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TRANSLATING AND REIMAGINING: RECOVERING PIZARNIK IN HER LATE PROSE WORKS BY JULIANA NALERIO A Thesis Submitted to the division of Humanities New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Art s Under the co sponsorship of Jos Alberto Portugal and Amy Reid Sarasota, Florida April, 2011
i TRANSLATING AND REIMAGINING : RECOVERING PIZARNIK IN HER LATE PROSE WORKS Juliana Nalerio New College of Florida, 2011 ABSTRACT This thesis examines the authorial image of Argentine Jewish poet, Alejandra Pizarnik (1936 1972). Long thought of as a modern poet with minimal connection t o any one tradition, I re imagine her as a poet of Judaism, language and childhood through close readings of works, many po emas en prosa written late in her life a nd after her father's death. This thesis has three chapters: (1) Images of the Artist; (2) New Readings of Pizarnik (Prose) Poems; and (3) Translating Piza rnik (Prose) Poems. In the first chapter I examine notions o f Pizarnik created by critics a nd by the public, then move to re imagin ing her as a poet in a new lens. In chapter 2, cl ose readings of prose poems substantiate those claims made in my re imagining. Finally, chapter 3 provides annotated translations of fiv e poems, four previously untranslated Los muertos y la lluvia ( The Dead and the Rain ), Dificultades barrocas ( Baroque Difficulties ), Desconfianza ( Distrust ), Devocin ( Devotion ), and the only poem in verse, Poema para el padre ( Poem for my Father ). My inte rpretation of Pizarnik is influenced by concepts including, J. Lacan 's desire,' Bachelard's 'poetics of i nternal space Turner's 'liminality,' and Borges' 'infidelity in translation,' a mong st others. Ultimately, I hope this reading of the complicated poe t succeeds in recovering essential aspects of her cuerpo poetico ( poetic body of work). Professor Jos Alberto Portugal Humanities Professor Amy Reid Humanities
ii Dedicated to Bima
iii Acknowledgments There is no way in hell that this thesis could have been completed without the help of some incredible people In this season of thesis and thesis students and thesis sponsors, I could not have written a single word this year without my hard working s ponsor, Dr. Jos Alberto Portug al. I am deeply indebted to him; w ithout Professor Portugal I admit I don't think I would be completing my undergraduate education at New College. Also, h e introdu ced me to Alejandra Pizarnik, to the world of Latin American letters a nd to the act of translation. Thank you. You changed my life. Thank s are due as well to m y advisor, Dr. Sonia Labrador Rodriguez, who knows how to criticize and elevate. W ithout her, the invitations to her home for dinner, meeting her daughter, Sophia, traveling to Argentina with she and her husband, being welcomed to write my blog on the Los detectives s alvajes I don't think I would feel nearly as at home in New College or in the Spanish language. You changed my life. I am also greatly indebted to Dr. Amy Reid, who agreed to co sponsor this thesis a few moments after meeting me for the first time, showing great trust, a nd whom without the wonderful translation aspect of this thesis would not have come into exist ence For her encouragement, openness, and insight (especially when it comes to language) I am so grateful And to all of my p rofessors here at New College, thank you! My life, my goals and the things I think possible have been changed forever now I see the gr eat possibilities that are born in nurturing the h uman heart and intellect. And thank you to friends Allison, Flavia, Leandra Megan they have been my colleagues this season and I saw them in a new, mature, light. Thanks again for being here through the moments in which I belie ved all hope to be lo st and that I would be un able to write a thesis I was proud of. To my boyfriend, Tim othy Thanks for the added challenge. Fr ustrated desire becomes rivalry and many times you motivated me to be a better student and on occasion supported me as a fellow thesis student. I love you. New England. Thanks to my family. Words fail me when trying to express my gratitude and love for my Mother. And h er PhD insp ires me to think I could be one as well. A thank you to my beautiful sister, who is my perennial muse. And to my Aunt Paulette, who is critical enough to get me moving, loving enough to let me know when I'm wrong and, who is the person that encouraged me to attend New College. Y a mi papa, gracias por el regalo de siendo Uruguaya. Thank you. I give special thanks to my Uncle James Bond (Jimmy) for a warm welcome to life as a New Yorker, which I will transition to in less than one month. And to my Uncle Ian, who told me to go to India when I asked him who I was. Also, to the MacGregors, who show me w hat a wr iterly life looks like in practice Finally, I express my gratitude for the American Litera r y Translators Association, and to Jonathan Cohen, James Kates, and Wendy Call for consistent encouragement of my translations.
iv Contents List of Images vi Foreword vii A Short Biographical Sketch .viii List of Major Published Works .x i I Image s of the Artist : Alejandra Pizarnik .... ..... ... .1 Introduction ... 2 Existing Popular and Critical Images of Alejandra Pizarnik 3 Rei magining Alejandra Pizarnik .. 15 II New Reading s of Pizarnik ( Prose ) Poems .. 28 The Jew ish Question29 Language ..48 Childhood .65 III Translating Pizarnik (Prose) Poems ..... ..76 Introduction .77 Los muertos y la lluvia / The Dead and t he Rain .84/86 Difi cu ltades b arrocas / Baroque Difficulties 88 / 89 Desconfianza / Distrust .90/91 Devocin / Devotion .92/93 Poema para el padre / Poem for m y Father .......94/95
v IV Conclusion A V Bibliography ..C
vi List of Images 1.a A. P. 1 sitting with a man and an umbrella .. 4 1.b A. P. sitting with an umbrella .. .. 4 2 A. P. with cigarette and a photo of a doll's face .. .. 4 3 An example of digital folk art in honor of A. P....10 1 Alejandra Pi zarnik 2 "Cuenteniks" were door to door merchants without a storefront or physical shop.
vii Foreword I began this project wanting strongly to write a thesis on theories of translation practice. But when I approached my advisor at the time he recommended a nother idea. Instead of translating whoever' and focusing my efforts on a disembodied theory, what if I focused on a poet in particular and made translations of their work. Then I was recommended Alejandra Pizarnik who encountered themes I might be intere sted in and had made translations herself and was Argentine a culture and people I had come to love. That was in the spring of 2010. That summer I left to do an internship in Washington DC. Among excursions to the National Mall, I also spent many hours in the Library of Congress, where I had a researcher card and access to the great room. If you had seen my personal shelf, you would have seen it covered with Pizarnik titles rbol de Diana Pizarnik as Psychoanalyst, P rosa completa Diarios It was a great t ime for me. I was feeling independent and like an actual researcher for the first time. I sent my advisor an email from New Jersey, just after returning from a trip to Israel and stopping off at a friends house for a Friday night: "I have also been carryin g with me a copy of the Condesa s angriente which is conceptually fascinating and I think would be considered a series of prose poems (do you agree?)" I asked in the email, waiting for an answer to the question of pr ose poetry,' an answer I would only kin d of receive much later. That summer I discovered Pizarnik's work La condesa sangriente and also found out Pizarnik was Jewish; this work and the knowledge of her Judaism would come to be one of the central aspects in my thinking about the poet throughout the remainder of my work on her texts. This was a natural connection for me to make with Pizarnik since I grew up in a Jewish, Spanish speaking household. Pizarnik's work talks a lot about connections and how we make them and communicate with each other, a nd on the other hand, how we sometimes fail to make them and ultimately fail to commune. Sometimes it takes an act of translation to make one person's voice intelligible to another. This is what has been the focus of my work, translating and reimagining Pi zarnik so as to make her intelligible to the world in which I bring her across and into. In this thesis the reader will find the fruit of a year of research, writing and translating. In the first chapter we see the existing critical and popular visions of Pizarnik outlined, as well as the ways in which I move to envision or reimagine her. In the se cond chapter I go through close reading of primarily prose poems that encounter the themes of Judaism, language, and childhood in a meaningful way. Finally, in th e third chapter are translations I wrote of five works by the author, four never before translated. I am both satisfied and unsatisfied with this thesis that grew from my research period. More translation theory, more translations, more sources for Jewish Latin American writers of comparison these are the things I would have add ed more of if it weren't for limited time and an idealist's lack of commonsense.
viii A Short Biographical Sketch Alejandra Pizarnik was born in Buenos Aires on April 29, 1936. Rosa or Rezja Bromiker de Pizarnik and El as Pizarnik, the Mother and Father of Alejandra had crossed the Atlantic in a boat arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina two years prior in 1934. Fascism had been on the rise in Europe Uprisings of Stalinism and Nazism ha d made life particularly difficult for Europe's Jewry Broadly, many European countries were still struggling, navigating the repercussions of the First World War. The Pizarnik's were Jewish and under the mounting pressure chose to leave and immigrate to A rgentina. El as brother was in Paris at the time where h e had found work Because of this Rosa and El as were able to stop over in Paris for some months before leaving f or Buenos Aires. It was in this moment that El as began his love of French culture, w hich Alejandra later inherited. Like the story of many immigrants, their family name was most likely changed from Pozharnik to Pizarnik when they came in through the port of Buenos Aires. The Russian couple was already pregnant w ith Myriam, Alejandra's ol der sister. N ow they had to overcome the challenge of forging a life i n a Spanish speaking land when the couple spoke only Russian and Yiddish. Fortunately, El as had his wits about him and quickly became a "cuent enik" 2 and was able to secure his family a home in the province of Buenos Aires, Avellaneda. Flora Pizarnik was born A pril 29, 1936 into a middle class, Jewish 2 "Cuenteniks" were door to door merchants without a storefront or physical shop.
ix family in Avellaneda. Of course, Flora would later become Alejandra Pizarnik, our poet. El as made adequate money to send both his dau ghters to the Zalman Reizien Schule, ("Schule" is Yiddish for synagogue) where they were taught to read and write in Yiddish and instructed in the history of the Jewish peopl e and in their religion. This was additional to their attendance at School Number 7, the public school of Avellaneda. During tho se times her father liked to listen to music and play the violin; he passed on his interest in Edith Piaf and others to Alejandra. During her childhood, Alejandra suffered from asthma, acne, and a slight stutt er. She also str uggled to keep her weight down, a difference from her sister who was naturally thin. Trying to adjust her weight, Alejandra began consuming amphetamines, which later became an addiction and led to her familiarity with pills. Her parents wer e lenient and as an adolescent she was free to dress how she liked and her father was very amiable towards her friends. In 1954 she enrolled in the University of Buenos Aires. There she studied philosophy, journalism and literature and got invo lved with the crowd of Peronist supporting progressives and artists. They invited her to "noches de vino y rosas" ("nights of wine and roses") and among them she began to find her "literary family" and her "madre literaria," Olga Orozco. From 1960 to 1964 Alejandra lived and studied in Paris. At the Sorbonne she matriculated in history of religion and contemporary French literature. Also, d uring this time she contributed articles to journals, Sur Zona Franca La Nacin and other publications. It was a very active and exciting time for the artist. Her only stable job was one she got thank s to friend Octavio Paz, the Mexican Ambas sador to France at
x the time; Pizarnik wrote for the magazine Cuadernos para la Libertad de la Cultura. UNESCO 3 sponsored the journal and an other of Pizarnik's close friends, Julio Cort zar, worked for the international organization as well. However, Pizarnik did not enjoy writing for Cuadernos calling it too bureaucratic for her tastes. Pizarnik returned to Buenos Aires in 1964. Following h er return she published three of her many volumes, Los trabajos y las no ches, Extraccin de la piedra de locura and El infierno musical as well as the prose work La condesa s angrienta In 1966 Pizarnik received the Primer Premio Municipal de Poesa, sig nifying the institutional recognition of her value as a writer. January 18 1967 El as Pizarnik died of a heart attack. This event brought with it a new era for Pizarnik 4 More time under th e spell of depression, terror. She turned thirty the following Ap ril. Nevertheless, she began to undertake more work and felt renewed interest in her own Judaism and Jewish writers and texts. In 1969 she was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, and in 1971 a Fulbright scholarship. She traveled to New York City briefly and returned to Paris. However, in Paris she returned to a place where she was once happy, only to find a city where she no longer felt at home. It was no longer the literary haven she had once loved. Finally, on September 25 1972, at the age of thirty six, o n a weekend break from the hospital in Buenos Aires where she was a warden, Pizarnik took fifty pills of Secona l and died, fulfilling her long standing desire to cease to exist. 3 United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. 4 It was then that her father entered her language becoming the "ojos azules" that appear dotted throughout her work from then on out.
xi Major Published Works La tierra ms ajena (Buenos Aires: Botella al mar, 19 55) La ltima inocencia (Poesa Buenos Aires, 1956. Reeditado en 1976 por Ed. botella al Mar, junto con Las aventuras perdidas ) Las aventuras perdidas (1958) Otros poemas (1959) rbol de Diana (Buenos Aires, Sur, 1962) Los trabajos y las noches (Buenos Air es, Sudamericana, 1965) Extraccin de la piedra de locura (Buenos Aires, Sudamericana, 1968) Nombres y figuras (Barcelona, Coleccin La Esquina, 1969) La condesa sangrienta (Buenos Aires: Lopez Crespo Editorial, 1971) (Prosa) El infierno musical (Buenos Ai res, Siglo XXI Argentina, 1971) Los pequeos cantos (Caracas: rbol de Fuego, 1971) El deseo de la palabra (antologa) (1975) Zona prohibida (Veracruz, Mxico, Ediciones Papel de Envolver, Coleccin Luna Hiena, 1982) Textos de sombra y ltimos poemas (1982 ) Los posedos entre lilas (Teatro) Prosa completa Editorial Lumen, (2002) Diarios Editorial Lumen (2003)
1 Part I Images of the Artist
2 i. Introduction Alejandra Pizarni k is well known in literary circles in South America, France and Spain with an even broader following in Argentina, yet remains obscure here in the U.S for the non specialist. For readers new to Pizarnik, it is important to specify some of the ways she has been imagin ed, or represented by herself and others, up to this point. While, of course, I will not attempt a comprehensive summary of the innumerable dissertations, articles and websites devoted to Pizarnik, this chapter will offer a brief, concise summary of the images of Pizarnik I have come across durin g my research period. The images I ca me across took primarily three forms : (1) the poeta maldit a a category that locates Pizarnik within a broad artistic movement (French Symbolism and its followers ) and casts lig ht on her literary heritage; (2) the suic ide poet, fracturing into two aspects, one emphasized b y critics and the other by the public and, finally ; (3) the transgressive lesbian poet These potentially sensationalized 5 aspects of Pizarnik as an artist are often emphasized at the expense of more social cultural and historical aspects of her work and personality, such as her upbringing and milieu (Garcia Moreno 68). The outsider aspects Pizarnik the poeta maldit a Pizarnik the suicide poet, Pizarnik the surrealist, Pizarnik the depressive narcissis t so emphasized, are the image of Pizarnik most readers have in mind: The dark, cigarette smoking, sexually ambiguous, adolescent poet with a love of French culture. 5 To clarify, discussing these aspects can at times quickly turn into dramatizing Pizarnik or making a spectacle of her eccentricity.
3 The re imagining section of this chapter discusses some of Pizarnik's other aspects throu gh my re thinking of her authorial image: (1) as a poet of Judaism; (2) a poet of language; an d (3) a poet of childhood. Here I recast her as a relatable human being with conflicted relatio nships to her family's religion and history and to her own childho od and language(s). As the foundation for these claims I draw on the recently released, and so less discussed, posthumously published, Diarios (2003) and Prosa Completa (2002). I. Existing Popular and Critical Images of the Artist En la noche a tu lado las palabras son claves, son llaves. El deseo de morir es rey. ALEJANDRA PIZARNIK W hile we may never know another completely, we can ask, as a point of departure, who i s Alejandra Pizarnik? In the title to this chapter I chose to refer to Alejandra Pizar nik as an artist "image of the artist ." But hadn't we already established that Pizarnik, clearly, was a writer? The answer, in short, is yes and no. Yes, her primary medium was language, evidenced by her many poems, essays, and translations. Yet, she was a n artist in the twentieth century conception of the modern artist, which I see as having an extremely reflexive and creative role in society (or one
4 might argue outside of it) 6 This is evident in Pizarnik 's conscious creation and projection of an artistic se lf image, and, by the fact that because of this image she became famous for her personality as much as for the quality of her work. Here, we will look into the images 7 of Pizarnik that have been canonized, in a sense, by her critics and readers. To begi n, i n the images below we can note visually, her provocative self fashioning : 1.a 1.b Photos taken from Christina Pi a's book, Alejandra Pizarnik. 1.b is, curiously, the way 1.a is consistently found cropped on the Internet. 6 My point here is not to elucidate the image I have of "the twentieth century arti st," but rather to transition into talking about the images, caused by her performative aspect, that have been reified by her crtics and readership. 7 Phtographic and otherwise 8 Self fashioning and self image are intricately connected; the former being th e process and the latter the product of said process whereby one constructs oneself.
5 2 In the images we see that there was a performa tive aspect to her body of work. S he was a kind of performance artist who resists categorization as exclusively writer or poet. We tend to imagine writers behind a typew riter (or these days, computer). P erhaps we are exposed to them only in their headshot on the back cover of their book or in a magazine. However, this is not the case for Pizarnik. In fact, the images above are only a few of the many photographic images published of Pizarnik. For example, Alejan dra Pizar nik Iconografa is a book of photographs from Pizarnik's life. The publication of this book in 2008 testifies to her iconic status in Argentina, as well as to just how alluring images of Pizarnik continue to be for certain audiences. Particularl y, in the photos above it is interesting to note her subdued playfulness and avant garde sensibilities. These phot os must have been shocking when they came out in 1960s Argentina with their bizarre and enigmatic qualities # In ( 1.a ) notice the innocence an d childlike playfulness of Pizarnik and her sideways 9 I speculate these photographs circulated during her lifetime, but perhaps the many published images of her are a posthumous affair,' broadened by the internet.
