Woman with Eyes Wide Open
life plays in the plazawith the self I never wasand here I ammy thoughts danceon the tightrope of my smileand everyone says this happened and ishappeninghappeningmy heartopens the windowlifehere I ammy lifemy lone numbed bloodresonates in the worldstill I want to know myself alivestill I do not wish to speakof deathor its strange hands.
“Woman with Eyes Wide Open” © Myriam Pizarnik,
Estate of Alejandra Pizarnik, English Translation © Cecilia Rossi,
published in The Last Innocence / The Lost Adventures (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2019).
Alejandra Pizarnik (1936-1972) was a leading voice in twentieth-century Latin American poetry. Born in the port city of Avellaneda, in the province of Buenos Aires, to Russian-Jewish immigrants, Pizarnik studied literature and painting at the University of Buenos Aires and spent most of her life in Argentina. From 1960-1964 she lived in Paris, where she was influenced by the work of the Surrealists (many of whom she translated into Spanish) and participated in a vibrant community of writers including Simone de Beauvoir and fellow expatriates Julio Cortázar and Octavio Paz. Known primarily for her poetry, Pizarnik also wrote works of criticism and journalism, experimental fiction, plays, and a literary diary. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1968 and a Fulbright Scholarship in 1971. Her complete works in Spanish have been published by Editorial Lumen. Six books of her poetry have been translated into English: Diana’s Tree, The Most Foreign Country and The Last Innocence / The Lost Adventures (Ugly Duckling Presse); and A Musical Hell, Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962-1972, and The Galloping Hour: French Poems (New Directions). A Tradition of Rupture (UDP), a collection of Pizarnik’s critical prose in English translation, was published in fall 2019. She died in Buenos Aires, of an apparent drug overdose, at the age of 36.
Cecilia Rossi is Senior Lecturer in Literature and Translation at the University of East Anglia, where she convenes the MA in Literary Translation and works for BCLT (British Centre for Literary Translation) as Postgraduate and Professional Liaison. Her latest translation, The Last Innocence and The Lost Adventures (Alejandra Pizarnik), was published in 2019 by Ugly Duckling Presse. Following a British Academy Small Research grant in 2013, she visited the Pizarnik Papers at Princeton University Library.
The Last Innocence and The Lost Adventures are Alejandra Pizarnik’s second and third collections of poetry. Published in Buenos Aires shortly after The Most Foreign Country—which she would later disavow—these early poems blend the real and the imaginary, demonstrating the inner torment, deep solitude, and acute vulnerability that would plague Pizarnik throughout her short life. This edition includes new English-language translations of both books along with an introduction by poet, translator, and Pizarnik scholar Ana Becciu.
"Pizarnik’s haunting words have garnered a 40-year following, earning her a reputation as perhaps Argentina’s most important female poet."
— The Argentina Independent
"Words and the voids that precede and exceed them seemingly set themselves on fire for a brief glimpse of constellatory wonder in these early books skillfully translated to accommodate Pizarnik’s earnest if troubled tenderness toward her many I’s and their others. The explosion and collapse of such Pizarnik novas as birds and the estrangement of wind, absence and the suicide of proximity, silence and the suffocation of language — among other mainstays of her tapestry — linger and scintillate indeterminately against the backdrop of her work to come."
— Elizabeth Zuba