair and an umbrella. He called the hospital to bring away his wife. At that time the wife was still "property" of the husband so she couldn't say anything in her defense.


message 10: by B the BookAddict (new)

B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments Excellent entry, Joan.


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