6 glance. Notice that she sits without pants as if she were a child and such things were normal. Notice the way s he is positioned, almost sitting on the knee of the male figure beside s her. Notice the lea ding lines: the umbrella pointing to her head and the handle down towards her genitals. Now, notice the menacing gaze of the male figure towards the girl beside him. Notice the way his mouth and ears are covered Also notice the strange cornucopia like b ag dangling between his legs that suggest s a phallus and is positioned towards Pizarnik, "the little girl." Notice her bright, white colors and his dark tones. After looking at the image with this level of scrutiny it is transformed, becoming slightly dist urbing instead of only silly or just playful. In addition, a common trait s hared by all of the photos above is that they appear to have been staged. Notice the use of props, such as the surrealistic umbrella and the childlike dolls face mirroring Pizarnik 's own. These props embellish the images moving them into the realm of the absurd. In image ( 2 ) Pizarnik's slightly opened mouth with dangling cigarette is strangely erotic, as well as her nude legs in ( 1.a ) and ( 1.b. ) though both share a kind of childli ke, ambiguous sexuality, an innocence framed by the short hair, round face and large open eyes Another important aspect is that each image includes a book or books, framing Pizarnik as a reader, writer and intellectual. Pizarnik's success at projecting a n image of an expressive and intriguing artist exploring boundaries, forms and gender norms has contribute d to her popularity in Argentina. Her ability to promote this image and network with fellow artists is clearly evident from her diaries, letters to fr iends, and biography. Whereas this notion may go against the way we generally perceive of her as reclusive, one can be confident
7 that her ties to other artists has contributed to her lasting fame and publication. Of course, that is not to diminish the qual ity of her work, without which her success would have been impossible. Nevertheless, realizing that success is also dependent on one's own self fashioning, Pizarnik emulated her predecessors For example, she read other writer's diaries and kept her own, a ware tha t it could eventually enter public domain and be an important contribution to her authorial image Este diario, lo escribo para m ? Ahora, estoy escribiendo para m ? ("This diary, I write it for myself? Now, I am writing for me? ) (Pizarnik 395 ). Here Pizarnik questions the intimacy of her diary, t o which we can reply, now, implicitly as readers, that we are also here. Moving away from her performative aspect and towards her writing, let's now look at the next broad question: what kind of a poe t was Piza rnik according to the critics ? Scholars and critics often align her poetic and creative works (as opposed to her expository or journalistic work) with a dark and transgressive strain of experimental avant gardism, one that Latin American artists of her time re casted from the French, anti tradition of the poetas malditos One of these poetas malditos was Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautramont (1846 1870). Born in Uruguay to French parents, he later returned to France where he wrote his seminal work Les Chants de Maldoror often described as the first surrealist book Christina Pi a Pizarnik's biographer, claims that Lautramont was uno de las poetas mas importantes para la configuracin de la esttica de Alejandra" ( one of the most important poe ts in the configuration of Alejandra's aesthetic ) (Pi a 92) Pi a also ascertains that in the literary aesthetic of Nerval, Baudelaire Rimbaud, Lautramont, and Artaud poetry
8 was a transcendent and absolute act that implicated, truly, an ethic An ethic that critics say Pizarnik configured her life around. According to Pi a, it was the myth and ethics of the Poeta Maldito that lured Pizarnik to commit suicide. This leads to my next point, that one of Pizarnik's most emphasized and remembered images is t hat of the suicide poet. For Pi a, and literary critics, there is another layer to Pizarnik's death, as I stated above, in which her suicide is seen as the culmination of her poetic project: Desarrollar en detalle e s ta relacin entre la Alejandra poeta y la Alejandra persona biogrfica ms adelante; por ahora, basta sealar que su esttica literaria que la inscribe en la tradicin de poetas como Ne rval, Baudel aire, Rimbaud, Lautreamont, A r tau d y otros concibieron a la poesa como un acto transcendente y a bsoluto que implicaba una verdadera tica llev a Alejandra a configurar su vida segn el conjunto de rasgos tradicionalmente atribuidos al mito del poeta maldito, mito st e que culmina con la muer te real o metafrica, voluntaria o accidental, como gesto e xtremo ante la imposibilidad de conjugar la exigencia de absoluto que se le atribuye a la tarea potica con las limitaciones de la experiencia vital, de unir vida y poesa "en un solo instante de incandescencia ," como lo dijo admirablemente Octavio Paz. Q uien, como Alejandra, escribi que aspiraba a hacer "el cuerpo de poema con mi cuerpo se propona hacer de su vida la
9 materializacin de su potica, convertirse en el personaje de su absoluto verbal. (Pi a 16 17) Here, in her prologue to Pizarnik's biog raphy, Pi a suggests that Pizarnik committed suicide as an act of faithfulness to the ethics and aesthetics of the poetas malditos What interests me is not so much to think over whether this is true or false, seeing that different readers will have a vari ety of readings of Pizarnik's textual continuum, which links her work and life. Rather, I bring this to the table in order to demonstrate, again, how alluring and overpowering these controversial or sensational aspects of Pizarnik's life and work have been to critics and common readers alike, fundamentally altering how the poet has been imagined and how later readers receive (d) her. Pi a's reading of Pizarnik's suicide may seem absurd or extreme to some; however it is the narrative of a literary critic delv ing to extract meaning from a tragic event that remains incomprehensible and which curtailed Pi zarnik's literary output. It is tempting to try and imagine what kind of work Pizarnik would have gone on to write had she not committed suicide. The c asual read er of Pizarnik is likely more aware of the details of her death than of her poetics. I was also intrigued by the details of her death and by the sensationalized images of her "gothic" and dark side that may of brought her to her mysterious end. Why? When w e abstract the narrative, we see it is not unlike the story and death of Marilyn Monroe : The female ar tist suffers from drug use, an excess of success, depressive tendencies and an obsession with her image. She wishes to remain forever young. Then she dies from a drug overdose and audiences are left
10 wondering if it was accidental or purposeful. Either way, the image of the artist is then set unalterably as the face and body of the young women at or before the time of death. The question is why is the public so obsessed with this kind of narrative? Why are we so attracted to it? t o images of it? I would answer that this kind of narrative attracts and repels us with its drama and eroticism. Potently, the imag ination is captured by the image of youthful beauty, soiled with blood. The women's celebrity promises that their death will be remembered, fulfilling a kind of deep seated longing for eternity and eternal beauty, which the photos and images of these women promise to keep on providing to audiences. This is why if one searches for images of Alejandra Pizarnik on the Internet, one finds much fan art of this sort: 3 Ella se desnuda en el para so// de su memoria// Ella desconoce el Feroz
11 destino// de sus visiones// Ella tiene miedo de no saber nombrar// lo que no existe. In the foreground of the image is a women's profile, her face streaming with blood tears and in the background, a kind of empty clearing with a backlit tree. Words from Pizarnik's poem, rbol de Diana and blood splatter over the scene. Aesthetically, the image quality bears resemblance to computer graphics because it is digital This fan or folk art along with the many testimonial conversations I've had with Argentines on the subject, reveals that Pizarnik is popular with gothic fans in Argentina, appealing to their sensitivities. In a way, the image says we are haunted and intrigued by what we cannot understand: madness leading to suicide, or too much talent, too much expression leads to calamity. Returning to our earlier discussion, f or Monroe and Pizarnik their talent led to death. In other words, they burned. Is this some kind of warning in popular culture, as in do not become an eccentric, do not be b eautiful, sensitive and willing? We want to watch the spectacle but we, as in the p ublic, are unwilling to go there ourselves. Ultimately, giving too much of yourself to the public will become forced stasis, forming an image which becomes like a cell and the person beneath, a bipolar inmate. They are surrounded by the images of themselve s and their identity ceases to belong to them, but instead belongs to the public, hence they are trapped in their image as it is reflected back to them in the public eye. Old age would have been a kind of death for these figures anyway of the myth of their ideal and darkly alluring beauty Many times in her diaries Pizarnik is worried about losing her cara de nia Ultimately, the emotional, female artist
12 looses all grounding and kills herself. The moral: do not live too fully, or freely, or try to ascend the quoti dian into other ecstatic realms because it is tragedy one finds in extremes. After briefly discussing the images of Pizarnik as a poeta maldit a and a suicide poet I now move to summarize the image I have come across of her as a homosexual poet of radical morality, or as a "lesbian. I begin by pointing to Pizarnik's inclusion in the anthology, Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: from WWII to the present (Aldrich, Robert, and Garry Wotherspoon) Her presence in this anthology situat es her within the canonized group of homosexual intellectuals of the twentieth century. According to the pas sage on Pizarnik there have been a number of queer readings of her work, such as Entiendes? Queer Readings, Hispanic Writings More s pecifically o f her motifs and signs, and, especially, of her work, La condesa s angrient a which critics ascertain is "her most graph ic representation of lesbianism. Some have even called it a lesbian vampire story. In The Look that Kills: The "Unacceptable Beauty" of Alejandra Pizarnik's La condesa sangrienta Suzanne Silverman rea ds Pizarnik's obsession with "silence" as indicative of the "closeted" notion (utilized by Silverman) of Pizarni k's sexuality, and, ultimately l esbianism. She also says that the establishment of literary critics work a for the most part, to keep Pizarnik's lesbian status "closeted" because in Argentina l esbians have been systematically oppressed. Returning to the Who's who anthology, they also call readings of Pizarnik as a poeta maldita or a girl refusing to grow up "domesticated and "less threatening ru brics" than readings of her as a lesbian poet. Here, the idea is that she is more radical, more subversive, more
13 transgressive and "threatening" when read as a lesbian poet If we do not see P izarnik talking directly about her lesbianism in her diary entries, we can read, at least, her radical sexual morality and behaviors Pizarnik writes, Com eter el acto es anular el motivo de la espera. De all que no pueda establecer una relacin ertica continua con nadie. Solo con noches aisladas, experimentos previos (Pizarnik 317). ( To commit the act is to ann ul the motiva tion of the wait. From there it isn' t possible to establish a continuous erotic relationship with nobody. Only with isolated night s, prior experiments. ") That was from 1963. And here in 1965 there is a more developed sense an d knowledge of her sexual self; while not appearing specifically homosexual it does resonate with the sexual "free love" revolution of the 60s mixed with melod rama and the thoughts of a person familiar with the psychology of desire: Por qu necesito humillarme? Por qu necesito llamar a quien no quiere venir y por qu me entristece recibir a quien llega con deseos de verme? Por que el amor de alguien a m in funde en m odio por e se alguien y por qu la indiferencia de cualquiera me fascina? Aun si todo va m s o menos serenamente necesito, cada dos o tres meses, una noche de hu ndimiento  Una noche sexual e s agona, es muer te y es la nica felicidad. Por cie rtos gestos, ciertas palabras, y pierdo conciencia, y estoy ebri a cuando me desnudan, algo lejano y presente. Se repite lo que no se vio nunca. Siempre hago el amor por primera vez. Mi
14 asombro, mi perdicin, mi asfixia, mi liberacin. Soy un a cobarde. Lo s exual, para m es el nico camino de iniciacin. Y a veces lo abandono por miedo. As como para otros el ascetismo, para m lo sexual (Pizarnik 392 393). 12 Marzo 1965 (Translation is my own). [ Why must I humiliate myself? Why must I call to who doesn't want to come and why am I saddened to receive those who arrive with desires to see me? Why is it that the love of someone fills me with hate for this someone and why the indifference of anybody who fascinates me? Still if all goes more or less serenely I need, every two or three months, a night of collapse  A sexual night is agony, is death and is the only happiness. But certain gestures, certain words, and I lose consciousness, and I am drunk when they undress me, kind of distant and present. They rep eat that they saw nothing. Always, I make love for the first time. My surprise, my undoing, my asphyxia, my liberation. I am a coward. The sexual, for me, is the only path of initiation. And at times I abandon it for fear. The way asceticism is for others, the sexual is for me.] March 12, 1965 In the above passage from 1965, Pizarnik speaks about her sexuality and questions of sexual morality. Typical for Pizarnik, she is ambiguous and does not include concrete details. Instead, s he self reflexively questi ons why she needs to
15 humiliate herse lf by seeking unrequited lovers. S he also talks about sex as initiation and asserts that she always makes love for the first time, a very provocative and unconventional idea in t hat ignores social mores e.g. of "virgini ty" and "purity All of these notions are fairly radical, in the sense that they do not fit in with common or conventional notions and modes of sexuality. It seems to me that Pizarnik had her own ways of thinking and perhaps feeling confused about sexuali ty, and that those cannot be so readily ascribed to any single category, such as lesbian. Either way we can be sure she never married or had children, but rather she seemed to stay always an adolescent, always liminal 10 and experimental. II. Re Imagining Alejandra Pizarnik T his re imagining section will offer brief highlights of those aspects of Pi zarnik that first called me to reimagine her in modes di stinct from the ones expounded on in the preceding chapter. Here, I move to discuss what I have labeled her other aspects; other in the sense that, with the exception of language ,' critics and readers have not often focuse d on them. Given readings of Pizarnik as "other" marginal in most ways these are what some might deem the more normative aspects of an otherwise wholly eccentric figure : her attention to : (1) her Judaism; (2) language(s); and (3) childhood. I admit that childhood ,' like language ,' has also 10 Any an d all notions of "liminality" "liminal" "liminoid" or "in between" in the followin g essay(s) are bo rrowed from Victor Turner's notion of "liminal" as "betwixt and between, neither here nor there, or may even be nowhere (in terms of any recognized cultural topography)," (Turner 7) from The Liminal Period In Rites of Passage
16 been discussed (Mackintosh talks about her perpetual adolescence ) though not in the way I will here less theore tically and more biographically (in the sense that I focus on her childhood instead of childhood' as an abstract notion or symbol). Why is it that critics and readers tend to s tay away from these aspects? As I have been discuss ing, these are her less sensational qualities They may not carry the mysterious allure o f her darker, more transgressive and ultimately romanticizable aspects ; and for some readers, these may seem unappealing or simply, a bore. Conversely, what I argu e is that it may be that these aspects which come from her life and are so fundamental to the substantive core of her work have been taken for granted, overlooked as obvious, even obscured by the artist herself the way we often live truly knowing oursel ves only in hindsight. Whichever it may be, the shunning of these aspects in no way negates their importance especially when it comes to understanding the artist, the person, and ultimately, her work. The Jewish Question I've made a substantial claim, a sserting that Pizarnik is a poet of Judaism. Many critics would probably object that I am misrepresenting Pizarnik and her work, and I concede that Pizarnik never says she is a poet of Judaism in so many words. Nevertheless I have found sufficient referenc es to Judaism, (practices, traditions) that this becomes a useful lens for reading her work. Being Jewish was a leitmotif in Pizarnik's thought. The motif appears in the diaries soon after the death of her father, El as, on January 18, 1967 (of a heart att ack) (Pi a 155). Before t hat dramatic event, and, if we focus on the kind of attenti on and
17 argument developed by most critics, then it does seem possible to develop a n overview of Pizarnik's oeuvre while barely touching on "Jewish aspects." Yet, it is also possible to read almost every element of Pizarnik's work as interacting with those issues in a significant way. This interaction is often hard to miss. Ta ke for example her diary entry nine months after her father's death: Soy Juda. De esto se trata. Ha ce mucho tiempo que se trata solamente de esto. No soy argentina. Soy Juda. Este descubrimiento me obliga a impedir movimientos esenciales de mi naturaleza: buscar verdugos (V. luego S., ahora). Mi padre y el sufrimiento de mi raza me avisan que los desa fi, que, si hace falta, me vuelva yo Verdugo. No puedo prolongar la cadena de esclavitud, de suavsima sumisin. Y, no obstante, t emo con un terror nuevo que esto sea una nueva trampa que me tiendo. Acaso quiero adjudicar a mi ser judo esta imposibilida d absoluta de entrar en la comunidad Argentina que integro nominalmente. (Pizarnik 434) 30 octubre 1967 [I am Jewish. For some time it has been all about this. I am not Argentine. I am Jewish. This discovery forces me to stop essential movements of my nat ure: seeking executioners. (V. then S., now). My father and my race's suffering warn me to defy them, that, if it is necessary, I become the Executioner. I cannot prolong the chain of slavery, of soft submission. And, nevertheless, I fear with a new terror
18 that this is a new trap I set myself. Perhaps, I want to ascribe to my Jewish being this absolute impossibility of entering the Argentinea n community I integrate on ly nominally.] October 30, 1967 This diary passage raises many interesting questions. Why was it okay, in Pizarnik's mind to seek power figures, "executioners ," as an Argentinean, but not as a Jew? How does she arrive so suddenly and dramatically to her identification with Judaism? Where were these feeling prior? Why so much fear? Feelings of alienation? Did she suddenly gain a new and profound level of self understandin g that includes being Jewish? It seems so. Here, Pizarnik thinks over her attempts to attribute to her Jewish being or "nesha ma" (Jewish soul) her in ability to locate herself as Argentinian. Seeing that the themes of exile, dislocation and liminality are central in much of her work (Garcia Moreno) this attribution becomes very significant in terms of her overall poetics. Suddenly, Judaism becomes central to the way Pizarnik under stands herself: her fee lings of alienation, despair but also a newfound sense of pride? She can no longer softly submit. At the same time, it seems she is saying that her feelings of alienation may be causing her to want to ascribe them to her Judaism, wh en it may be that she was, in fact, just eccentric because she was not part of the status quo; Pizarnik never married and wore ambiguous dress in a time when Argentina had very specific expectations and roles for women that included marriage and child rear ing. Still, o thers would argue that the above passage fro m her diary is another form of self fashioning However, I sense a sincerity here that crosses the boundaries of Pizarnik's performance as an artist and comes from deeper realms of the heart. S he is
19 after all talking about her father and her race's suffering as if to she suddenly pay homage to what came before her, something the poeta maldito artist in Pizarnik would be weary of doing considering modern poets aspire to break from all tradition I n a series of lessons and conversations I had with Rabbi Manis Friedman 11 I came to understand that an essential aspect of being Jewish is "difference" being different. Thinking about this, in these terms, paints Pizarnik as a quintessentially Jewish poe t. She was obsessed with her own difference." Por mi sangre Juda soy exilada ". (397 Pizarnik) ("Because of my Jewish blood, I am exiled.") This may seem like a superficial connection and assertion, however when we l ook closer at tho se feelings of alienatio n, as Pizarnik did after her Father's death, we find that "her Jewish question" was actually central to her feelings of otherness and isolation: Mi cuestin juda. No s Me siento juda, me siento juda desde que regres a este pas que execro. Acaso por que esta signado por todo lo que odio: la estupidez No quiero morir en este pas. Padre, padre querido, no quiero morir en este pas que ahora lo s odiabas o temas. Del horro r que te causaba, de la extranjeri dad que te produca, solamente yo puedo da r testimonio Y saberte para siempre, por siempre en esta tierra azarosa y basta (sic) nunca podr consolarme y 11 In January 2011 I attended a retreat headed by Rabbi Friedman who is a well known Chabad Lubuvitch Hasidic Rabbi, author, and Torah scholar. During the week long retreat I took classes with him and had a few one on one and small group discussions with him, as well where I was able to ask him questions pertinent to my thesis.
