Friday, July 5, 2024

Poems for the Father, only the poet lives in the poet’s skin

    Every now and then, something crosses my path... 

Poem for the Father
By: Alejandra Pizarnik

JUN 27, 2024
Alejandra Pizarnik: The Cursed Poet | Al Día News
And it was then
that with a tongue dead and cold in the mouth
he sang the song others allowed him to sing
in this world of obscene gardens and shadows 
coming at unseemly hours to remind him
of songs of his youth
in which he could not sing the song he wanted
the song they allowed him to sing
yet through his absent blue eyes
through his absent mouth
through his absent voice.
Then from absence’s tallest tower
his song resonated in the opacity of what is hidden
in the silenced extension
full of moving hollowness like the words I write.

Translator’s Note

Translation is home. Whenever I travel, I seek it either by reading translations, or by translating as a grounding exercise. Lately I have been translating into English poems from Jewish Latin American poets, specifically works by conversos or those written in Yiddish and Ladino by immigrants and their offspring. And—in a room of her own—Alejandra Pizarnik, whose life makes me think of Emily Dickinson. I recreated these two poems while visiting my mother, who has been suffering from Alzheimer’s. Pizarnik distills the fibers of existence so as to reveal the madness that palpitates underneath. Her poetry is contagious. The toughest part is to convey her silences. I wish I had met her.

—Ilan Stavans

Sloan Bashinsky
Sloan’s Newsletter

Jun 27

Poetry Foundation 
Alejandra Pizarnik

Alejandra Pizarnik was born in Buenos Aires to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. She studied philosophy and literature at the University of Buenos Aires before dropping out to pursue painting and her own poetry. In 1960, she moved to Paris, where she befriended writers such as Octavio Paz, Julio Cortázar, and Silvina Ocampo. Considered one of mid-century Argentina’s most powerful and intense lyric poets, Pizarnik counted among her influences Hölderlin and, as she wrote in “The Incarnate Word,” an essay from 1965, “the suffering of Baudelaire, the suicide of Nerval, the premature silence of Rimbaud, the mysterious and fleeting presence of Lautréamont,” and the “unparalleled intensity” of Artaud’s “physical and moral suffering.” Pizarnik’s themes were cruelty, childhood, estrangement, and death. According to Emily Cooke, Pizarnik “was perennially mistrustful of her medium, seeming sometimes more interested in silence than in language, and the poetic style she cultivated was terse and intentionally unbeautiful.” Her work has continually attracted new readers since her suicide at age 36.
Pizarnik published several books of poetry during her lifetime, including: La tierra más ajena (1955), La última inocencia (1956), Las aventuras perdidas (1958), Árbol de Diana (1960), Extracción de la piedra de locura (1968), and El infierno musical (1971). She also published the prose essay “La condesa sangrienta” (1971), a meditation on a 16th-century Hungarian countess allegedly responsible for the torture and murder of more than 600 girls. Pizarnik’s work has been translated into English in the collections Alejandra Pizarnik: Selected Poems (translated by Cecilia Rossi, 2010) and Extracting the Stone of Madness (translated by Yvette Siegert, 2016).

Patricia Carter
Patricia’s Substack
July 5
Thank you. That was very informative and well written. I now have a better understanding of her. I have little knowledge of well known poets or any poets for that matter. Poetry has not been my genre of written works. But the passion and creativity behind it? That I get. To write a story or an article you express your idea in everyday language for the average reader. But poetry appeals to and speaks to a select audience: the deeper thinker, one who can read between the lines and see the beauty or tragedy of the words on the page. Hats off to those who can reach into the soul of humanity with words. 

