Poetry News

Uruguayan Writer Marosa di Giorgio's Sixties & Seventies Poems See-Saw Between Horror & the Sublime

By Harriet Staff
Marosa di Giorgio, Nightfall, cover

"The poems of Uruguayan writer Marosa di Giorgio (1932 – 2004) are luscious, dark and gorgeous," writes Jessica Sequeira in a review of di Giorgio's eagerly anticipated I Remember Nightfall, a collection of four books written in the 1960s and early 1970s (translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas), for Reading in Translation. "Syrups, cakes, assassinations, strangers, thieves, sacrifices, cats, quinces, lovers, altars, roses, onions, eggs, wind, sugar, moon — you could almost write a parody of this poetry, juggling identical words into different arrangements. What makes di Giorgio’s poems work is precisely that they aren’t parodic, but (affectedly) sincere." More on this work:

...[T]his little girl pose, so often the default tone of the female mystic, is not innocent. In spite of the simple vocabulary and sentence structure, one quickly discovers that di Giorgio delights in perversion, evil, secrets. “A huge curiosity came into my nails; I wanted to find out if I could kill; I sunk my nails into the back of one of the huge mice, and the smell of blood made me blissfully dizzy,” she writes (119). There is always a temptation or a threat, and sex or death is always waiting at the end of the poems (prose fragments, really). No one can trust anyone in this world of “perfumed masks,” and sweetness and horror co-exist or even overlap when “the peaches are like sinister rosebuds” (307, 41). Nothing ever just exists, or is simply neutral. The faux-naive voice is always waiting with petulance to recount a dark twist to the magic. There is great beauty in di Giorgio’s world, but also great nightmarishness.

The saccharine sweetness in di Giorgio’s work, like that of Silvina Ocampo or Hilda Hilst, requires a violent counterbalance. Sacrifice and incest abound in a far-from-innocent universe. The apocalyptic feel echoes a British line of poetry influenced by the Romantic tradition of Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley, and makes one question the relationship between the senses, imagination, and intellect. A phantasm between direct experience and ordered reason, existing in this purgatory by choice, di Giorgio’s work see-saws between horror and the sublime, or perhaps discovers a kind of sublime in the imagined horrors that can be told.

 Read more about the work of Marosa di Giorgio at Reading in Translation.

Originally Published: September 1st, 2017