20 debo irme y morir fuera de este lugar al que no debiste venir, padre, ni yo deb regresar. (Pizarnik 430 431) 23 Noviembre 1967 [My Jewish que stion. I don't know. I feel Jewish, I've felt Jewish since I returned to this country which I loathe. Perhaps because it stands for everything I hate: stupidity  I don't want to die in this country. Father, dear father, I don't want to die in this count ry that now I know you hated or feared. Of t he horror that it caused you, of the alienation that it produced in you, only I can give testimony, and to know that you are forever, always, in this random and vast land, I will never be able to console myself a nd I should leave and die far from this place where you shouldn't have come, father, and I shouldn't have returned.] November 23, 1967 Here Pizarnik expresses her belief that her father felt alienated in Argentina as Jew and immigrant. She then transfers that feeling, applying it to herself. She laments, wishing that she could die in another pas (country) in other words, that she could find a patria (fatherland) in another country, where she c ould finally feel at home. Pizarnik expresses these same senti me nts: alienation, being silenced by Argentinian society, through the speaker of her poem Poema para el padre In that poem the father's singing is silenced by an ambiguous outside force [see pg. 36, footnote 18 ]. We see that Pizarnik's deeply rooted alien ation and homelessness, central across her poetry, was caused, at least in part, by her existential, Jewish, angst "Muchas
21 lagrimas derramadas al pensar en Israel. Creo que ser juda es un hecho perfe ctamente grave." (Pizarnik 469) (" Many tears spi lt in t hinking about Israel. I believe to be Jewis h is a perfectly grave fact .") The view that Pizarnik's prevalent sense of dislocation, homelessness and alienation was rooted not only in her other' status as poeta maldito but also, fundamentally, in her Jewi sh and familial identity is a stronger argument if we consi der Pizarnik's background. Her mother and f ather, Rosa or Rezja Bromiker de Pizarnik and El as Pizarnik, were Jewish immigrants to Argentina. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 1934, amidst a climate of global unrest that would eventually become World War II. They spoke Yiddish and Russian not yet Spanish, a fact (but Spanish they had to learn) immediately isolating them from the Spanish speaking community. The Pizarnik's sent their daughters Myriam and our poet to the local schule (synagogue) for classes in Jewish religion, history, and t he Yiddish language. As a middle class immigrant family with limited income, paying the extra money to send their daughters to s chule (they also attended public scho ol) demonstrates that Jewish culture and community was a priority for the Pizarniks. At t he same time, this likely further distanced the family from the status quo in Buenos Aires. Language Here I will transition to discussing Pizarnik as a poet of lang uage, a subject that has been well traversed ( see pg. 48 ). As I already mentioned, the Pizarniks were polygl ots (Russian, Yiddish, Spanish), Alejandra included. As a college student, she
22 went on to study and learn French, as well. This knowledge of languag es and the accompanying cultures located Pizarnik in between and I argue was a major part of what lead to her acute awareness of subjectivity's positioning in language. The ability to go in between languages is akin to the ability to go in between selves "The poet rejoices in this incomparable privilege, that he can, at will, be both himself and another," writes Baudelaire in Paris Spleen: Little Poems in Prose (Baudelaire 22), a work Alejandra Pizarnik will have read many times 12 What I am asserting is that Pizarnik's ability as a poet to go in between and write different selves had its roots in her nature as a polyglot and member of a polyglot fa mily. At the same time, it can also be jarring, alienating, not to know which language is your home, to find yourself homeless, extraterritorial, li minal in a facet of human life language that is so very intimate with the core of our selves. The seat of identity is langu age: n ational identity is reified through the language of literature. Individual or subjective identity through the language one speaks, insofar as cultural knowledge is passed down through that language. In addition, the i ndividual's access to the world and to all social meaning is mediated by language. We also see that Pizarnik's family had an i nside/outside division with language. As Pi a has pointed out, the family spoke Yiddish in the home but only so long as no outsiders were in the household. It is almost as if they were hiding their Yiddish, Jewish selves for what ? What does this have to s ay in relation with Pizarnik's Poema para el padre w here the father's song is silenced by an ambiguous outside force (see footnote 17 pg. 37 for more on this poem)? What does it say about 12 Baudelaire comes up frequently in Pizarnik's diaries (pgs. 56, 344, 417, 418).
23 the existence of oppression during Pizarnik 's and her father's lif etimes? Born in 1936, Pizarnik was a child and an adolescent coming of age during World War II (1939 to 1945). General paranoia pervaded the air at the time and in Argentina there was certainly discrimination against Jews and foreigners. 13 Nevertheless, Je wish immigrants to Argentina struggled to create a thriving community in Buenos Aires. Lastly, in relation to language, I will move to a more theoretical discuss ion of Pizarnik's outspoken desire for words which takes form quite literally in h er work, su ch as in the title to her collection Deseo de la palabra ( Desire of the Word or Desire for the Word ) In the most obvious way, one can be positive that one of Pizarnik's obsessions was language because she chose to become a poet, translator and writer. In her many work s, Pizarnik problematizes language in its most f undamental aspects. She did not have faith in it, given its inability to stabilize or produce unambiguous meaning. In other words, she was cognizant of language's limitations. Language struggles to refer to what is becoming but not fully yet, what is perceived, intuited, even experienced but cannot be verbalized, in other words, cannot speak the ineffable. Humanity struggles to name things, which are not things, but time and process. Particularly in modern poetry "the poet began to see the world with a 13 The revolution of 1930 intro duced a period of political unrest in Argentina in which nationalist and anti Semitic organizations played no small part. From 1933 onward, anti Semitic activity increased, encouraged by German diplomatic institutions and by the local branch of the German Nazi Party, until it became a central problem for Argentinian Jewry. The immigration decree of October 1938 increased discrimination against Jewish immigrants  From 1933 to 1943 between 20,000 and 30,000 Jews entered Argentina by exploiting various loop holes in the law. Between 6,000 and 10,000 of them had to use illegal means to immigrate and their legal status was regulated only after a general amnesty was declared for illegal immigrants in 1948. When news of the Holocaust reached Argentina in 1943, Je wish organizations managed to convince the government to accept 1,000 Jewish children, but for various reasons this rescue operation was never carried out.  Neither overt public hostility nor the occasional official prohibition of the use of Yiddish at public meetings arrested the development of the Jewish community. Excerpted from Argentina; In : Encyclopaedia Judaica 1971, vol. 3 http://www.geschichteinchronologie.ch/am S/argentinien/EncJud/EncJud_juden in argentinien06 1930 1946.html
24 dreadful particularity, as a great ineffable mass of inextricable processes" (Murdoch 59). As a sensitive poet, Alejandra Pizarnik was highly aware of alienation from the world's processes (time) an d the inability of language to describe experience. However, she fought her alienation, attempting to write herself, her body in poems like Dificultades barrocas Pizarnik, as a modern poet, was unwilling to inscribe herself into a tradition and instead, wrote her own moments and the "dreadful particularity" of her body. Ultimately, still, in Dificultades barrocas among other works, her speaker's primary expressions are the failure of expression ( see pg. 53 for an analysis of Dificultades in these terms ). Oftentimes, at the discordant center of a Pizarnik prose poem it seems an ineffable intuition pervades that cannot ever be expressed in words. Childhood Introducing, even briefly, the conce pt of time into our discussion of my re imaging of Pizarnik is a transition into the third aspect of her work that I would like to emphasize: childhood. Alejandra Pizarnik was also a poe t of childhood. Childhood in its most abstract sense as a thing one knows exists, and from which adults may feel ex iled, but also ch ildhood as the experience that we know through m emory, as a specific time in life and in th e development of the body and mind. There is a certain innocence to which one never can return like a paradise lost. Pizarnik thematizes childhood in many of her p oems and also in her diaries, where she obsesses with her own cara de nia ." As it appears in her poetry, childhood and dolls are closely associated. From her life, we know also that
25 Pizarnik's apartment in Buenos Aires was filled with dolls and s urrealis tic collages. In an article from the magazine Panorama dated January 5, 1971: Entering [Pizarnik's] apartment at 980 Montevideo Street is like walking into a lost world of wonder, into a magnetic cosmos of objects. Dolls that look like they are drowning in their dreams and sadness  little animals of wood and metal escaped from some nightmare, surprisingly small furniture. (Beneyeto 25) It is interesting to imagine the poet nearing 30 and living in a room filled with toys and the accompanying nostalgi a for childhood. The objects in Pizarnik's apartment suggest her fascination with the small, perfect dolls was part of her larger vision of the world. Perhaps in her imagination, Pizarnik was the little Alice still lost in a wonderland of her own vision. Childhood appears in her po etry in ways other than imagery; Pizarnik also creates speakers that adopt childlike voices. In poems such as Desconfianza or Los muertos y la lluvia a prose poem which Pizarnik ch ooses to frame with an epigraph that invokes the figure of the child Mamillius, from Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale as o pposed to an adult figure like the King or Queen. A part of Pizarnik's poetics was to see through the eyes of a child. The childhood that, in truth, Pizarnik could not return to a lan d she was quickly exiled from, could be revisited in the world of poetry, in the sp ace of her internal world where the spark of her poetic creation was kindled.
26 Pizarnik returned there frequently f eaturing in her poetry the bosque ( wood or forest) and t he jardn (garden) Both the forest and the garden are and have been symbo ls associated with childhood in children's literature 9but they are ambivalent images, of innocence, freedom and danger. Think of Alice in Wonderland lost in the Queen's rose garden Think of Hansel and Gretel alone in the forest (o f, course they eventually kill the old witch in her oven, symbolically defeating the cynis is m of old age ). Clearly, in a child's imagination the world can be a horrifying place full of night mares, of "obs cene gardens." I w ould say in Pizarnik's poetry there were more nightmares than sweet dreams. Conclusion After surveying the various images of Alejandra Pizarnik and my re imagining of her authorial image, I will move in the following chapter to pre sent new readings of her prose works that bring to the fore her sense of Judaism and religious feeling, of language, and of childhood as inscribed into her work. I will offer close readings of various texts in order to illustrate the aforementioned themes in a precise, detailed, and up close manner. After reading these texts with a lens for the themes above, it is clear that essential qualities of Pizarnik's thinking cannot only be elucidated via the images of Pizarnik already canonized, in a restrictive se nse. In
27 particular, I think the idea of Pizarnik as a Jewish writer of the diaspora is most in counterpoint with typical images of Pizarnik as a transgressive poeta maldita who committed suicide. Even I would go so far as to say that in Los muertos y la ll uvia she is at times a life affirming and mystical poet. Nevertheless, the argument I make here is not, in the end, a way to organize Pizarnik's motifs into mutually exclusive terms. I firmly believe various ways of reading the artist can coexist in the sa me space.
28 Part I I New Readings of Pizarnik (Prose) Poems
29 I. Reading Religious Feelings : Death & The Jewish Question' In my image of Pizarnik, her conflicted rel ationship to Judaism is central: I bel ieve her diasporic condition enhanced her uniqueness and insight, as is the case of other Jewish writers like Franz Kafka and Walter Benjamin (Gunnars 18) 14 Hence as the criteria for choosing the first round of selections of texts in this section I knew that I wanted to look for works that dealt specifically in some concrete way with this motif. I came across Evelyn Fishburn's critical essay Different Aspects of Humor and Wordplay in The Work Of Alejandra Pizarnik during the early period of my research. Here, I found that Fishburn had already pointed to a grouping made previously by Pizarnik's biographer, Ch ristina Pia: "Pia observes that there are only three poems in which there are any Jewish allusions," writes Fishburn (Fishburn 52); later adding tha t there are actually more works which raise Jewish themes, and even more in Pizarnik's recently published Diarios However, attempting to prove that there is enough written material of Pizarnik's addressing Judaism in order to constitute it as a substa ntiv e motif was not my interest, because now I knew that Judaism was a topic of interest for Pizarnik (because of Fishburn). I sought out the selection pointed to by Fishburn and Pia knowing that it would be integral to my research. I located Los muertos y la lluvia El ojo de la alegria (un cuadro de Chagall y Schubert), and Poema para el padre becoming increasingly captivated by Los muertos y la lluvia The elegy is a beautiful, haunting m editation on love, death, and !" Stranger at t he door: writers and the act of writing by Kristjana Gunnars. #
30 God likely written by a melancholic Piz arnik processing, or failing to process, her father's death. Additionally, t he work is quite representative of what constitutes a P izarnik prose poem (for clarification on what constitutes a Pizarnik prose poem please see the introduction to chapter III) a nd certainly emblema tic of her religious feelings I found the Los muertos y la lluvia in Prosa c ompleta it is a prose poem, a little over one page, but sans paragraph indentation or line breaks. Los muertos y la lluvia was published in Prosa Completa pos thumou sly. In the collection it says at the bottom of the poem that the prose poem was written in 1969, the year it was published in Zona Franca a magazine of literature and ideas based in Caracas, Venezuela. However in Pizarnik's diary entry from July 2 1968 she is already making reference to Los muertos y la lluvia Pizarnik had probably been at work on Los muertos y la lluvia in one way or another since her father's funeral in early 1967. The images in the work could easily be from memory of the actu al funeral that took place in "el cementerio extrao y judo ["the strange and Jewish cemetery"] Reading Pizarnik's Diarios helped me to make sense of this prose poem and more broadly of the religious turn I noted in her late works. Many entries reveal a daughter struggling to come to terms with the death of her father. Pizarnik was suffering. What 's more, a round the same time that she was writing Los muertos y la lluvia from 19 66 19 69, she is also exploring her Jewish question Luego mi cuestin jud a tan nueva (430, Pizarnik Nov. 23 1967 ) In Los muertos y la l luvia she depicts herself not in external motion through the world, but moving internally through a world of her own insight. Beginning by
31 questioning assumptions, and then as she listens to t he music of her Father, the speaker is musing here, into the mind, into the body, where the memories of birth and death are locked in close embrace forever. Los muertos y la lluvia is framed by an epigraph taken from Shakespeare: "Haba una vez un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio. Not a direct translation, but one Pizarnik must have made herself from A Winter's Tale It is an utterance from the character Mamillius, who in the play's second act is asked to recite a tale, a winter's tale, and responds with "There was a man ... dwelt by a Church yard..." before being cut off by his father rushing in to accuse his mother of infideli ty and thereby setting the play in motion. Here it seems that Pizarnik is not so much interested in the literariness of the allusion, though aligning herself with Shakespeare and setting her name in close proximity to his is quite a move for the burgeoning (female) writer; she is rather interested more in the mood that the quote beckons. The mood is dark, ghoulish, and fantasti cal. And in some ways it is a child's tale since the quote is from the mouth of Mamil l ius, not the King himself in Shakespeare's work, but the young boy prince, who at this point in the play still has to witness all his family is to suffer on behalf of the father's jealousy. The first sentence of Los muertos y la lluvia continues with the childlike tone. Somewhere in the vein of "once upon a time" the voice of the poem begins : "There once was a man who lived close to a cemetery and nobody asked why." When i t seems that the next logical step would be to ask "why?" the n the prose poem takes a complicated and unexpected turn, asking why anyone should find it necessary to ask why? Here the speaker, Pizarnik, is questioning social conventions: why it is that
32 some one w ho lives close to the cemetery and to the dead by their own accord sho uld be seen as suspect or "raro ? Also, in the beginning of the poem is the first appearance of "yo" or "I 15 as the speaker of the poe m refers to herself, saying she doesn 't live near to a cemetery and nobody asks them why. Los muertos y la lluvia is not in the style of verse I was familiar with from other Rio Plate writers, like Juana De Ibarbourou or Oliverio Girondo. At first I was intimidated by the caliber of Pizarnik's Spani sh, a nd it took me many readings, re readings and assisted readings to be able to "understand" the work, at least as much as one might be able to understand a Pizarnik work with her insistence on the ineffable and irrational. Los Muertos y la lluvia is, ho wever, a complicated lyric prose poem, a meditation on love, death and memory imbued with a mystic's sentiment. In the most blatant textual way Los Muertos y la lluvia addresses Pizarnik's religious feelings via intertextuality The final sentence is a qu ote from the Talmud a holy book in rabbinical Judaism: Es verdad que nada importa a que o quien llamaron Dios, pero tambien es ver dad esto que le en el Talmud: Dios tiene tres llaves: la de la 15 Who is this "I" in the many "I" s of Pizarnik's works? I will refer to the speaker of this poem as Pizarnik herself because the prose poem is a mixture of personal essay, memoir, short story anecdote, meditation and poetry, blended into a prose poem. Seeing that it contains some semantic elements of an essay, for example, the fact that a question sets the work in motion, I am more comfortable saying the speaker of the poem is Pizarnik. Many times with lyric poetry, I learned the student doing a close reading is obligated to separate the speaker of the poem from the writer; however I do not feel this is a useful move to make in my reading of Pizarnik's Los muertos y la lluvia because our read ing is more fruitful when we contextualize the work.
