From the Forbidden Garden: Letters from Alejandra Pizarnik to Antonio Beneyto

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Bucknell University Press, 2003 - Literary Collections - 112 pages
The letters in this collection form a self-portrait of one of the greatest Latin American poets of the twentieth century. They display her insight, the forcefulness of her language, and humorous use of wordplay and puns, offering us a much more intimate portrait than any biographer could achieve. We see Pizarnik's process of self-discovery and artistic exploration in her literary life, as well as the development of her work in progress.
This selection of thirty letters and two postcards, written between September 2, 1969, and September 12, 1972, includes most of Pizarnik's correspondence with Spanish writer-editor-artist Antonio Beneyto. From these informative letters we learn about her influences, the artists, poets, and writers she preferred, and her reactions to them. She collaborated on various projects and cultivated many literary and personal ties with writers of the stature of Julio Cortazar, Olga Orozco, Octavio Paz, Pieyre de Mandiargues, Silvina Ocampo, and Luisa Sofovich, among others.
Although the corpus of Pizarnik's writing available in English has expanded in the last twelve years, it is still far from adequate. This is the first time that a selection of letters from Alejandra Pizarnik to Antonio Beneyto has been published in English. The translators hope that this volume will serve English-speaking audiences as a new bridge to her work.

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Letter September 19 1969
Met Alejandra Pizarnik

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About the author (2003)

The daughter of Polish-Jewish immigrants, Pizarnik suffered throughout her life from severe depression and committed suicide one weekend on leave from the psychiatric hospital where she was institutionalized. Pizarnik spent several years in Paris in contact with the European poetic vanguard and toward the end of her life held a Guggenheim Foundation award. Her poetry portrays the life of Latin American women as a bodily dismemberment by a multiply oppressive and repressive patriarchy. It sparked interest alone for the intensity with which it chronicles the obsessions of a feminine poete maudit. Concomitantly, Pizarnik's poetry assumed a clandestine and iconic dimension because the bulk of her mature output coincided with the military regimes in Argentine. For some, her work is a symbol of the destruction of the individual by neo-Fascist tyranny. Although Pizarnik mostly wrote highly charged poetic vignettes, leading her to be compared with Sylvia Plath, she also wrote outstanding prose poems, culminating in The Bloody Countess (1971). This is a chilly recreation of the nefarious Hungarian noblewoman, Erzbet Bathory, who was accused in the seventeenth century of torturing to death 600 maidens; and it is a work whose interest overlaps, if only obliquely, with the significant lesbian dimension of Pizarnik's writing.

Carlota Caulfield is professor of Spanish and Spanish-American studies at Mills College, Oakland, California.

Translator Angela McEwan holds an M.A. in Spanish from the University of California at Irvine.

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