Argentinian poet Alejandra Pizarnik’s book ‘Extracting the Stone of the Madness’ (Poems 1962-1972) will be released in April by New Directions. The translator, Yvette Siegert, was born in Argentina, lives in New York and has translated two other books by the same author, but this is the first full collection of Alejandra’s poems published in English. According to the editor, ‘Obsessed with themes of solitude, childhood, madness, and death, Pizarnik explored the shifting valences of the self and the border between speech and silence.’

Alejandra Pizarnik was born in Buenos Aires in 1936 to Jewish immigrant parents from Russian and Slovak origins. Her first book, La tierra más arena, was published in 1955. Alejandra studied Literature and Philosophy at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, and studied painting with Juan Battle Planas. She lived in Paris from 1960 to 1964, where she participated in the Parisian literary scene. She was later awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968, and a Fullbright Scholarship in 1971.

While living in Paris, Pizarnik translated Henri Michaux, Antonin Artaud, Aimé Cesairé and Yves Bonnefoy. She was influenced by the French symbolists, by Surrealism and also Romanticism – her poetry has a strange beauty, characterised by dark, condensed poems.

Alejandra Pizarnik was addicted to amphetamines, which she started using as a diet pill. She was also diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder.  She died in 1972 after taking an overdose of Secobarbital, during a period of a severe depression.

Yvette Siegert will discuss Pizarnik’s work at Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation in February. Some of her translations of Pizarnik’s poems were published at Circumference Magazine.

Virna Teixeira

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