33 lluvia, la del nacimiento, la de la resurreccin de los mue rtos. (Pizarnik, 44) 16 I will use this as my entry to talk about the work in terms of the motif of her religious feelings, her mystical feelings, her relationship with the ineffable and in the most conventional turn of phrase, with her Judaism. In the Jewi sh faith, Go d is often referred to as "that which cannot be named," Pizarnik echoes that sentiment here, first saying that it is true that it is unim portant to what or to whom one calls Go d. At the same time, she implies that religious tradition is not imp ortant to her. Th e truth is not in the name of Go d. The truth is that the name of Go d doesn't matter. Debating the origin, name or lineage of Go d in those terms is inconsequential. Conversely, she also moves on to cite the Talmud implying that she read the text and saying it is "also true." W hat does matter: humans cannot control the rain, birth, or t he resurrection of the dead; w hat is outside of human dominion is mystery. Here Pizarnik's meditation on life and death ends on a characteristically ambiguous note. The speaker thinks about her father's death will he have been be afraid durin g his first night as a dead man? She thinks about the cemetery, its commotion when rain falls, the saturation and an overall surreal scene. Now I will move into a line by line close reading of Los muertos : Haba un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio y nadie preguntaba por qu. Y por qu alguien habra de preguntar algo? Yo no vivo junto a un cementerio y nadie me pregunta por qu. Algo yace, 16 It's true that it doesn't matter who or what they called God, but also true is what I read in the Talmud: "God has three keys: one to the rain, one to birth, and one to the resurrection of the dead."
34 corrompido o enfermo, entre el s y el no. Si un hombre vive junto a un cementerio tampoco le preguntan por qu, pero si vive lejos de un cementerio tampoco le pregunta por qu. Pero no por azar viva ese hombre junto a un cementerio. Se me dir que todo es azaroso, empezando por e l lugar en que se vive. Nada me puede importar lo que se me dice porque nunca nadie me dice nada cuando cree decirme algo. Solamente escucho mis rumores desesperados, los cantos litrgicos venidos de la tumba sagrada de mi ilcita infancia. [ There once w as a man who lived near a cemetery and nobody asked why. And why would anyone have asked him anything? I don't live close to a cemetery and nobody asks me why not. Something lies, corrupted or sick, between the yes and the no. If a man lives close to a cem etery nobody asks him why, by the same token if he lives far from a cemetery no one asks him why either But it's no coincidence that this man was living near a cemetery. They'll tell me everything is coincidental, beginning with the place where one lives. What I am told cannot matter to me because nobody ever says anything when they think they are saying something to me. I only listen to my desperate rumors, the liturgical songs coming from the sacre d tomb of my illicit childhood.]
35 Los muertos y la lluvia begins with a sentence that is at once reminiscent of fairytales for children, like "once upon a time ." But as one reads on to the following two sentences one is immediately frustrated with this expectation as the speaker then asks a que stion, introducing a doubt By the third sentence we have the first appearance of the first person singular "yo ," as she says she does not live close to a cemetery and nobody asks why. She implies that the same logic that would lead one to question why one might live close to a cemete ry w ould prompt one to ask why an other lives far from a cemetery. However, convention dictates that living close to a cemetery is far stranger than living far from one. And li ving on the edge of a cemetery or in other words, close to death, mar ginalizes that individual. Residual superstition magic, still exists in the modern world it's this that Piz arnik's speaker draws on as she tell this tale of the dead and their apparitions. The next sentence is particularly enigmatic and goes with the the me of corrupted reason giving way to supernatural and religious feelings: Algo, yace, corrompido o enfermo, entre el s y el no ," ("s omething lies, corrupted or sick, between the yes and the no ) This resonates with a line from Gilles Delueze and Felix G uattari, "underneath all reason lies delirium, drift ." 17 Pizarnik has freed herself to delve into the delirium subterraneous to all proposed forms of rationality. 18 This poem is outside the order of things, feels no need to progress in an order that might be deemed rational. We are breaking into other realms outside of convention and reason 17 Quote taken from Capitalism: A Very Special Delirium 18 In the case of Deleuze and Guattari, they critique the proposed rationality of capitalism, saying it is only as rational as theology, as religion, in that they are both based in the contingencies th at one accepts to enter into the order of any supposed rational system.
36 as this introspective speaker leads t he way into a new emotional landscape. The following sentence brings forth syntactical and sema n tic repetition with "S i un hombre vive junto a un cementerio tampoco le preguntan por qu pero si vive lejos de un cementerio tampoco le preguntan por qu There is repetition and negation within the sentence itself as well as with the first sentence of the prose poem as I already pointed ou t. Repeated words of importance are "hombre "cementerio and "p or qu This speaker is interested in questions of "why which can be much more difficult or obscure then questions of "who "what "where or "when ," the general questions one answers when constructing an orderly narrative. "Why?" is often the most existential or philosophical of question s It is the question that is at the core of theology or philosophy, abstract thought. She makes the move here from a concrete narrative into a more a bstract type of discourse, in teresting to note because these rhythms in modality are part of what make the prose into poetry. The next sentence introduces "chance" ( azar ). The speaker goes on to say that t his man was not living next to the cemetery by chan ce as some would insist Then why was he living next to the dead? The speaker goes on to say that people will tell her that all is a product of chance including the question of why one lives where one does. This resonates with larger questions of the poem 's speaker "why does one die when one does?" Though not explicit the question is: w hat is the sense in that? There is no sense' about it in the context of this poem; there is the question and the explicit answer not by chance. If chance can be weigh ed aga inst fate, then there is a religious question t here.
37 It is also worthwhile to note the sing songy cadence of the following sentence: "Nada me puede importar lo que se me dice porque nunca nadie me dice nada cuando cree decirme algo The repetition of con sonant "n sounds and hard "k" creates a phonetic structure that resembles a game children play with language, the tongue twister Conceptually, there is also the game of moving fast, back and forth, from someone,' something,' to nothing,' and no one'. Through this construction the speaker playfully mocks the others she mentions, as if their words are nothing more than a trite game. The speaker then goes on to say : "I only listen to my desperate rumors, th e liturgical songs that come fro m the sacred tom b of my illicit childhood." This sentence is beautiful and enigmatic The rumors are "desperate the songs "liturgical the tomb "sacred and childhood "illicit ." While childhood is already dead, passed, past, sealed, it still emanates with music and intrigue as if it were in a sacred tomb and the speaker hears it emanating with "liturgical" or "religious" song. 19 Now we move on to the second section of the poem: Es mentira. En este instante escucho a Lotte Lenya que canta Die dreigroshenoper Claro e s que se trata de un disco, pero no deja de 19 Similarly, in Poema para el padre childhood is also associated with song. I like to imagine Pizarnik's youth was filled with Jewish, religious songs. The conservative shule she atten ded likely involved song during services and I imagine her father sung Yiddish songs in the privacy of his home on Shabbos with his daughters, since Yiddish was banned in public. From Poema para el padre : cant la cancin que no le dejaron cantar// en est e mundo de jardines obscenos y de sombras// que venan a deshora a recordarle//cantos de su tiempo de muchacho//en el que no poda cantar la cancin que quera cantar." (" He sang the song that they kept him from singing// In this world of obscene gardens a nd of shadows// That came unexpectedly to remind him// Of songs from his boyhood// In which he couldn't sing the song he wanted to sing// The song that they kept him from singing."
38 asombrarme que en este lapso de tres aos entre la ltima vez que la escuch y hoy, nada ha cambiado para Lotte Lenya y mucho (acaso todo, si fuera cierto) ha cambiado para m. He sabido de la muerte y he sabido de la lluvia. Por eso, tal vez, solamente por eso y nada ms, solamente por la lluvia sobre las tumbas, solamente por la lluvia y los muertos, puede haber habido un hombre que viva en un cementerio. Los muertos no emiten seales de ninguna suerte. Mala su erte y paciencia, puesto que la vida es un lapso de aprendizaje musical del silencio. Pero algo se mueve y se desoculta cuando cae la lluvia en un cementerio. He visto con mis ojos a los hombrecillos de negro cantar endechas de errantes, perdidos poetas. Y los de caftn mojados por la lluvia, y las lgrimas intiles, y mi padre demasiado joven, con manos y pies de mancebo griego, mi padre habr sentido miedo la primera noche, en ese lugar feroz. La gente y los hombrecillos de negro despoblaron rpidamente e l cementerio. Un hombre harapiento se qued a mi lado como para auxiliarme en el caso de que necesitara ayuda. Tal vez fuera al que se refiere el cuento que empieza Haba una vez un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio. [ That's a lie. In this instant I' m listening to Lotte Lenya sing Die dreigroshenoper It's clear that it's a record I'm talking about, but it never ceases to amaze me that in the space of three years between the last time I listened to the song and today, nothing has changed for
39 Lotte Len ya, and a lot (maybe everything, if all were true ) has changed for me. I have known of death and I have known of the rain. Because of that, perhaps, only because of that alone and nothing more, only because of the rain on the tombs, only because of the rai n and the dead, could there have been a man that lived in a cemetery. The dead don't emit signals of any sort. Bad luck and patience, because life is a space in the musical learning of silence. B ut something is stirred and is uncovered when rain falls in a cemetery. I saw with my own eyes the little men in black sing the dirges of wondering, lost poets. And those in floor length dresses soaked by the rain, and useless tears, and my father, too young, with the hands and feet of a Greek youth my father will have felt afraid his first night, in this ferocious place. The people and the little men in black cleared out of the cemetery rapidly. A ragged looking man stayed by my side so as to help me in the case that I would have needed help. Perhaps he was the nei ghbor referred to in the story that begins There once was a man that who lived near a cemetery ] A quick register change here, as the briefest sentence in the poem frustrates our expe ctations and leads us into the second portion of the prose poem: "Es men tira." At once, what has been said is a lie, literally, as we see in the following sentence but also because "Es mentira" is it's own sentence W ithout a direct referent inside it, it co uld be read as "todo es mentira The world is lies. Now we move to
40 w here I would divide the poem as it shifts in to a more concrete register "En este instante escucho a Lotte Lenya [ ]. Sudde nly we have an embodied speaker who is listening to a physical record of singer and actress, Lotte Lenya Lenya is an Austrian singer well known for her role in Bertold Brecht's Threepenny Opera This music belongs to the gene ration before Pizarnik and was l ikely a singer her father would have enjoyed. Then the speaker begins musing on time and on how Lenya's voice and art continue to exist, statically, while the speaker has changed since the last time (3 years ago ) she listened to it. What has changed for the speaker? "He sabido de la muerte y he sabido de la lluvia ( I have known of death and I have known of the rain. ") The poem is titled "Los muertos y la lluvia ," and now we see the connection, t he speaker has experience with death and with rain. This is the major theme of the poem: how do we handle and think about death? What is the role of religion at times of death? The dead are unlucky in that they do not emit signals; they cannot speak or be heard by any means. They are in silence, the silence that is one of Pizarnik's central motifs. In t he following sentence the speaker says life is filled with bad luck and patience becau se life is "a space in the musical learning of silence." W e the living are in "la vida which is "un lapso de aprendizaje musical del silencio ." To the speaker, life is a musical learning in between periods of silence whic h are the before and after lif e; so that the absolute is silence and the particular is music, vibration. This resonates with Jewish mysticism as all life depends on breath, and so with each vibrating breath there is renewal 20 This is physical life, the beating rhythms of the 20 This is an idea from a seminar I took with Rabbi Manis Friedman on the T anya
41 heart, th e cadence of spoken breath as a word is said. "The dead don't emit signals [words, breath rhythm, vibration] by any means." So life is bad luck and patience, waiting for the silence that follows before and after this period of musical learning of silence This connects with the mystic and religious themes throughout the prose poem, and also with her conception of music/silence. Now we have a break of flow as Pizarnik the speaker returns to the cemetery. Beginning with "pero algo se mueve y se desoculta c uando cae la lluvia en un cementerio The rain comes in as an agent that stirs the dead in the cemetery in this phonetically b eautiful sentence. Readers can imagine wet earth moving as a decaying body silently crumbles in on itself. (Of course, to imagin e it as one 's own father makes it emotionally more intense.) The speaker then talks about seeing with their own eyes "hombrecillos de negro men in black singing the dirges of "errantes, perdidos poetas of wondering, lost poets. Here she paints the fun eral scene, seeing with her own living eyes the small men in black singing dirges for lost wondering poets. ( A dirge is a song of mourning often performed during a funeral. ) There is something special, about funerals, a certain spiritual feeling pulsating underneath all the grief and pain and tears. After her father's death and towards the end of her own life, Pizarnik writes i n her diaries that she wants to do a novel of the wondering Jew ( Jud o errante ). It is likely that this is how she characterized he r father, thinking about him after his death. In the poem t he following line begins with another conjunction: Y los de caftan mojados por la lluvia, y las l grimas inut les, y mi padre demasiado joven, con la s manos y pies de mancebo griego [ ] We see t hat the rain has made the tears
42 "useless" as this sad scene is drenched to the core with rain, rain that not only enters the dead, but the living as well. Nature in the form of the rain is represented as more powerful than the tears, which would be cultur e. Emotions are being openly expressed during this ceremony. This sentence continues after a comma's pause "y mi padre demasiado joven, con manos y pies de mancebo griego, mi padre habr sentido miedo la primera noche, en ese lugar feroz." Here we have th e first literal naming of the father as the dead one in the cemetery. T he speaker calls him "too young ; death is even grimmer when the dead is too young to have died. The speaker spends time thinking of his physicality, of his hands and feet. They are the hands and feet of a "mancebo griego ." "Mancebo" is not in common usage today though it is a traditional Spanish word, rather it is an archaic sounding word, like "shaveling." (It may be heard in Ladino today with more frequency, given the conservative na ture of the language's vocabulary.) Hands and feet being some of our most human characteristics, the speaker is focusing on his humanity, making him into a young Greek sculpture to last the ages, forever a youth with virile carved hands and feet. The Greek s deified the epheb e ["mancebo"], a y oung man, in works of art paying very close attention to realistic representation of the human form. In a way this prose poem is her way of idealizing the beauty of her Father, even in death, so t hat he will always li ve as art; Similar to the way Pizarnik talks about Lotte Lenya's music as a work of art that is both alive and dead at once. Th e speaker moves to describe how her father will have felt afraid his first night in this "ferocious" place. The speaker gives hum anity to the dead father, almost as if now he is residing in the cemetery, spending nights there, where he feels afraid. The scene continues as the speaker says
43 the people and the little men in black left the cemetery rapidly, implying no one wished to sta y for long in this alien place. However, "un hombre harapiento" appears again and Pizarnik wonders about who he could be. She says: Un hombre harapiento se qued a mi lado como para auxiliarme en el caso de que necesitara ayuda. Tal vez fuera el vecino a l que se refiere el cuento que empieza Haba una vez un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio "Tal vez fuera" indi c ates her playful speculation on his iden tity, as she identifies him as poss ibly the character in the tale quoted in the epigraph. After t his sentence we have a break in register, and t h is is where I divide the poem into its third and final po rtion: "Oh el disco ha cambiado": Oh el disco ha cambiado, y Lotte Lenya se revela envejecida. Todos los muertos estn ebrios de lluvia sucia y de sconocida en el cementerio extrao y judo. Slo en el resonar de la lluvia sobre las tumbas puedo saber algo de lo que me aterroriza saber. Ojos azules, ojos incrustados en la tierra fresca de las fosas vacas del cementerio judo. Si hubiera una casita v aca junto a un cementerio, si pudiera ser ma. Y tomar posesin de ella como de un barco y mirar por un catalejo la tumba de mi padre bajo la lluvia, porque la nica comunin con los muertos sucede bajo la lluvia, cuando retornan los muertos y algunos viv ientes cuentan cuentos de espritus, de espectros, de aparecidos. A m me sucede acercarme en el invierno a mis ausentes, como si la lluvia lo hiciera posible. Es verdad que nada importa a qu o a quin llamaron
44 Dios, pero tambin es verdad que le en el T almud: "Dios tiene tres llaves: la de la lluvia, la del nacimiento, la de la resurreccin de los muertos [ Oh the record has changed, and Lotte Lenya appears old. All of the dead are filled with unknown, dirty rain in the strange, Jewish cemetery. Only i n the echo of the rain on the tombs am I able to know something about what I am terrified to know. Blue eyes, eyes encrusted in the fresh earth of the empty graves of the Jewish cemetery. If only there were an empty little house near the cemetery, if only it were mine. And to take possession of her, like of a boat, to watch through a s cope the tomb of my father under the rain, because the only commu nion with the dead happens under the rain, when the dead return and some of the living tell tales of spirits, of specters, and of ghosts. For me, it happens in winter, I draw closer to those I've lost, as if the rain made it pos sible. It's true that it does not matter what or who m they called God, but it is also true this that I read in the Talmud: "God has three keys: the one to the rain, the one to birth, and the one to the resurrection of the dead." ] We return to the current moment in which the speaker has been listening to Lotte Lenya, but suddenly the record has changed, and with it the tone of the prose poe m's emotional landscape. Now Lotte Lenya appears old. Not e ven art has kept her
45 immortal n or saved her from the ravages of time. S he too su ddenly appears an old ghost of a time passed The emotional climax of the poem arrives with the following sentence: Todos los muertos estn ebrios de lluvia sucia y desconocida en el cementerio extrao y judo Suddenly, like Lotte Lenya, the dead are also represented in their decay. They are all "filled with dirty rain which has entered their corpses, connecting t hem with the earth and with the living who walk on the earth, as well as with the heavens from which the rain came. Now the rain is "desconocida" and a feeling of estrangement looms; here is the estrangement of P izarnik with her dead Father; the estrangeme nt of the living with the dead to whom we cannot speak. This is why it is only the sounds of the rain on the tombs, as in the next sentence, that the speaker "puedo" I am able to know something about what it terrifies her to know. "Ojos azules the metony m that consistently stands for her father "O jos azules, ojos incrustados en la tierra fresca de las fosas vacas del cemen ter io judo ." This incredibly powerful sentence contains vivid close up im agery of the father's blue eyes which are the focus of the sentence and arguably of the prose poem (the e yes as the father's humanity), incrusted in the dirt of his tomb. The reason Judaism as a tradition matters in terms of the imagery here is because in Jewish burial customs the dead are buried with only a th in wooden box or direc tly in the earth. Jewish belief say s that as the body decays, the soul ascends to heaven. Whether or not Pizarnik beli eved in the soul, I do not know; however the image of the decaying father is more evocative and terrestrial when we are aware that Jewish burials are completed with the intention that the dead decay, as proper, without embal mment or chemical sustainers off any sort.
