Merini’s memory began to falter, most likely due to the electroshock therapy she had received, and her three youngest daughters were sent away to be raised by others.
In 1978, when the Italian government ordered the closure of asylums, Merini returned home to Carniti. After he died in 1983, she reconnected with old friends, including Corti and the poet Michele Pierri, 30 years her senior, with whom she began an intense relationship.
In 1984, Merini and Pierri married and moved to Taranto, a coastal town in southern Italy. That year, with the support of Corti and Scheiwiller Libri publishing house, Merini produced ‘The Holy Land’, a collection of poetry that, with its raw and spiritual reflections on life in a mental institution, is widely regarded as her masterpiece.
When her second husband’s health deteriorated in the late 1980s, Merini struggled again with her mental state. In 1988, she was admitted to the psychiatric ward of Taranto Hospital. Isolated and in fear, she turned to Bignotti, who helped her move to Milan shortly before Pierri’s death.
There, struggling financially and emotionally, she leaned on a group of friends. Scheiwiller Libri paid her rent; Bignotti also helped her financially. Corti and the poet Giovanni Raboni led her writing to new collections of poetry, which led to her rediscovery.
Susan Stewart, a professor of English literature at Princeton University and author of “Love Lessons,” a collection of Merini’s poems translated into English, said in an email that Merini had written “without inhibiting her inner life, and she was not interested in meeting the expectations of the readers.”