Friday, January 25, 2008

The Poet and his Poem (1968)

Translation of Alejandra Pizarnik

"A poem is a painting granted a voice
and a painting is a silent poem."
(Oriental Proverb)

Poetry is the place where everything happens. Just like Love, comedy, suicide and every other act which is profoundly subversive, poetry distances itself from what prevents its freedom and its truth. To say freedom or truth and to refer it to the world we live in, or we don’t, is to bluntly lie. It is not a lie when we refer these terms to poetry: the place where everything is possible.
In opposition to the feeling of exile or that of a perpetual wait, is the poem _the promised land_. Each day my poems get shorter: small fires lost inside a strange realm. The eyes of the one who I know tend to wait for me inside those few verses; the things that have been reconciled, the hostile things, the ones that do not cease to haunt me with the unknown; and my usual thirst, my hunger, my horror. From there comes the invocation, the evocation, the conjuration.
About Inspiration, I believe in it orthodoxicaly, which does not prevent me from concentrating on one poem for too long (it is rather the opposite.) And I do it in a way that, maybe, reminds me of the gestures of artists: I attach my blank paper to a wall and contemplate it; I switch words around, I repress verses. Sometimes while erasing one word I imagine another one taking its place, but I still don’t know its name. So while I wait for the desired word I make a drawing that alludes to it, scribbled in the empty space. These drawings I make are like rituals. ( I must say that my affinity to silence makes me unite, in spirit, poetry with painting; So when others say “ privileged instant” I would rather call it “ privileged space.”)
They have been warning us, ever since immemorial times, that poetry is a mystery. And yet we recognize it: we know where it is. I think that the question, what is poetry to you? deserves either one or the other of these two answers: Either silence, or a book that narrates a terrible adventure: the adventure of someone who parts, and sets off to question the poem; to verify its enchanting power that is exalting, revolutionary, calming. Some of them have already narrated their terrible journey to us. In regards to me, it is a contemplation for now.

Paris, 1962

The Poem and his Reader

If they ask me who do I write for, they are asking me who do I destine my poems to. This question tactfully guarantees the existence of a character.
So then it is three of us: me; the poem; its destiny. This triangle needs to be examined further. When I finish a poem I have not ended it. The truth is that I only abandon it and it is no longer mine, or more precisely, it barely exists.
From that moment the ideal triangle depends solely on the reader and only the reader can end the unfinished poem, rescue its multiple senses, and add others. To Finish means to give life back, to re-create.
When I write I never evoke a reader. It also never occurs to me that I should think about the destiny of what I write. I have never looked for the reader, before or after the poem. I think this is why I have had unexpected encounters with unexpected readers who gave me the intense happiness and excitement of feeling comprehended profoundly; of feeling understood. To this I will add a statement made by Gaston Bachelard:
The poet must create his reader and in no way express common ideas.

Buenos Aires, 1967

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