Alejandra Pizarnik Retrato

Alejandra Pizarnik

Sometimes there is a world of words that want to come out but they don’t. They accumulate at the base of the throat and before you know it you’re choking.

Alejandra used to feel it and with this, she felt the panic of never being able to say exactly what she needed or being misunderstood: Que no se preste a confusiones. How difficult it is to avoid confusion.

I discovered Alejandra very late in my life. And it’s a good thing because I don’t imagine I could have managed reading her in my early 20s. It would have been dangerous.

Alejandra Pizarnik Print

I’ve read her on and off for the past fifteen years. Her writings are like my own personal oracle. I open Tumblr and search for the tag. The first one that comes up is exactly how I’m feeling.

Last month I took a wonderful writing workshop in Spanish. It wasn’t a workshop per se, it turned out to be a place to write without expectations. It was the most wonderful experience I’ve had in many years. Led by a literature professor and a psychoanalyst, attendees were a diverse group of women who came from different Latin American countries. We read Rosa Montero, Reynaldo Arenas, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alejandra Pizarnik.

I had not written anything in Spanish in ages. I have a Tumblr somewhere and occasionally I do write there like I did a long time ago in my long lost blog Megara, The Diary. This workshop, opened the floodgates.

I realized that through the years since I changed countries that I have experienced profound loss, yet the loss was voluntary.

I moved here because I wanted to, because I had a safe place to land and because I felt I didn’t fit in my own country.

But I lost my mother tongue. Though I speak it all the time at home (in a somewhat bizarre bilingual dialogue – husband speaks in French, I speak in Spanish) and at work, the daily struggle with French and the fact that I do most of my thinking, writing, reading and learning in English, has left me a little mute.

Drawing and painting has been a way to not feel so drowned in silence.
Alejandra knew that words were treacherous, both when they come out or they stay in. The things I wrote in that workshop emerged without effort, without any expectation or demand. I did not think about “good writing” or impressing anyone, yet they reflected that something is amiss.

As I go through the summer trying to do many things but also trying to do less I wonder if I should even worry where I’m headed. There is so much I want to communicate but as Alejandra Pizarnik, I circle around the creature never looking at it in the eye. Words, images, thoughts, ideas, shoulds, should nots, desires, wanting to stay, wanting to leave, wanting stillness, wanting something to happen, wanting to be in the moment and yet eternally making plans or dreaming of a life beyond.

“Simplemente no soy de este mundo… Yo habito con frenesí la luna. No tengo miedo de morir; tengo miedo de esta tierra ajena, agresiva… No puedo pensar en cosas concretas; no me interesan. Yo no sé hablar como todos. Mis palabras son extrañas y vienen de lejos, de donde no es, de los encuentros con nadie… ¿Qué haré cuando me sumerja en mis fantásticos sueños y no pueda ascender? Porque alguna vez va a tener que suceder. Me iré y no sabré volver. Es más, no sabré siquiera que hay un ‘saber volver’. No lo querré acaso.”

This portrait is my tribute to her. I’ve wanted to paint her for so long. At last, yesterday in a rare moment of not feeling “the shoulds” I did.

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