cover image Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962–1972

Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962–1972

Alejandra Pizarnik, trans. from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert. New Directions, $18.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2396-6

First the first time, Argentine poet Pizarnik’s harrowing, decade-spanning opus can be read in an English translation, in this hefty dual-language edition. The chronologically organized collection—which includes her books Works and Nights (1965), Extracting the Stone of Madness (1968), A Musical Hell (1971), and a series of posthumously published poems that led up to her 1972 suicide at age 36—serves as a journey toward the labyrinthine depths of depression. “It closes in on me,” she writes of death in one of her later pieces, “it is my only horizon.” Pizarnik’s poems flare up like deep, bright flames, and they put into stark relief the vivid descriptions of lilacs, shadows, masks, silence, and multiple selves to which she obsessively returns. The poem is a lifeline for her: “I redo the body of my poem like someone who tries to cure her own wound.” Yet the deeper she searches for a remedy through language, the more limiting and disorienting the language becomes: “who is speaking in this room full of eyes? Who gnaws with a mouth made of paper? Names that come up, shadows with masks. Cure me of this void, I said.” Pizarnik’s anguish is palpable and mirrors the intense blaze of her all-too-brief life. (Oct.)