Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962 - 1972 (Paperback)
Adored by the titanic likes of Octavio Paz, Roberto Bolaño, and Julio Cortazar, amongst many others, it is something of a mystery why Alejandra Pizarnik has remained largely unknown in the United States. If you’ve been privy to her for as long as you can remember and cherish your private holding of her as you might any rare treasure, I apologize. For these poems, quite simply, must be experienced.
(Another due apology: to the friends who have been receiving, during the darkest parts of the evening, text-messaged photos of her poems, with attending exclamation marks in lieu of sufficient commentary.)
There is a prismatic quality to Pizarnik’s language. Her poems are often simple, in the most immediate sense. Each resembles to me a discrete solid thing — as though you might reach through the page and touch it, as one might a stone. But in her tragic pursuit, by way of poetry, of a silence that can only ever be put into language, we find a stone that refracts light in unexpected ways.
Similarly, though the comparisons between Pizarnik and Virginia Woolf or Sylvia Plath seem concrete and helpful pegs for our understanding, something happens as we read — our Anglo eyes darting to the Spanish, mouthing her words alongside their translation. We are exposed to (and perhaps by) Pizarnik’s sense of a profound (because it is shared) betrayal that is an indelible part of the human experience. Her ultimate vision is a dark one, to be sure. But by the light of her brilliant language we see something in the dark that is not of the dark. So we keep reading, knowing full well it could be but a trick of the eyes. -- Brad J.
Revered by the likes of Octavio Paz and Roberto Bolano, Alejandra Pizarnik is still a hidden treasure in the U.S. Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962 1972 comprises all of her middle to late work, as well as a selection of posthumously published verse. Obsessed with themes of solitude, childhood, madness and death, Pizarnik explored the shifting valences of the self and the border between speech and silence. In her own words, she was drawn to "the suffering of Baudelaire, the suicide of Nerval, the premature silence of Rimbaud, the mysterious and fleeting presence of Lautreamont, as well as to the unparalleled intensity of Artaud's physical and moral suffering.