46 The register quickly changes here, with the speaker moving into i f" clauses to dream of having an empt y house at the edge of the cemet ery that could be hers But there's beauty "pies de mancebo and love, love! The speaker lovingly talks about the little house with a strange humility: Si hubiera una casita vaca junto a un cementerio, si pudiera ser m a. Y tomar posesin de ella como de un barco y mirar por un catalejo la tumba de mi padre bajo la lluvia, porque la nica comunin con los muertos sucede bajo la lluvia, cuan do retornan los muertos y alguno s vivientes cuentan cuentos de espritus, de espec tros, de aparecidos "Casi ta "ser ma "Y tomar posesin de ella There is a wanting here, a strong wanting to watch over and live amongst the dead The speaker laments over her loss unable to accept it. However, she says there is a possible communio n (communication) with the dead and that happens only under the rain, only as one mourns. In the Jewish re ligion there are specific rites for observing after the death of a loved one. (You co ver the mirrors, you sit shivah, light Yahrzeit ) Additionally, the family of words continues to allude to the saturated nature of the place: the house is imagined as a boat and the speaker as the captain, watching the tom b of their father through a scope. This scope implies a certain amount of distance, but also simul taneously a desire to be closer. A complex sentence follows, in which the poem's speaker says that in winter she draws closer to those she has lost as if the rain made it possible. The introspective speaker finds the rain that falls on the living and dead alike, along with the solitude of winter with its long nights and shortened days, brings those they miss cl oser in thought and in feeling. Nature is a mystical and influential force.
47 Slowly, the prose poem comes to a close as the potency of the sadness an d imagery lessen and we return to abstract reflection. Again, the speaker takes an outspokenly religious turn in register saying it isn't important to whom or to what they called God. Then moving to quote the Talmud 21 This intertextuality is essential in m y reading of Los muertos y la lluvia Pizarnik chose to depict a speaker who reads the Talmud putting her in with the likes of Jewish scholars of the Orthodox and Conservative traditions (since Reform Judaism does not require Talmudic study), she also cho se to quote the Talmud as the final line in this prose poem for added emphasis (as I've already pointed out). She writes, "God has three keys: the one to the rain, the one to birth, and the one to the resurrection of the dead." Before the modern era, peopl e from all religious traditions prayed to God for rain because it is essential to the life of the land and the people; People have prayed to God for the birth of their offspring; And specifically in the Jewish tradition, the people do mitzvahs and pray to God for the arrival of moshiac : when God will resurrect the dead. So while Pizarnik says that it isn't important to what or to whom they called God, implying which religious tradition and vocabulary one utilizes in unimportant, she then moves to say that t he Talmud "is also true," that her own tradition has truth. Probably she found some relief reading Jewish texts after her father's death. Also, in remembering him in her poetry she found a way to redeem him in memory. In conclusion, we see that Pizarnik' s religious turn late in life was heavily influenced by her father's death. In my re imagining section we saw internally the 21 A holy book in rabbinical Judaism, it is the oral Torah, the secret mystical knowledge that traditionally only holy and studious men could read or recite. It explains the spiritual origins of the Halachic laws and is often cryptic or difficult to u nderstand, an attribute it shares with Pizarnik's work.
48 reflexive relationship Pizarnik had with her Judaism (see Re imagining chapter, section on Judaism). Here, in her work, we have not ed the mystical qualities of her personal view on religion, death and truth, even on God. It may be difficult for some to believe that Pizarnik had a Jewish view of the world, thinking that as an artist who explored her own aesthetic and ethical systems, s he would be more relativistic and less conservative in her relationship to any organized religion, including Judaism. It is true that in Los muertos she writes it does not mater who or what they called God, a very relativistic 22 view, but she follows it dir ectly with an affirmation of her family's tradition of Conservative Judaism. She was raised Jewish, spoke Yiddish, went to a conservative Schule wrote about Judaism and Jewish texts, had an affinity for Kafka and read the Talmud Indeed, Pizarnik is a Jew ish writer. II. Reading Language Tu rosa es rosa. Mi rosa, no s. GERTRUDE STEIN ALEJANDRA PIZARNIK The broad topic of language is the subject of many critical studies of Ale jandra Pizarnik's work. This critical interest reveals that Pizarnik is often imagined as a poet with a particular relationship to, and, profound interest in, language: Cecilia Rossi undertook a structuralist critique in Alejandra Pizarnik's 22 By "relativistic" I mean believing in the relativism of disparate values and belief systems rather than believing firmly in one belief system.
49 Poetry: Transl ating the Translation of Subjectivity exploring Pizarnik's positioning of "the subject" in her poetic language and referring to Julia Kristeva's concept of "subject; Evelyn Fishburn analyzes in terms of form Pizarnik's play with words as an aspect in her discussion of Pizarnik's use of humour, Different Aspects of Humour and Wordplay in the Work of Alejandra Pizarnik ; a nd, in the essay Alejandra Pizarnik and the Inhospitability of Language: The Poet as Hostage Laura Garcia Moreno discusses Pizarnik's exi le from world, self, and language. Nevertheless, critics have looked only briefly at Pizarnik's works in which language is approximated to the body. It is this subject that I expand on in the following essay through a close reading of Dificultades barrocas probably Pizarnik's most emblematic text on the subject. One of Pizarnik's recurring ideas is of her body (=life) becoming poetry (=language). Garcia Moreno wrote that Pizarnik's desire for a direct relationship between body and language "persistently re mains at the level of illusion" 23 (Garcia Moreno 78). In other words, wherever this approximation occurs discursively it does so liminally. It is spoken of at a level of abstraction as the poet's desire to write her body poetic lingers betwixt and between e ternal longing and ephemeral cessation. In other words, what motivates her to write is a desire to inscrib e what can never be penned down. H owever, her poems are the space where that desire can be temporarily satisfied. In this conception, poetry is some f orm of liminoid 24 space that frees desire. For brevity, I will refer to this approximation as el cuerpo potico 25 which is: (1) the body of work created by Pizarnik and (2) the 23 "The longing for a direct relationship or at least an approximation between body and language persistently remains at the level of illusion, of unattainable desire." 24 For clarification on "liminoid" please see pg. 14 footnote 8.
50 artist's struggle to inscribe the (female) body into poetic language. To illust rate we will look at what Fishburn calls Pizarnik's "torturous and splintered late prose works," (Fishburn 36). Fishburn's characterization suggests that the late works came out of a tumultuous time for the artist and, indeed, they did. Pizarnik's father d ied in 1967 and she committed suicide in 1972 after a five month period of hospitalization. The following works are from that span of five years that lapsed between the two incidents. The first time I came across this relationship between language and body was in the prose poem Dificultades b arrocas 26 In this prose poem the speaker reflects on being physically unable to say certain words in the presence (or absence) of others and on times when she replaces words she failed to say with the language of the bo dy (cries, caresses). Again, I noticed this approximation of language and the body in El Deseo de la palabra 27 Finally, I read it in her diaries, as well. For the fluidity of my discussion I will first do a close reading of a portion from El Deseo de la p alabra because I think it is Pizarnik's most direct treatment of the subject. Here, in the prose poem's final sentence (which I have color coded), Pizarnik's speaker exclaims a desire "to live in ecstasy" through the powerful communion and exchange of her body and poetry, her life and literature becoming "el cuerpo potico ": Ojal pudiera vivir solamente en xtasis haciendo el cuerpo del poema con mi cuerpo rescatando cada frase con mis das y con mis 26 Prosa Completa 27 Published in El Infierno musical (1971).
51 semanas infundindole al poema mi soplo a medida qu e cada letra de cada palabra haya sido sacrificada en las ceremonias del vivir [ I wish that I could live only in ecstasy making the body of the poem with my body rescuing each phrase with my days and with my weeks infusing into the poem my breath as e ach letter of each word has been sacrificed in the ceremonies of living. ] In this frequently quoted, climactic, and urgent end to El deseo de la palabra I read loud and clear the poet's desire for the communion of the quotidian and personal with the trans cendent and absolute for oneness with literature. This desire is expressed in the subjunctive, or, as in the words of Garcia Moreno, remains "at the level of illusion." The diction is religious: "ecstasy" "sacrificed" "ceremonies." It sounds as if the spea ker were having a religious experience (a rapture, an ecstasy) via the force of her desire to be wed with language. Also, the repeated gerunds stress the sense of suspension, formally creating the feeling of a process without end. Here, ecstasy would be to fuse life into the poem, specifically, the life of the poet speaker and arguably of Pizarnik herself. Is this a desire for her art to truly reflect or mimetize life? In my reading, Pizarnik reveals the nature of desire as she writes of the longing to inf use her art with life. Arguably, Pizarnik could not fulfill that desire, yet it was intensely productive, inspiring her to write an extensive body of work. Now, allow me to demonstr ate this idea with the text.
52 Formally speaking, Pizarnik has juxtaposed n oun groups in parallel positions (notice I highlighted this formulation in red and lilac ): "My body" is in a parallel position with "my days and my weeks" and "my breath" whereas "the body of the poem" "each phrase," "the poem" and "each letter of each wor d" are parallel. The "I," or personal features of the poem are blown out: "my body," then "my weeks and days," "my breath" and finally, "ceremonies of life," ( = the quotidian elevated). Inversely, language, or the abstract impersonal features of the poem, a re analyzed and broken into component parts finally to be sacrificed as "letters of words," literally the smallest part of a word. Destructive and creative forces unite, as they become one agent acting on language' and on the poem's speaker. Adding to th e effect, the repeated gerunds suspend the action. Note that the passage cited above is only one sentence elaborating, clause by clause; carrying readers along in rhythmic waves of syntactical repetition and reiteration of words that point in the directio n of creating a semantic field. Yet, the desire for ultimate resolution, born from this wave, is never fully realized but instead "persists at the level of illusion." Isn't that the nature of desire? As in the case of the theme of this poem, isn't that t he nat ure of desire for union with an other' in particular? Whether that other' be language, literature, poetry, or person. One strives for union only to inevitably alienat e the foreign object of desire: In one's striving coming to see its separateness (or lack) from I' the desiring subject 28 28 My understandi ng of the space of desire as one that replicates itself and is impossible to attain is indebted to the theories of Jacques Lacan as described in Karen Coats' Looking Glasses and Neverlands: Lacan, Desire, and S ubjectivity in Children's Literature
53 Finally, the work comes to a close as the sight of black typography on a white page enlarges in the reader's mind "cada letra de cada palabra" stares back at us in its fragmented, singular form. The lyrical, lite ral I' (which never appears in the Spanish original, but I was forced to include in the translation) is at once language and not language. As a word I' is an inert object. As one's self, "I" is a moving process. For a startling moment, Pizarnik has succe eding in "making it strange." Making the familiar unfamiliar." 29 Hence, ordinary language is transformed into the literature of ecstatic longing. Pizarnik longs to write the body into her poetry, yet she knows that it would be a form of stasis, and, that th is creation could destroy the body being written. Garcia Moreno cites and develops Pizarnik's "idea of language as castrating and poetry as the slow engraving of a corpse to be offered as a trophy to the abstract often undefi ned perpetrators of humiliatio n, (Garcia Moreno 68, emphasis mine). In other words, Pizarnik's poetry is "a corpse," is as much a dead body, as written language is an inert object that "castrates," or violently removes essential qualities of the worlds it attempts to create or describ e. In Dificultades barrocas I noted this hostility of language that Garcia Moreno identifies, as well. Here, language is hostile because it "refuses to be said" by the speaker and is thus a "perpetrator of humiliation" in front of the character, Writer D. It is not a means of expression but of oppression, it stops her from being able to express herself and leads to her humiliation. "Writer D" also suffers from a stutter for both figures, the body blocks expression. Lets look, for example, at the first 29 "Defam iliarization" as coined by the Russian Formalist, Victor Shklovsky. To defamiliarize, Scklovsky writes, is "to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived, and not as they are known."
54 segm ent of Dificultades b arrocas in isolation Here the speaker attempts to say the word "writing" (in French) over the phone to Writer D: Hay palabras que ciertos das no puedo pronunciar. Por ejemplo hoy, hablando por telfono con el escritor D. que es tar tamudo quise decirle que haba estado leyendo un librito muy lindo titulado L'impossibilit d'crire Dije L'impossibilit... y no pude seguir. Me subi una niebla, me subi mi existencia a mi garganta, sent vrtigos, supe que mi garganta era el centro de todo y supe tambin que nunca ms iba a poder decir crire. D. bien o mal complet la frase, lo cual me dio una pena infinita pues para ello tuvo que vencer no s cuntas vocales a modo de escollos. Ah, esos das en que mi lenguaje es barroco y em pleo frases interminables para sugerir palabras que se niegan a ser dichas por m! [There are w ords that on certain days I canno t pronounce. For example, today, talking on the telephone with writer D. who stutters I wanted to tell him that I'd been readi ng a very pretty little book entitled L'impossibilit d'crire I said "L'impossibilit" and couldn't go on. Suddenly, a fog rose in me, my very existence climbed to my throat, I felt vertigo, I realized that my throat was the center of everything and I also realized that I wasn't going to be able to say "crire" ever again. D. for good or bad finished the phrase,
55 which gave me an infinite sadness, because in order to do this he had to overcome I don't know how many vowels in the manner one does hurdles. Ah those days in which my language is baroque and I employ interminable phrases in order to suggest words that refuse to be said by me!] Dificultades barrocas begins with an assertion in the present tense: Hay palabras que ciertos das no puedo pronunci ar ." Then the speaker moves into narration and anecdote. "Today talking on the phone with Writer D," and here we get an interesting detail he has a stutter she wanted to tell him she'd been reading a pretty little book, note the use of the diminutive ("lib r ito"), called L'impossibilite d'ecrir I looked for this reference but was unable to find a published book bearing that exact French title. However, the title is The Impossibility of W riting and Franz Kafka wrote in a letter to Max Brod about the "impos sibility of writing" for authors writing in languages that are not native to them, thereby producing a sense of dislocation but also the possibility of unique imagination and insight. 30 At this point in the work, we have also moved into narration of the re cent past tense. The speaker said L'impossibilite" and could not continue. Then moving into figurative language the speaker says "a fog rose to her throat, her existence rose to her throat, she felt vertigo" and then had an epiphany. She knew that her "t hroat" not 30 I speculate with a high level of confidence that Pizarnik rea d much of Kafka's diaries and letters and, also interesting to note, is that Pizarnik shortens the character Writer D.'s name to just D., the way Kafka names some of his characters with just a single letter. Indeed, in her diaries, Pizarnik often talks abo ut her admiration for Kafka.