Sloan Bashinsky
Sloan’s Newsletter

Sometimes, knowing something about a poet helps with context: where a poet might be coming from, how a poet lives or copes personally with what he/she expresses. Suicide has to raise questions. Yet, only the poet lives in the poet's skin. 
I was 50 years old when the first poem came out of me. I had been in a dark night of the soul for about a year. The dark night had arrived very soon after I was told in my sleep by a familiar voice, “With respect to St. John of the Cross, you haven’t seen anything yet.” Then, in the dream, I was awash in pure, raw, black Evil, which caused me to gasp and gag and try to escape its grasp, and I woke up and it was still there for a few moments and I was terrified. 
At the suggestion of a friend the year before, I had found a book in a local bookstore written by a Spaniard poet, Antonio T. de Nicholas, St. John of the Cross: Alchemist of the Soul. But for that book, I would have had no clue about the dark night of the soul. Nor that some people experience a second dark night, which is much worse than the first dark night, which is awful. I often thought of killing myself during the first dark night, which lasted 4 years. But it was only thoughts. The black night arrived in early 1997 and lasted 16 months and I was suicidal every day, but something stayed my hand.
I was raised in Christendom, but I had not attended church for a long time when the first dark night came, and it did not cause me to start attending church, for I was in daily communion with not of this world phenomena. Except for a few brief scattered moments, all of that stopped during the black night. About a year into it, I started going to my mother’s church every afternoon and sitting in the nave until the maintenance staff nudged me awake because the church was closing. Nothing changed until I left the woman I was with, for whom church was very important, and then the black night began to lift. After the black night lifted, the phenomena returned full-bore and have been with me ever since, although the presentation changed many times. 
Before, during and after the dark night and the black night, I was turned every which a way but loose, upside down and inside out. I was stood before endless mirrors looking at me. I was carried, nudged, pushed, shoved, yanked, spanked, criticized, rebuked, encouraged, terrorized and picked back up, and it’s still happening. 
If you can access Google, here’s a link to an epic poem of sorts, which leaped of me in early September 2005 as fast as I could type it on a public library computer about my father and me. When I typed the last word and period, my father’s lawyer called me to say my father had died.


Patricia Carter
Patricia’s Substack
Liked by Poetic Outlaws
July 5

My first comment was meant for @ Sloan Bashinsky but to the author of this post @Poetic Outlaws I can say that that poem touched me deeply. In fact it wet my eyes as I remembered my father whom I lost to cancer two Decembers ago. An intense man with the military bearing drilled into him, my mother a light hearted and often jovial woman brought out his funny side. Their love was like none I have ever come across. They’d rather have sheets each other’s company than anyone else. You mentioned Alzheimer’s which can make familiar people unfamiliar and create a distance between them. My Mom had Parkinson’s with dementia which did that and my Father was her target. But despite that he did his best to talk to and act like that didn’t matter and he cared for her til the last days. I respect him for that and for all who are faced with disease that cripple people mentally and physically and emotionally challenge their loved ones. My heart goes out to you and to them. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Sloan Bashinsky
Sloan’s Newsletter
July 5

To Erik and Patricia, Poetic Outlaws is the main place I have found online where love, truth and beauty breathe regularly, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, I said beautiful twice :-) 

Patricia Carter
Sloan, thank you so much for not only your previous comments regarding knowing the life experience and origins of poets. But your introspective snapshot into those chapters of your life. Oh the similarities of your life experiences that parallel my life experiences. At least those you’ve touched on here. As I begin my last weekday craziness a prelude to blissful weekend I am compiling my response. As a writer (of short stories) my mind is ever full to the brim with possibilities for stories. But I will push them out of the way and put my thoughts Into words for you. But I warn you, I’m notoriously long winded. But will focus on making it as succinct as possible. I admire your tenacity and courage for one, being able to survive those periods of darkness and not be left unable to continue on or even utterly dysfunctional. Surely you had parts of your life irrevocably altered as you fought to stay afloat mentally. But during and after the storm, you retained your identity: the you, you were born with. And could examine your experience with new eyes. And then share it with others like myself. And now I am touched by it in a positive way. Sad you had to go through it. But we are both wiser for it. Thank you. Wish you well in your journey and I will look at the link. 

Sloan Bashinsky
Had I not gone through it, I would be someone else entirely today, or I would be dead, or in an insane asylum. My father and I loved each other dearly, but he could not fathom what I was experiencing, and although I tried several times to explain it, and sometimes I was very rough with him and he was very rough with me, I never stopped loving him, and he never stopped loving me, but we did not see or speak for many years before he passed over, it was his call. Yet during all that time of estrangement, he sometimes came to me in dreams and it was always with something that was helpful, sometimes I didn’t want to hear or see it, but it was he was the father I had always needed, and but for inheritances from him, which some people didn’t want him to allow, I would still be homeless, or I would be dead. He was a very successful capitalist, and despite my efforts, I became an anti-capitalist :-) 
I, too, can get very long winded, which is seen in my novels and stranger than fiction books at, a free library run by American colleges that specializes in out of print books and books donated by authors not seeking payment.

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