For Serious Contemplation
Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962–1972
Trans. Yvett Siegert
New Directions, May
blogged from World Literature Today.com
Referencing an ancient medical practice, immortalized in a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, Alejandra Pizarnik’s collection of poems explores themes of depression, childhood, death, and the border between language and silence. Her poetry from the last ten years of her life, before her suicide at the age of thirty-six, is the first full collection translated into English and filled with a balance between frenzy and melancholia.
Poems are often secret thoughts with embedded meanings that the author wishes to partially explore and reveal. Sometimes, as in the case of Yvett Siegert, they are quite telling and she wanted us to know the inner world she lived. She was insightful of her own fears, panic, and depression. Poems were her way of communicating to others with a hope that others would understand that her condition was not of her own making. In doing so, she gave us a view of what lurks inside the mind of madness. Psychiatrists have given us a clinical diagnostic representation of madness, but then in retrospect who is mad and who is sane? No one knows what really lurks in the mind of anyone else, which begs the question: Do we really know ourselves well enough to make judgement calls about ourselves or anyone else?