56 her heart, or her head was the center of everything, and, melodramatically, says that she knew she was never going to be able to say "writing," (in French). In overstatement, the speaker says that she nunca m s ," would never again, be able to s ay the word. Then D. fills in the phrase where she left off lo cual me dio una pena infinita ", which gave her an infinite pain as this single moment has been amplified to great proportions by the speaker. We have continuing emotional build up here as the speaker continues [ ] pues para ello tuvo que vencer no se cuantas vocales a modo de escollos ." What was more painful was her identification with Writer D who had to overcome "no s cuntas vocales as in "I don't even know how many" vowels in the manner one would hurdles. He stuttered repeatedly as he finished her phrase or, what is commonly known in English (and Spanish) as "took the words right out of her mouth." Finally, we have the insertion of an important exclamatory phrase, central to the themes in Dificultades barrocas : "Ah esos das en que mi lenguaje es barroco y empleo frases interminables para sugerir palabras que se niegan a ser dichas por mi!" Oh these days," she laments, "in which my language is baroque [ ] We have the first use of the poem's title inside of the piece and we see that her language is baroque, or overelaborate, not because it is in the school of art just before rococo but because she now must use never ending, long phrases (circumlocutions) to try and get at single words, which refuse to be said by her. It is also interesting to note that "existence" is localized in mi garganta (my throat) emphasizing the importance of language for the speaker. After all, the speaker is struck with an asphyxiating panic at the moment of having to say, "to write" in
57 French. Why does the speaker's world begin spinning at the idea of having to say, "to write ?" What does it mean to write? Can we say what writing is or is not ? Also one imagines the speaker is having an epiphany: the gaining o f self knowledge of a tragic flaw, that language (symbolized in the cuerpo potico by "mi garganta") is the center of the world ("era el centro de todo") and is irreconcilably flawed, vacant, empty, impossible. With the following sentence I divide the p oem into its second portion: Si al menos se tratara de tartamudez. Pero no; nadie se da cuenta. Lo curioso es que cuando ello me sucede con alguien a quien quiero me inquieto tanto que redoblo mi amabilidad y mi afeccin. Como si debiera darle sustitutos de la palabra que no digo. Recin, por ejemplo, tuve deseos de decirle a D.: Si es verdad lo que me dice tantas veces, si es verdad que usted se muere de deseos de acostarse conmigo, venga, venga ahora mismo. Tal vez, con el lenguaje del cuerpo le hubiera dado algo equivalente a la palabra crire [If only it were a matter of having a stutter. But no; nobody notices. The curious thing is that when this happens to me with someone whom I love, it unsettles me so that I double my kindness and affection. As i f I were to give that someone substitutes for the word that I do not say. Recently, for example, I had an impulse to tell D.: if it's true what you've told me so many times, if its true that you are burning with
58 desire to go to bed with me, come, come, ri ght now. Perhaps, with the language of the body I could have given him something equivalent to the word crire .] She laments, "If only it was a matter of having a stutter." In this curt sentence, the tone changes as we move back into reflection on general ities. "But no; nobody notices." Is she talking about the autobiographical fact that she did have a stutter growing up, as Pi a points out in her biography of Pizarnik (27)? "The curious thing" she says, moving into introspection, es que cuando ello me su cede con alguien a quien quiero me inquieto tanto que redoblo mi amabilidad y mi afeccin. It is imperative that I show Pizarnik's use of internal assonance with the diphthong uie" in this sentence (" alguien" "quien" "quiero" "inquieto") because it disp lays her playful mastery of sound in the Spanish language, her poetic diction. So while she talks about the difficulty of language we also see her play with it as if it were a dangerous toy. In the characteristic rhythmic patterns of a Pizarnik prose poem she returns to the narrative T his time in a hypothetical scene involving Writer D. and the idea that she could give a substitute for a word she cannot say. "Recently, for example, I had an impulse to tell D: if it is true that you are dying with desire to go to bed with me, come, come right now." The speaker reveals a desire to tell D to come to her. Finally, we get the logic behind this dramatic moment: "Perhaps, with the language of the body I could have given him something equivalent to the word ecrir ." In this suggestive yet ambiguous line Pizarnik talks about giving a herself as a gesture in
59 place of the original word she could not say during their conversation: ecrir . This notion of exchanging one language for another (a kind of translation) intro duces some of the poem's central questions: what is the relationship between different kinds of language? What is the relationship of the language of the body to written language? o f written language to speech acts? Are they interchangeable? exchangeable? t ranslatable? It is a s if languages were a currency between people, or a failed agreement. Particularly, here, she suggests giving her body as an equivalent to the word "writing." Thinking of how Pizarnik wants to writes her body into her poetry, what is t his anecdote doing? Is it ultimately exchanging the proposed gestures for a written one, the poem itself? Is she confessing, or, building an image of herself an eroticized lover of fellow artists? In Paris' liberated climate of the 60s and 70s, did she e xchange her body as freely as her writing? Yet, the piece is called Dificultades barrocas suggesting that communication (communion) was not so simple. Here I divide the prose poem into its third and final segment: Ello me sucedi una vez. Una vez me acost con un pintor italiano porque no pude decirle: Amo a esta persona. En cambio, respond a sus pedidos con una vaga serie de imgenes recargadas y ambiguas y es as como terminamos en la cama slo porque no pude decir la frase que pensaba. Termin tambi n llorando en sus brazos, acaricindolo como si lo hubiera ofendido mortalmente, y pensando, mientras lo acariciaba, que en verdad no lo compensaba mucho, que en verdad yo le quedaba debiendo.
60 [That happened to me once. Once I went to bed with an Italian painter because I wasn't able to tell him: "I love this person." Instead, I responded to his requests with a vague series of over elaborate and ambiguous images and this is how we ended up in bed only because I was not able to say the phrase I had been thi nking. I also ended up crying in his arms, caressing him as if I'd mortally offended him, and thinking, while I caressed him, that in truth I was not compensating him much, that in truth, I still owed him.] Again, we have a curt sentence that changes the rhythm as we move back into narrative mode: Ello me sucedi una vez". This happened to me one time." What happened to her? Is this the prelude to another anecdote? Una vez me acost con un pintor italiano porque no pude decirle: "Amo a esta persona" In the past tense, the speaker recounts a story of how she went to bed with an Italian painter because she couldn't say: I love this person. Here, Pizarnik layers two scenes, one hypothetical, over another that happened in the past, to demonstrate how one att empts to replace spoken words with the language of the body or with memory and image Is it more of a struggle to say honestly what one feels, or, to do something instead of it? Instead of saying she loves____ she says she replied to his questions with "a vague series of overelaborate and ambiguous images [ ] Sounds like a prime example of a "dificultad barroca Y as como terminamos en la cama solo porque no pude decir la frase que pensaba ." "And we ended up in bed only because I could not say the
61 phras e I was thinking. I ended also crying in his arms, caressing him as if I had mortally offended him." In my reading of this prose poem the speaker loves another person but "goes to bed" with the painter anyway. S he is unable to say the truth of who m she act ually loves the whole while, hence feels bad and gestures lovingly towards the painter in apology (again, instead of saying something). Either way, the attention is on the narrator a sort of anti hero a writer who cannot speak for herself and finds langua ge unreliable, even hostile. S o that the meaning of these situations is unclear except in hindsight. In my research, I see the poet struggling with her concept of language not only in her poetry but in her diaries, as well. Pizarnik's obsession with langu age was personal not only poetic, though the personal is poetic and vice versa for Pizarnik. In fact, much of the time it is difficult for a reader of her diaries to separate her personal rendering of thoughts and experiences there contained from the langu age of her prose poetry. Below is a particularly long and evocative diary entry from February 3,1965 31 in which Pizarnik responds to her own questions on language with an insinuative extended metaphor of the tactile body, which she in turn sexualizes, frag ments, and, finally dissolves in to dissonance: Y ese lenguaje como una mano ahuecada llena de agua riqusima? Lo so todos estos das. Algo curvo, armonioso, caliente, como los sexos, como la sonrisa confiada de un nio pequeito (esa 31 Later in this entry Pizarnik writes about her Ensayo sobre la condesa Bthory. Diferencias entre las orgas de C.B. y el placer las orgas "comunes": beber, cantar, hacer el am or  La pura bestialidad. Se puede ser una bell a condesa y a la vez una loba insaciable". So she is at work on La condesa s angriente at this same time.
62 sonrisa sin ngulo s oh Dios, c mo odio los ngulos y las lneas rectas). Algo totalmente opuesto al no a la severidad, algo que se despliega como la risa o las ondas del orgasmo o un sendero de flores en un cuadro muy ingenuo. Como la boca llena de risa, como el sexo llen o de semen, como un s afirmado sin cesar, una danza ni lenta ni veloz, un moverse con infinita facilidad y docilidad. Ese idioma era el que yo so hace unos das y fui feliz pues cre que haba puesto un nombre a mi extrao estar aqu, en este mundo angu loso, rectilneo, cuyas aristas fueron corrodas por el cido del sue o. Pero vino el holocausto, el apalear al perro muerto, la disonancia, el brazo tenso, el codo, la rodilla, todo erguido como para defenderse; el sordo e incesante dolor de mis huesos, l a garganta estrangulada, los ojos secos, los parpados abiertos como por alambres, las agujas en la frente, el dolor en la nuca, si pudiera decir todo lo que me duelen los huesos  (P izarnik 395 396). 12 marzo 1965 [And that language like a cupped hand fu ll of rich water? I dreamed it all of these days. Something curved, harmonious, warm, like the sexes, like the trusted smile of a little boy (that smile without angles Oh God, how I hate angles and straight lines). Something totally opposite of no of seve rity, something that unfolds like a smile or the waves of an orgasm, or a path of flowers in a very nave painting. Like a mouth filled with laughter, like the sex
63 full of semen, as a yes affirmed without cease, a dance not slow or fast, a way of moving wi th infinite ease and docility. That was the language I dreamed of for some days and I was happy because I believed that I had given a name to my strange being here, in this angular, rectilinear world, in which the edges were corroded by the acid of the dre am. But the holocaust came, the beating of the dead dog, the dissonance, the tense arm, the elbow, the knee, everything upright as if to defend itself; the deafness and incessant pain in my bones, the strangled throat, the dry eyes, the eyelids open as if held by wires, pins in the head, a pain in the back of the neck, if I were able to say how my bones hurt.] March 12, 1965 This confessional diary entry makes use of the same kind of lists and enumeration we find in Pizarnik's prose poetry. It first ask if language is organic and approachable "like two cupped hands filled with water" "like the trusted smile of a little boy?" There is also a meta level of thought where Pizarnik curses the angular world and talks about "dreaming of that language." It would be easy to read this metaphor of the organic and the curved as the feminine, and the angular and the rectilinear as the masculine. Mostly, I think of this piece as a song, or, as she suggests "a dance" the medium of which is the language of the body. This allows for a more subtle reading of the emotive weight and qualities of the journal entry: In the beginning there is harmony, images of unification, a pleasant body filled with pleasure and the promise
64 of happiness, there is even an admonition of trusting language enough to feel named by it. BUT, then, quickly switching tunes comes images of "dissonance" a body in pain, "But the Holocaust came, the beating of the dead dog  the tense arm, the elbow, the knee." The image fractures and fragments the body. If we think of this body as a specifically female body, then this piece reminds us of the aesthetic tradition in lyric poetry of speaking of a women whom the lyricist loves in her subsequent parts a fractured representation of the female body often as lip s, eyes, a flower. In this light, Pizarnik is performing a feminist move and subverting and converting this tradition with her own poetic body as the space of the revolution in poetic language; here the poet and creator is female. This is subversive to lon gstanding notions reigning since the aesthetics of the classical era have dominated, which say that the artist creator is male and the work of art is female. Instead, Pizarnik is both the artist creator of her body of work as well as the artistic represent ation itself. If Pizarnik were a sculptor, it would be as if she sculpted her own body and thereby reclaimed the women artist's ability to create/represent/speak for herself in the ann als of art. [See for further explanation The Symptom of Beauty by France tte Pacteau.] As we have seen, Pizarnik is an intelligent and subversive poet, who challenged notions of what and whom could be inscribed into her poetic language. She skillfully and variably expresses the longing for a language all her own as she defmai liarizes words in El deseo de la palabra and represents the fragmentation of iden tity through her difficulties with language in Dificultades barrocas Writing in Spanish, reading in French, translating between the two, having to suppress her
65 Yiddish: Pizar nik was writ ing from an outside space, even a liminal space or a minor one. Though she is Argentine and writes in Spanish her literature is not necessarily Argentinian, but rather speaks to a desire for a place and a language all her own, also making her a quintessentially modern poet. It is almost from the space of writing itself that Pizarnik thematizes her struggle to write, yet, seems to believe that it i s equally as impossible not to As in the epigraph preceding this section: Tu rosa es rosa, mi ro sa, no s Gertrude Stei n," for some "a rose" may be just "a rose." However, for Pizarnik, like Gertrude Stein, naming her "strange being here" was more com plicated. Pizarnik's poetic project reached its full totality in her suicide, in which her complet e and total singularity her body, her subjectivity was ultimately sacrificed to her cuerpo potico ". As her texts travel and form her legacy, Pizarnik, even her own body, can be found in the work. III. Reading Childhood Performing a close reading of Alejandra Pizarnik's poetry, I am able to literally come "close" to her words, thoughts and impressions, in a way otherwise impossible. I have been able to enter the hermetic space that Pizarnik entered when she sat writing these moving works, probably la te at night, alone among four walls, being moved herself. One of the topics that moved Pizarnik to write was childhood.
66 Many poets feel moved to write about this subject Walt Whitman, Mary Doty, Lewis Carroll. "Childhood," said English poet John Betjeman, "is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows." Indeed, by the time we reach adulthood, routine and practicality often overcome the child's world of play and imagination. Poets are those who continue to nurture imag ination and, ultimately are able to put their own imagination to work with the minds of others, past, present and future. In the particular case of Pizarnik, her childhood was that of an immigrant. Her family came over from Eastern Europe and translated their identities to their new landscape and language. During Pizarnik's childhood she heard Yiddish, Spanish and Russian. How did she relate to a childhood in which none of her extended family was present? In which her parents where not like the rest of th e Buenos Aires community? Her family was in Diaspora. She probably did not know why she was different and retreated into her inner worlds of dream and nightmare from an early age, paving the way for the later Pizarnik. Here, we look at childhood as she wro te it in her late prose works. We will survey ways Pizarnik treats childhood in several poems. The first Desconfianza is different from the other of her poems of childhood in that the references it makes to people and ideas seem to come directly from her l ife; the figures in the poem resemble the figures in Pizarnik's life: an immigrant parental figure, specifically, a mother from Russia, also, a kinship with the other listener in the poem, probably a sibling. The mother speaks to "us" rather than to "me" a lone, again, as would have been the case in Pizarnik's life had she an actual memory of a scene
67 like this one with her mother and sister, Myriam. Likely, yes, the prose poem was inspired by one of Pizarnik's memories of childhood. The child speaker evokes wonder and naivet, yet, at the same time, there is something indefinably sad, tragic even, about the lack of understanding for the Mother: Mam nos hablaba de un blanco bosque de Rusia: "y hac amos hombrecitos de nieve y les ponamos sombreros que rob bamos al bisabuelo" Yo la miraba con desconfianza. Que era la nieve? Para que hac an hombrecitos? y ante todo, que significa un bisabuelo? (Pizarnik 30) [ Moma was talking to us about a white forest in Russia: "And we would make little snowmen and pu t hats on them that we'd steal from great grandpa" I was looking at her with distrust. What was the snow? What would you make the little men for? And first of all, "what does great grandpa mean?" ] This prose poem speaks from inside the child speaker, t he "yo" or lyrical "I." As is typical in Pizarnik's poems, we begin further outside and move inside the mind of the speaker with the poem's progression from top to bottom. In a formal sense, as reader's eyes move down the block of text -lower, deeper, in the poem -we go deeper, lower, "m s al fondo" of the speaker's mind. This is evident in Desconfianza
68 as we begin the poem with "Mam and her story of the outside, moving into "I" and "my" questioning to the point where no filter remains between the subje ctivity of the speaking "I" and the reader. In the last moment there in no setting to provide an outside of the mind, but only the large looming questions, which occupy the entire space created by the poem literally on the page and in the reader's mind. Th e Mother tells the young daughter, the speaker of the poem, about her childhood in a "White woods in Russia." Here she reference Russia, factually where Pizarnik's parent emigrated from. Also, interesting to note that the mother appears in few of Pizarnik' s works, and with less frequency than the father. The image is of Mam talking to us "nos". We are in the perspective of the young Pizarnik listening to her mother alongside of her sister. Mama is telling a story about playing in the winter in Russia. From interviews with Pizarnik we know that the wood or forest ( el bosque ) is specifically an archetypal symbol of childhood in her work (discussed in further detail later) and also a standard symbol for childhood and its fears in many children's stories think of Hansel and Greta or even Alice in Wonderland. For a minute we enter the scene, which comes alive as the children steal hats from the great grandpa and put them on the snowmen. Here something Gaston Bachelard wrote in A Poetics of Space, published in F r ench for the first time in 1958 during the time Pizarnik studied French philosophy ( she quotes Bachelard during an interview), proves insightful: "Winter is by far the oldest of the seasons. Not only does it confer age upon our memories, taking us back to a remote past, but on snowy days the house too is old." (Bachelard 41) In Desconfianza winter or snow ("blanco") does stand in for the archaic, for memory,
69 for age and thusly contrasts with the newness and inexperience of the child speaker. The emphasis o n the "white woods" in Russia, tells us that the moment in which the poem is taking place is not set in Russia, but far from Russia in space and time. If you recall, when Pizarnik reflects on her Father's death in Los muertos y la lluvia she says that wint er draws her closer to those who are no longer with her. Winter is an important and influential time for Pizarnik as a writer and thinker, as for Bachelard. However, winter stands in contrast with the girl speaker, who does not yet even know what snow is, she does not know age. The girl is incapable of understanding the winter the mother knows intimately. The girl cannot understand the references in the mother's speech. The idea is that this particular motif not understanding the reference of the parent con nects this poem with a particular tradition and type of experience: exile, immigration, and diaspora. Pizarnik saw herself as hu r fana, an orphan without a home. Quite literally, the Death character in another poem, Devocin, who is arguably an aspect of P izarnik's poetic persona says "Soy hurfana" ("I'm an orphan") (Pizarnik 31). But, still more is at work here. As noted, Pizarnik's speaker is coming up against signifiers that have no referents for her. This occurs not only because she is a child but al so because she is a child of an immigrant, experiencing ambivalence towards her Mother's storytelling. How do you translate the intimate experience of snow or a great grandparent to a child who may never have known either? The child in this poem is experie ncing something typical of first generation immigrants an
70 inability to share a common language with their immigrant parents. 32 The child speaker ends on an ambivalent note: What is a great grandfather? she says. The language of the experience of snow or gre at grandfather is abstract to the point that it is meaningless to the child. Arguably, she may even be showing "distrust" towards her mother. Desconfianza, the poem's title, literally translated as "distrust," is also a central word in the poem, appearing only once but in a weighted positioning: the beginning of the second paragraph at the poem's center. Distrust, describes the personal "I" speaker's gaze towards her Mother and to her attempt at passing on history in the form of storytelling. The girl look s at the mother distrustingly or suspiciously. This is followed by a set of questions: what was the snow? For what reason did they make the little men? What does great grandfather mean? Pizarnik casts herself, the girl speaker, as a daughter and child, but one who cannot understand play on her mother's terms. What the girl does know how to do is speak and ask, perhaps in that lies the only hope for mutual understanding 32 Sonia Zylberberg, although looking into the Jewish experience in Montreal, can help us understand Pizarnik's condition: "The earlier writers in Jewi sh Montreal expressed themselves primarily in Yiddish But the community dynamics shifted, following a pattern typical of many immigrant groups throughout the world. The first generation, the actual immigrants (especially those who came as adults), retai ned there language and traditions, anchors in a world filled with uncertainty and unknowns. But what about the next generation? It is often the case, in immigrant communities, that the second generation finds itself caught between two worlds and chooses th e new rather than that of their parents. The children grow up in a completely different atmosphere, one that their parents can often make little or no sense of. The children mediate and translate for their parents  For the generation of poets in the ado pted country's language, using the signs and references of that new land, where was the continuity with the old? How was the previous generation to bridge those gaps, filled with signifiers for which they had no referents?" (Zylberberg, 87 88).
