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.
The first full-length collection in English by one of Latin America’s most significant twentieth-century poets.
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 Lautréamont,” as well as to the “unparalleled intensity” of Artaud’s “physical and moral suffering.”
About the Author
Alejandra Pizarnik (1936–1972) was born in Argentina and educated in Spanish and Yiddish. In addition to poetry, Pizarnik also wrote experimental works of theater and prose. She died of a deliberate drug overdose at the age of thirty-six.
The poet Yvette Siegert has also translated The Reef by Juan Villoro and Alejandra Pizarnik’s poetry collections A Musical Hell, Diana’s Tree, and Extracting the Stone of Madness, for which she won the 2017 Best Translated Book Award.
Pizarnik reveals an ecstasy in the instability of language and draws from it a mercurial, pathetic truth.
In compressed fragments, stark monostichs, and dense prose poems, the
late Argentine poet Alejandra Pizarnik’s oeuvre presents a rich inner
world built from a litany of symbols.
I...was blown away by the thoughtful interiority—by turns delicate and brutal—of this Argentine poet, who died of an intentional drug overdose at the age of 36. The poems in this new collection, translated by Yvette Siegert and published earlier this year, show a preoccupation with the space—not so large, but also interminably vast—between the workings of the mind and those of the natural world.
— Jane Yong Kim
The darkly beautiful poems of the great Argentinian writer Alejandra Pizarnik generate an immersive, Gothic atmosphere in which art is both violence and respite, contamination and antidote, hell and paradise.
"On the page she carves out spaces of solitude and silence in which language is reduced to its very essence..."
— Matthew Phipps
There is an aura of almost legendary prestige that surrounds the life and work of Alejandra Pizarnik
— César Aira
To the allure Pizarnik has, as a figure wrapped in mystery and an inexplicable personality, must be added the fact that, word by word, she “wrote the night,” and the reader who takes an interest in her will discover that this nocturnal writing, which had a great sense of risk, was born of the purest necessity, something seen in very few 20th-century writers: an extreme lyric and a tragedy.
— Enrique Vila-Matas
Each of Pizarnik's poems is the cube of an enormous wheel.
— Julio Cortázar
Read Alejandra Pizarnik's poems. They're remarkable.
— The Poetry Foundation
Pizarnik made a huge impact on Spanish-language poetry, taking it down to its darkest depths and abandoning it there, leaving one of the most fascinating legacies in Argentine literature.
Brilliant, taut poems.
Pizarnik's poems flare up like deep, bright flames.
This overdue bilingual edition showcases the exquisite range of her short career…Pizarnik's brilliant, otherworldy voice will resonate for generations.
To bear down on Pizarnik’s scant lines is to find their essential rigor: nothing is brittle, nothing breaks.
— Joshua Cohen