71 In attempting to formulate a theory of Alejandra Pizarnik's poetics and how childhood ( in fancia ) functions in this regard, a 1972 interview with the poet is enlightening. In Algunas claves de Alejandra Pizarnik (Some Keys To Alejandra Pizarnik) Martha Isabel Moia asks the artist directly if the passions and sentiments of childhood coincide wit h the symbols "bosque" (forest) and jardn (garden) in her work. She replies that it is true and that these words repeat endlessly throughout her work. She goes on to say that one of the phrases that obsess her is from Alice in Wonderland "solo vine a ve r al jardn" ( I only came to see the garden) she then goes on to say a very ambiguous and intriguing phrase : "El jardn es verde en el cerebro" (" the garden is green in the brain ") which she connects with a phrase of Gaston Bachelard "El jardn del recuerd o sueo perdido en un mas all del pasado verdadero" (" The garden of dream and memory, lost in the beyond of the true past"). ( Entrevista de Martha Isabel Moia Prosa c ompleta 311) This phrase suggests both childhood as a lost past, that now exists in th e mind of the poet, and that the garden of childhood is an archetype deep in the base of the human mind. Pizarnik was inspired by childhood as a place, an inner garden. Her poetics of drawing on this place makes sense with my vision of her as very introsp ective. Some of her poems are on offspring of this self analysis, which she does obsessively in her diaries, at times even sarcastically referring to herself playfully as a psychoanalyst. De donde viene esta historia o historieta inarticulada (de lo mas profundo de su subconsciente, dice la famosa psicoanalista Alejandra P.)" (Pizarnik, Diarios 242). Many of her anxieties stem from a desire to remain a child in order to create. Play is the domain of the child, freed imagination, the domain of the child p oet. I speculate
72 that in Pizarnik's social milieu the domain of the woman was marriage, private discourse, something she had no interest in becoming. Her second book of poems entitled La l tima inocencia was published in 1956 when she was 19. In her poetr y she refers to this place of last innocence obsessively. It is the garden of recuerdo sue o ". For Pizarnik poetry is the space where the impossible becomes possible and youth can exist eternally. This space of possibility is most associated with the gar den. In the poem Devocin we have access to the inside of the garden as imagined in the "cerebro verde" of the artist. Here, we continue on to this one of Pizarnik's poems in which childhood figures centrally. Devoci n was published alongside of Desconfian za (the poem we previously discussed) in Prosa Completa. D evoci n has a clear setting, which Pizarnik conjures with vivid imagery: Debajo de un rbol, frente a la casa, ve ase una mesa y sentados a ella, la muerte y la nia tomaban el t Una mueca estab a sentada entre ellas, indeciblemente hermosa, y la muerte y la nia la miraban ms que el crepsculo, a la vez que hablaban por encima de ella. [Beneath a tree, in front of the house, we see a table and seated there, Death and the girl drinking tea. A do ll was seated between them, unspeakably beautiful, an d Death and the girl were looking at her more than at the sunset, while at the same time speaking over her.]
73 Here we have the setting, beneath a tree outside of a house at sunset, and the characters, na mely Death, a girl, and a doll. They are drinking tea. With a preposition (or pre positioning) the speaker sets the stage or space that is the garden, Debajo de un rbol, frente a la casa, ve ase una mesa y sentados a ella, la muerte y la nia tomaban el te." The two central figures of the prose poem's onset are the personified death and the little girl. The allusion to Alice in Wonderland is impossible to miss, especially considering that we already have Pizarnik's affirmation that Lewis Carroll's childre n's story was prominent in her poetic imagination. So in one aspect the tea is an allusion to the mad hatter's tea party/the girl child's tea party game. However in another way the tea will come to represent austerity and innocence, the opposite of "wine" which comes into play later in the poem. Death as a character is playful and dark; it subverts the child genre of the tea party that is usually infused with the vitality of children at play in a world of dream, and usually at play with other children wher eas this child is alone with her imagination. The other figure in the poem is a doll, which is only described as "indeciblemente hermosa" ("unspeakably beautiful"). The doll could be an ideal, an ideal of a childhood that will never vanish via the forces o f life, death and aging that the girl would be susceptible to in the world outside the garden, the real world where our own mortality is close to us in every moment, looming as a specter. The girl and death are gazing at the doll, more than at the sunset, when the first words are uttered, breaking the silence of the scene, and here we transition into the format of a dialogue: Toma un poco de vino ", ("Have a little wine") says death. In Spanish the use of "de vino" has an additional meaning, a pun, divino take a
74 little bit of the divine. As in a close up similar to the slow close ups we see in films like Ingmar Bergman's "Seventh Seal" (another film which features a game with death) there is a moment of focus in on the girl's eyes, as she looks over the t able for wine. Then a kind of game between death and the girl ensues, in which the girl puts death in her place, metaphorically, through their dialogue, but also literally, as in another layer of meaning, in which Pizarnik is writing death and childhood in an attempt to control those forces she is constantly in a confrontation with because of her own obsession with death, mortality and the process of aging. The final two sentences of Devocin are very important in my reading of the piece. Death says that sh e is an orphan and excuses his misconduct, saying she was never taught better. Death is suddenly a child as well, in need of discipline, which the girl enacts by reprimanding him. Death, an abstract idea, is given human characteristics. Here, to say that D eath is an orphan means to say that Death should be thought of in relation to family structure. This thought carried to its natural end: would signify that Death's parents abandoned him. Or died. Suddenly, the reader feels pity for death, like death was th e orphan from Oliver Twist And here is the power of literature and language to create worlds outside of reality, because while in the world of Devocin we are moved to feel pity for Death, of course, in reality most people do not pity death. We fear death We conceive of it as a malevolent force. Following Death's concession on his own behalf, we have the final sentence: "The doll opened her eyes." In Spanish mueca can mean "doll" or works colloquially as a word for a young girl. The doll could be the you ng girl opening her eyes, as in realizing something. Perhaps she realizes that the responsibility to teach
75 others, in this case death, how to act (put them in their place) is all of ours, even a young girl child has power. Here childhood is depicted as str onger than Death. This concludes my close readings of childhood i n Pizarnik. We see that Pizarnik's representation of childhood in Desconfianza is deeply personal, even autobiographical While, Devocin seems dreamlike as if constructed from the fa bric of nightmares. Across both of these short poems we have seen that el bosque and el jardn as well as the symbol of muecas dolls and little girls are key features. Pizarnik's childhood was part icularly, that of a second generation immigrant and this is re flected in her work sporadically if not consistently, in the way that her speakers understand or fail to understand the utterances of others. Or in the way that translation becomes an aspect of childhood: In Desconfianza the parental figure tries to tran slate her experience of childhood to the girl listener but cannot. And, finally, in Devocin, Pizarnik translated the experiences and form of Alice in Wonderland to provide the bare material upon which she placed her vision of childhood and a girl's game w ith Death.
76 Part III Translating Pizarnik (Prose) Poems
77 Introduction Tain't what a man sez, but wot he means that the traducer has got to bring over EZRA POUND Alejandra Pizarnik is passionate, lyrical, intoxi ca ted with the sounds of words. During her short lifetime (1936 1972) she was a prolific poet, producing numerous works of verse and prose poetry as well as essays. The arc of Pizarnik' s career as a poet has an odd trajectory. She wrote mostly verse and jo urnalistic pieces during the beginning of her writing career, publishing five books of poetry by the time she was 28 Then she set verse aside, at least for publication, and began working with prose in the form of poemas en prosa as she liked to call them These hybrid pieces that blur the distinction between confessional essay, reflective meditations, dramatic mini monologues, contemplations of place, the creation of a scene or narrative, philosophical musing, metaphysical speculation and lyric poetry wer e her main mode of literary creation towards the end of her life They truly blur distinction s between one genre and another. I n her diaries, Pizarnik writes ab out studying the prose poem from the work of Bau delaire and Rimbaud especially, the f athers of m odern poetry. A t the same time she speaks ab out her desire to write a novel, which she hadn't the longevity or sense of order liness to complete before her death. In fact, the closest Pizarnik came to writing long narratives are her poemas en prosa Hence w e have these scattered yet insightful prose poems that I have chose n to work with and translate ( all are prose poems with the exception of Poema para el padre a poem in verse I chose because of its beauty and proximity to the theme of
78 religious feelings). I chose them in part because I believe find that they provide good displays of what poetry could be and could d o rather than of what poetry is or was and that they illustrate a kind of becoming taking place in modern poetry. And in the future poetry comes uncomfortably close to prose, cannibalizing on the methods of both verse and prose. The prose poem uses the artifice of prose essay, diary, narrative to create experiences of syncopated, emotional landscapes that touch readers as they express the innermos t worlds of the poet. In her prose poems Pizarnik d istills or perhaps expands on all the obsessive themes that pervade her other writings the doll, death, mortality, childhood, the forest, the garden, memory, time, estrangement, dislocation, music, religi ous feelings, mysticism, language, longing, the word, love incommunicability. In these selections the poet turns the prose poem tradition (a very open one) to her own purposes. Neverthe less, to say that the prose poetry has a tradition goes against its v ery nature. If anything, prose poetry was born from a rebellion against tradition. Charles Baudelaire broke from the Alexandrine line, the preeminent French verse form since the 16 th century, with the publication of his Petits Po mes en prose in 1862, whic h established the genre in France (Lehman 13). One hundred years later, Pizarnik and others 33 are still playing with the formless form. Actually, it's not quite formless. Perhaps "informal," the way listening to a few crazy drunks exchange stories at a bar 33 John Ashb ery, Edgar Allen Poe, C sar Vallejo, Anne Carson, Margaret Atwood, T.S. Eliot, Allen Ginsburg, e. e. cummings, Nin Andrews, Kenneth Coch.
79 is informal (and terribly exciting). Or, in other words, the way poet Charles Simic's 34 describes prose poetry as a "culinary informality": This veritable literary hybrid, this impossible amalgamation of lyric poetry, anecdote, fairy tale, allegory, joke, journal entry, and many other kinds of prose are the culinary equivalent of peasant dishes, like Paella and gumbo, which bring together a great variety of ingredients and flavors, and which in the end, thanks to the art of the cook, somehow blend. Except, the parallel is not exact. Prose poetry does not follow a recipe. The dishes it concocts are unpredictable and often vary from poem to poem (Lehman 14 15). Simic's analogy is particularly relevant for thinking about prose poetry on the American continent It is, after all, not native to the Americas. But is a transplant, brought across and cultivated by Francophile American literati. As is the case with Pizarnik, who lived in France and cultivated a strong connection to the French literary establishment b ut was nevertheless an Argentine poet from an immigrant family each and every time she read Baudelaire or Rimbaud. Like all poets, Pizarnik had to personalize the genre for her expressions. She created "unpredictable" and varied "dishes," blending her diar y entries and philosophical essays with scenes, memories, and appropriated works, Pizarnik left her own mark on prose poetry. 34 In his introduction to Great American Prose Poems David Lehman quotes Charles Simic's analogy.
80 Pizarnik the poet of prose is at times far more intimate and personal a writer than Pizarnik the poet of verse. As "autobiographic al" as the latter may be in terms of working out her personal obsession s through tight, lyrical, first person stanzas, in the former, we are confronted by a voice that is inseparable from that of the author ( see Desconfianza Los muertos y la lluvia ). Thes e musings are no less intellectual or emo tional than her other writings but seem to arise from the deepest parts of the self and speak from the heart's most urgent necessity. This gives us a clue to our own readings of these poems and how Pizarnik would li ke us to experience them: as an antidote to pain. She speaks often throughout her writings of being in pain and the enchantment of immersion in the imagination of another writer or artist, especially, the ecstatic sensory and sentimental gratification of poetry, as a way of identifying with another who felt similarly, and finding relief, even if short lived. Sentiment, or f elt thought denotes Pizarnik's neo romanti cism, the pull of nostalgia, love, horror, even the romance and fascination with violence, wh ich she indulges in her writing of La condesa sangrienta Collected in the following annotated translation are the five works I have chosen to translate for my thesis. Most (with the exception of one) are prose poems that appear in the posthumously publish ed Alejandra Pizarnik: Prosa completa and generally date from late in the poet's life (the late 60s to her death in 1972). Pizarnik, who was herself a translator (of Picasso, Artaud, Breton, Duras, Hlderlin, Michel Leiris, y Pieyre de Mandiargues ) though t of translation as a way of giving regards to the writers she loved to read and perhaps looked up to.
81 For me, as a translator, I agree with Borges, who thought of literary translation as an act of re creation, and promoted "infidelity" to the original wor k if necessary. In his essay, The Translators of the Thousand and One Nights Borges celebrates J.C. Mardrus' 1899 translation of the work for "his infidelity, his happy and creative infidelity," (Borges 105). In that regard, I have taken some, I would say minor liberties of interpretation with the following works, only insofar as these supported and strengthened my reading of Pizarnik's poems. At this early point in my work as a translator, I cannot assume to be the artistic and creative equal of the autho r, but I have taken many leaps of faith. In any such case there is no such thing as a definitive translation, and if anything, I hope my translations of Pizarnik will make there way into the hands of other translators for further re creation. This kind of translator is akin to Pizarnik. She re wrote scenes from Lewis Caroll's Alice in Wonderland substituting characters and words to create Devocin She translated as a means of creation. I believe there are multitudes of r eadings of any one poem or work, re flecting the possibility of mu l tiple translations of any one poem or work, especially through different epochs, times and audiences. As poet James Owen says, p oetry is, most basically, the openness towards Being that makes the world possible" My hope is that my translations will provide not only the translated language of the originals, but also something of the experience of reading them. More than a matter of getting the literal themes or meanings right, the best translations capture the tone and emotio nal landscape of the original.
82 In addition, I have taken the liberty of translating some of the syntactical structures of Pizarnik's Spanish originals as they are so as to retain the Spanish word order, perhaps making it strange, or foreign, for some of t he English speaking readership. This is a conception of translation that I burrow from Lawrence Venuti, a foremost translation scholar who in his essay, Genealogies of Translation Theory: Schleiermacher writes: Fluency is a translation strategy that conce als its own textual and social work, its hypertextuality and its social effectivity, not only home, but abroad, in relation to a cultural other. It makes the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text, the intricate affiliations with a differen t time and place, but also its own construction of an identity for the foreign culture mediated by target language values  a cultural other is domesticated, made intelligible, but also familiar  (Venuti 127). I am fortunate to have heard Venuti's ke ynote lecture at the 2010 American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) conference in Philadelphia, which I attended as an ALTA Travel Fellow. His main idea is partially one of keeping a translated text foreign by retaining syntax from the original lang uage, or inserting the occasional awkward word, hence disrupting the artifi ce of fluency and reminding readers that the translated text is just that translated from a foreign language. This idea influenced my thinking about translating, though, in actualit y, I utilized his idea directly in my
83 translation process only minimally (for an example, see my translation of Poema para el padre pg. 94) However, I continue to see Venuti's ideas as powerfully influential and believe they are as compelling as they are thoughtful formulations on an important path towards an ethics of translation, an ethics that should be fully conscientious of our post colonial era. During my translation process I did not have rigid formal constraints since I worked primarily with prose poems. My only constraint was to attempt to bring across Pizarnik's weighty and introspective moods into English "equivalents" that readers would find compelling and want to read again and again. This is the first time four of the five prose poems have be en translated into English. I hope they will succeed in bringing across a little of the magic of Alejandra Pizarnik.
84 LOS MUERTOS Y LA LLU VIA "Haba un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio." Shakespeare Haba un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio y nadie preguntaba por qu. Y por qu alguien habra de preguntar algo? Yo no vivo junto a un cementerio y na die me pregunta por qu. Algo yace, corrompido o enfermo, entre el s y el no. Si un hombre vive junto a un cementerio tampoco le preguntan por qu, pero si vive lejos de un cementerio tampoco le pregunta por qu. Pero no por azar viva ese hombre junto a un cementerio. Se me dir que todo es azaroso, empezando por el lugar en que se vive. Nada me puede importar lo que se me dice porque nunca nadie me dice nada cuando cree decirme algo. Solamente escucho mis rumores desesperados, los cantos litrgicos veni dos de la tumba sagrada de mi ilcita infancia. Es mentira. En este instante escucho a Lotte Lenya que canta Die dreigroshenoper Claro es que se trata de un disco, pero no deja de asombrarme que en este lapso de tres aos entre la ltima vez que la escuch y hoy, nada ha cambiado para Lotte Lenya y mucho (acaso todo, si fuera cierto) ha cambiado para m. He sabido de la muerte y he sabido de la lluvia. Por eso, tal vez, solamente por eso y nada ms, solamente por la lluvia sobre las tumbas, solamente por l a lluvia y los muertos, puede haber habido un hombre que viva en un cementerio. Los muertos no emiten seales de ninguna suerte. Mala suerte y paciencia, puesto que la vida es un lapso de aprendizaje musical del silencio. Pero algo se mueve y se desoculta cuando cae la lluvia en un cementerio. He visto con mis ojos a los hombrecillos de negro cantar endechas de errantes, perdidos poetas. Y los de caftn mojados por la lluvia, y las lgrimas intiles, y mi padre demasiado joven, con manos y pies de mancebo griego, mi padre habr sentido miedo la primera noche, en ese lugar feroz. La gente y los hombrecillos de negro despoblaron rpidamente el cementerio. Un hombre harapiento se qued a mi lado como para auxiliarme en el caso de que necesitara ayuda. Tal vez fuera el vecino al que se refiere el cuento que empieza Haba una vez un hombre que viva junto a un cementerio. Oh el disco ha cambiado, y Lotte Lenya se revela envejecida. Todos los muertos estn ebrios de lluvia sucia y desconocida en el cementerio extr ao y judo. Slo en el resonar de la lluvia sobre las tumbas puedo saber algo de lo que me aterroriza saber. Ojos azules, ojos incrustados en la tierra fresca de las fosas vacas del cementerio judo. Si hubiera una casita vaca junto a un cementerio, si pudiera ser ma. Y tomar posesin de ella como de un barco y mirar por un catalejo la tumba de mi padre bajo la lluvia, porque la nica comunin con los muertos sucede bajo la lluvia, cuando retornan los muertos y algunos vivientes cuentan cuentos de espr itus, de espectros, de aparecidos. A m me sucede acercarme en el invierno a mis ausentes, como si la lluvia lo hiciera posible. Es verdad que nada importa a qu o a quin llamaron Dios, pero tambin es
85 verdad que le en el Talmud: "Dios tiene tres llaves: la de la lluvia, la del nacimiento, la de la resurreccin de los muertos." Escrito en Caracas por Alejandra Pizarnik, 1969
86 THE DEAD AND THE RAI N "There was a man dwelt by a churchyard." Shakespeare There once was a man who lived near a cemetery and nobody aske d why. And why would anyone have asked anything? I don't live close to a cemetery and nobody asks me why not. Something lies, corrupted or sick, between the yes and the no. If a man lives close to a cemetery nobody asks him why, by the same token if he liv es far from a cemetery no one asks him why either. But it's no coincidence that this man was living near a cemetery. They'll tell me everything is coincidental, beginning with the place where one lives. What I am told cannot matter to me because nobody eve r says anything when they think they are saying something to me. I only listen to my desperate rumors, the liturgical songs coming from the sacred tomb of my illicit childhood. That's a lie. In this instant I'm listening to Lotte Lenya sing Die dreigroshen oper It's clear that it's a record I'm talking about, but it never ceases to amaze me that in the space of three years between the last time I listened to this song and today, nothing has changed for Lotte Lenya, and a lot (maybe everything, if all were t rue) has changed for me. I have known of death and I have known of the rain. Because of that, perhaps, only because of that alone and nothing more, only because of the rain on the tombs, only because of the rain and the dead, could there have been a man th at lived in a cemetery. The dead don't emit signals of any sort. Bad luck and patience, since life is a space in the musical learning of silence. But something is stirred and is uncovered when rain falls in a cemetery. I have seen with my own eyes the litt le men in black sing the dirges of wondering, lost poets. And those in caftans soaked by the rain, and useless tears, and my father, too young, with the hands and feet of a Greek youth my father will have felt afraid the first night, in this ferocious pla ce. The people and the little men in black cleared out of the cemetery rapidly. A ragged looking man stayed by my side so as to help me in the case that I would have needed help. Perhaps he was the neighbor referred to in the story that begins There once w as a man that who lived near a cemetery Oh the record has changed, and Lotte Lenya appears old. All of the dead are filled with unknown, dirty rain in the strange, Jewish cemetery. Only in the echo of the rain on the tombs am I able to know something abou t what I am terrified to know. Blue eyes, eyes encrusted in the fresh earth of the empty graves in the Jewish cemetery. If only there were an empty little house near the cemetery, if only it were mine. And to take possession of her, like of a boat, to watc h through a scope the tomb of my father under the rain, because the only communion with the dead happens under the rain, when the dead return and some of the living tell tales of spirits, of specters, and of ghosts. For me, it happens in winter, I draw clo ser to those I've lost, as if the rain made it possible. It is true that it doesn't matter to what or to whom they called God, but it is also true this, that I read in the Talmud: "God has three keys: the one to the rain, the one to birth, and the one to t he resurrection of the dead." Written in Caracas by Alejandra Pizarnik, 1969 2 1 1 2
87 Epigraph is from Shakespeare's Winter's Tale Act II Scene 1 Lotte Lenya (1898 1981). Austrian singer and actress well known for her performance in Bertold Brecht's The Threepenny Opera ( Die dreigroshenoper ). Across Pizarnik's oeuvre "b lue eyes" is a consistent metonym for "an imaginary father figure" (Garc a Moreno 76). The Talmud is an ancient holy book in rabbinical Judaism and part of the oral Torah. It contains a written record of discussion and debate between commentators on the Torah.
88 DIFICULTADES BARROCA S Hay palabras que ciertos das no puedo pronunciar. Por ejemplo hoy, hablando por telfono con el escritor D. que es tartamudo quise d ecirle que haba estado leyendo un librito muy lindo titulado L'impossibilit d'crire Dije L'impossibilit... y no pude seguir. Me subi una niebla, me subi mi existencia a mi garganta, sent vrtigos, supe que mi garganta era el centro de todo y supe tambin que nunca ms iba a poder decir crire. D. bien o mal complet la frase, lo cual me dio una pena infinita pues para ello tuvo que vencer no s cuntas vocales a modo de escollos. Ah, esos das en que mi lenguaje es barroco y empleo frases int erminables para sugerir palabras que se niegan a ser dichas por m! Si al menos se tratara de tartamudez. Pero no; nadie se da cuenta. Lo curioso es que cuando ello me sucede con alguien a quien quiero me inquieto tanto que redoblo mi amabilidad y mi afecc in. Como si debiera darle sustitutos de la palabra que no digo. Recin, por ejemplo, tuve deseos de decirle a D.: Si es verdad lo que me dice tantas veces, si es verdad que usted se muere de deseos de acostarse conmigo, venga, venga ahora mismo. Tal vez, con el lenguaje del cuerpo le hubiera dado algo equivalente a la palabra crire Ello me sucedi una vez. Una vez me acost con un pintor italiano porque no pude decirle: Amo a esta persona. En cambio, respond a sus pedidos con una vaga serie de imgene s recargadas y ambiguas y es as como terminamos en la cama slo porque no pude decir la frase que pensaba. Termin tambin llorando en sus brazos, acaricindolo como si lo hubiera ofendido mortalmente, y pensando, mientras lo acariciaba, que en verdad no lo compensaba mucho, que en verdad yo le quedaba debiendo.
89 BAROQUE DIFFICULTIES There are w ords that on certain days I canno t pronounce. For example, today, talking on the telephone with writer D. who stutters I wanted to tell him that I'd been readin g a very pretty little book titled L'impossibilit d'crire I said "L'impossibilit" and couldn't go on. A fog rose over me, my existence climbed to my throat, I felt dizzy I realized that my throat was the center of everything and I also realized I wo uld never again be able to say "crire". D. for good or bad finished the phrase, which gave me an infinite sadness, in order to do this he had to overcome I don't know how man y vowels in the manner one does hurdles. Ah those days in which my language is baroque and I employ interminable phrases in order to suggest words that refuse to be said by me! If only it was a matter of having a stutter. But no; nobody notices. The curious thing is that when this happens to me with someone who m I love, it unsettles me so that I double my kindness and affection. As if I were to give that someone sub stitutes for the word I do not say. Recently, for exa mple, I had an impulse to tell D.: if it's true what you've told me so many times, if it 's true that you are burning w ith desire to sleep with me, come, come, right now. Perhaps with the language of the body I could have given him something equivalent to the word crire That happened to me once. Once I slept with an Italian painter because I couldn't tell him: "I love t his person ." Instead, I responded to his requests with a vague series of over elaborate and ambiguous images and this is how we ended up in bed only because I was not able to say the phrase I had been thinking. I also ended up crying in his arms, caressing him as if I'd mortally offended him, and thinking, while I caressed him, that in truth I was not compensating him much, that in truth, I still owed him.
90 DESCONFIANZA Mam nos hablaba de un blanco bosque de Rusia: ... y hacamos hombrecitos de nieve y les ponamos sombreros que robbamos al bisabuelo ... Yo la miraba con desconfianza. Qu era la nieve? Para qu hacan hombrecitos? Y ante todo, qu significa un bisabuelo?
91 DISTRUST Moma was talking to us about a wh ite woods in Russia: "And we would make little snowmen and put hats on them that we'd steal from great grandpa" I was looking at her with distrust. What was the snow? Why would you make the little men for? And first of all, "what does great grandpa mean ?" It is interesting to note that "mother" c omes up here but appears seldom a nd with much less frequency that "father" in Pizarnik's work. White Russia often refers to Belarus a part of Russia whose Jewish community was nearly annihilated during the Holocaust. 1 2
92 DEVOCI N Debajo de un rbol, frente a la casa, ve ase una mesa y sentados a ella, la muerte y la nia tomaban el t Una mueca estaba senta da entre ellas, indeciblemente h ermosa, y l a muerte y la nia la miraban m s que el crepsculo, a la vez que h ab lab a n por encima de ella. Toma un poco de vino dijo la muerte. La nia dirigi una mirada a su alrededor, sin ver, sobre la mesa, otra cosa que t No veo que haya vino dijo. Es que no hay contest la muerte. Y por qu me dijo usted que haba? dijo. Nunca dije que hubiera sino que tomes dijo la muerte. Pues entonces ha cometido usted una incorreccin al ofrecrmelo respondi la nia muy enojada. Soy hurfana. Nadie se ocup de darme una educacin esm erada se disculp la muerte. La mueca abri los ojos.
93 DEVOTION Beneath a tree, in front of the house, we see a table and seated there, Death and the girl were having tea. A doll was sitting between them, unspeakably beau tiful, and Death and the girl were looking at her more than the sunset, and talking over her. Have a little wine said Death. The girl looked all around, without seeing anything on the table other than tea. I don't see any wine she said. That's b ecause there isn't any answered Death. And why did you tell me that there was? she said. I never said there was, only that you have some Well then you have committed an error by offering it to me responded the girl very angrily. I am an o rphan Nobody took it upon them self to give me a proper education said Death apologetically. The doll opened her eyes. Devotion is Pizarnik's creative translation of a scene from Lewis Carrol's Alice In Wonderland : There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. [...] Have some wine,' the March Hare said in an encouraging tone. Alice looked all round the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. I don't see any wine,' she remarked. There isn't any,' said the March Hare. Then it wasn't very civil of you to offer it,' said Alice angrily. It wasn't very civil of you to sit down without being invited,' said the March Hare. [...] You shouldn't make personal remarks,' Alice said with some severity; it's very rude.' The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on heari ng this [...] (Alice, p.58) Dolls are a frequent symbol of childhood in Pizarnik's work.
94 POEMA PARA EL PADRE Y fue entonces que con la lengua muerta y fra en la boca cant la cancin que no le dejaron cantar en este mundo de jardines obscenos y de sombras que venan a deshora a recordarle cantos d e su tiempo de muchacho en el que no poda cantar la cancin que quera cantar la cancin que no le dejaron cantar sino a travs de sus ojos azules ausentes de su boca ausente de su voz ausente. Entonces, desde la torre ms alta de la ausencia su canto reson en la opacidad de lo ocultado en la extensin silenciosa llena de oquedades movedizas como las palabras que escribo. Lengua can mean tongue or language. Reference to Garcilaso de la Vega gloga III, Stanza II : mas con la lengua muerta y fra en la boca pienso move r la voz a ti debida;"
95 POEM FOR MY FATHER And it was then t hat with his tongue dead and cold in his mouth h e sang the song that they kept him from singing i n this world of obscene gardens and of shadows that came unexpectedly to remind him of songs from his boyhood i n which he couldn't sing the song he want ed to sing the song that they kept him from singing e xcept through his blue absent eyes his absent mouth his absent voice And then, from absence's tallest tower h is song resonated in the opacity of all that is hidden i n its silent extension f ull of shifting hollowness like the words I write. 1 *In Frank Graziano and Maria Rosa Fort's translation they change the word order of the adjec tives "dead" and "cold" to reflect English syntax: "that with a dead and cold tongue in his mouth." Here, I chose instead to keep the Spanish word order and add a possessive pronoun "his," for what I believe comes across as a more poetic line, an d retains the cadence of Pizarnik's original. Here, as suggested by Venuti, I have kept the spanish word order : "with his tongue dead and cold in his mouth *F.G. and M.R.F translated "they didn't let him sing" here. Instead, we chose "they kept him from singing" believing that "kept" emphasizes the physical aspect of the suppression of the singing and the force of that suppression, which the hard sound of the k' consonant evokes. *F.G and M.R.F translated "deshora" as "the wrong time". We departed from their choice here, opting for "unexpectedly" which contains the meaning of "deshora ", literally at the wrong hour, but sounds better. *"Tiempo de muchacho" we compacted into "boyhood," following the general rule of economy of lan guage in the poem. *I chose first to translate here "in which he wasn't able to sing the song" but later opted for F.G. and M.R.F's choice: "in wh ich he couldn't sing the song." "Couldn't" more adequately reflects my reading in which he was able to but could not sing the songs able/ability as connected with one's own abilities. In other words, it is not that he was physically unable to sing the songs in his own right but that he was prevented from doing so. 2 *
A IV Conclusion In summation, we have now passed through several stages in the development of this thesis and the topics it treats. We first looked at Alejandra Pizarnik as she has been canonized during the passed thirty years of her posthumous success and continued publication. In that image, we can see the young Pizarnik 's eccentricity and her defiant interest in art and inner worlds of the imagination. There, she is smoking a cigarette, looking with glazed eyes into a distant thought. Next, in my re thinking of Pizarnik I planted the seeds for r eaders to be able to envision her in new ways. Perhaps, hopefully in ways that reclaim some of her humanity. She is not so different form you or me, and, especially, from those parts of ourselves that do not fall exactly in line with all the perceived qual ities of "John Doe," or, the average individual. While I have focused on Pizarnik's life, her childhood, her family, her traditions, it has been her relationship to Judaism that has most interested me. Not only because I am Jewish and Uruguayan myself, bu t also because it seems to me an aspect of Pizarnik that has been close to blatantly ignored. Even, she has been imagined in context in Argentina as so me kind of a martyr, and, placed uncomfortably inside Catholic and Christian meta narratives. Thinking of all the images of Pizarnik on the i nternet, nearly half of the photographic ones are bloody and have thorns and images of suffering that is supposed to speak to her love of her art, and her sacrifice to it and to her fans, who make an idol out of Pizarnik This is to
B be expected since Jewishness is a marginal culture in Buenos Aires, Argentina and most of Pizarnik's fans will be Catholic. Nevertheless, when I turned towards her texts I saw a Jewish writer confronting Jewish themes, and I have tried to mak e that vision clear. In addition, although I am uncomfortable put ting my work here in terms of "light" and "dark," this is how I began to think of it. It has been my intent to emphasize some of the light in Alejandra Pizarnik's cuerpo potico if only b ec a u se I see that the dark La condesa sangrienta has over shadowed to such great effect all of the other works in Pizarnik's truly extensive oeuvre. I agree completely with those who think that the themes of death, violence, and eroticism in that daring wo rk are deeply and profoundly interesting and moving They are. And it is true that we are not so often free to speak openly about those themes. Still, Pizarnik is more than the gothic writer of La condesa and I wanted to show that through this thesis. Agai n, you will see this reflected in the prose works I transl ated and made close readings of Los m uertos y la lluvia Dificultades barrocas Desconfianza Devocin and Poema para el padre primarily engage with the themes of language, childhood, family, religi o n and Judaism However, they are not blanket treatments of these themes. They are poems. They are filled with beauty and insight and all kinds of other qualities that cannot be named. They are at their core, experiences. I truly hope readers will be touch ed by these poems and by Pizarnik. Even, perhaps, coming to consider that as we canonize Pizarnik, we need not burn her, as well. But rather than make her into some kind of a witch, we can recuperate vestiges of her humanity a nd see that she speaks to aspe cts inside of each of us.
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