la rebelión consiste en mirar una rosa

hasta pulverizarse los ojos


Alejandra Pizarnik








Beatriz Iriart: An Ostracized Poet, Interview by viviana marcela iriart, Buenos Aires, December, 2010









As a little girl, Beatriz started to write poems with the same talent—also known as genius—with which she writes today.Her theme was the same: Death.When she had barely come out of adolescence, she started to publish and receive awards and honorable mentions in her country - Argentina - and abroad.She soon became a rising star dazzling everyone around her.Her talent, combined with her beauty, brought the powerful literary circles to her feet.Beatriz was on the road to become a famous poet and (having worked since she was 14 to help her mother) to be able to live off her poetry.



But major publishers were still reluctant when a strange disease put her at death's door:lupus.Beatriz received the extreme unction, and when everyone was expecting the poet's death, the poet revived.No one knows what was said at that face-to-face encounter with death, but the poet moved away from literary circles forever, and she stopped publishing and participating in contests, though she never stopped writing.



The rising star became a lonely warrior.She spent many years fighting against lupus, working in dreadful places, suffering from the lack of money that would not allow her to get better treatment, and living in rented apartments and, mostly, dark hostel rooms.She went through many universities - Law, Arts, Philosophy, Psychology - learning what she wanted in each of them and not staying in any.Disease was always by her side depriving her of almost everything, from hair to sight, from the possibility of having children to the ability to walk, from being under the sun (a mortal enemy) to eating what she wanted, but she never gave up.And she always gave love a chance, even though it caused her the same problems money did: when she thought it was genuine, it turned out to be fake.Nonetheless, Beatriz loved and was loved.She lived intensely in the midst of war to save her life, which was her daily endeavor.



After a decade, Beatriz won the fight against lupus and got cured from a disease that is considered chronic.Beatriz won and remained unbroken, without any traces or damages from her disease, perhaps because this had not been her first battle or her first encounter with death.Death had been her companion since adolescence, when she used to be her permanent guest, her loving shadow, which would not abandon her no matter how many times the poet stood her up.Death tried to drag her when she was 15, when she was 16, when she was 18… Death.



And the poet kept writing with such genius that when she decided to publish once again some years ago, in Europe and the USA they compared her to Sylvia Plath, Goethe, Alejandra Pizarnik, Novalis.



Her native country ignores her, and she does not care - she keeps staying away from literary circles.



Let's hope Beatriz Iriart does not suffer the same fate as Alejandra Pizarnik, who had to endure the indifference of major publishers and work her heart out to survive.Once dead, Alejandra became a big publishing success—she pays great dividends.



Let's hope publishers do not do the same to Beatriz Iriart because they will end up losing: the poet expects to live for at least 200 years. Publishing, of course.







DECREE
When you leave
cypresses shall not weep
over your grave
for there will be no grave
only memories.










This year you changed your surname - you no longer bear the López Osornio name by which you used to be known, and have adopted "Iriart" instead. Why was that?

It's a late homage to my mom, thanks to whom I was introduced into the world of art and culture, taken by the hand as if it were a game, when I was just beginning to walk.




When did you begin to write?

In primary school.My writing assignments always received congratulations and awards from my teachers and the school.I wrote my first poem when I was about 10 years old and my mom told me I behaved as badly as "Pepita La Pistolera".[1]I didn't know who this character was but I wrote my first poem with that name as a title.






Did you mother read it?

I don't remember, I think she didn't, and the "poem" was lost.From that moment, without being aware of it, writing poems became part of my daily life.




Were any of the poems we read today written during your childhood?

Yes.Decreto (Decree) is a poem I wrote when I was 11 or 12 years old.




Did you show it to anyone?

No, it wasn't until the end of my adolescence that I began to show my poems, after I got in contact with the underground culture movement, in whose magazines I got published for the first time when I was around 19 years old.




When did you publish your first book and what was it called?

Perspectivas (Perspectives), and I published it independently in 1977.It was a short, very sober book that was well received by the literary circle.They made me a cult poet in my town, because they said my poetry was like no one else's.But although I was well received, publishers have always been reluctant: I have published three books and all three of them are independent publications.




Were you influenced by any other poet - man or woman?

No. When I was a little girl I read the compulsory poetry books from school, but even though I was a great reader of legends and short stories, I was not a great reader of poetry.I admire two or three poets, but I don't feel I have been influenced by them, and I've never wanted to write like them:Julio Cortázar - who was more known for being a prose writer than a poet and whose complete work I love -, Sylvia Plath, and Alejandra Pizarnik.




That's curious, because in the prologue of your last book, "La Muerte Quiere" (Death Wants), the Chilean-American professor Sonia M. Martin compares you with both poets.

Yes, I was really surprised when I read that, because I'd never felt my poetry was similar to theirs... They are sublime!So I was very grateful to Professor Martin for her appreciation, which I received as a great recognition that I must honor.




The poems you wrote when you were a teenager have a depth that only comes after living for a long time.Where did you get that depth from?

From life, from a life that never showed me her brightest side.My childhood and my youth were a nightmare from which I still cannot wake up.




Why?

I've had a very hard life since I was a little girl; my mother gave us a lot of love but little joy, as contradictory as it may sound.By when I was 10, I was an old woman already.Writing poetry was a way of transmuting that pain.And if my poetry is as painful today as it was then, it's because my pain has been so loyal that, by life decree, it will not abandon me.




Do you write because your life is hard?

No. I believe my path had already been set.I simply write because poetry emerges, arises; I never stop to wonder why.




Were you not influenced by the 70's, when poets with a tragic life, suicidal poets, were deified?

No, not at all.I read Cortázar, and not only was he alive, but he was also far from being a "damned poet".And when I got in contact with the underground cultural movement I found that theirs was a hymn to life, not death.




It's striking that your poetry does not reflect your life at all.

It doesn't, my poetry is independent from my life - don't ask me why because I don't know.When I write I feel like a bridge between life and death.




Do you feel that poetry saved you from all that pain?

Yes, now I feel it saved me, and saves me, from pain, but I didn't use to feel like that.




Why did you move away from literary circles?

I abandoned them because I felt like those horses that are very well taken care of, but which are locked up, and I needed to come out to an open field.I felt I needed to be alone, and I looked for the company of other lonely poets, that is, not belonging to any literary group, like me.




Were you not affected by the fact that you lost your early "fame"?

Well, I've learned through the years that this is the hand I've been dealt.




Does it not bother you that publishers from your country don't publish your work?

No. I simply wait.I know there will come a day when Zephyrus will grant me the fleeting kiss of recognition.




Besides "waiting", are you knocking on any publishers' doors?

No.




Aren't you interested in publishing?

No. I believe in destiny, and I believe there will come a day when my poems will come to light in many places... I may not be there to see it, but I know it will happen.




Don't you mind not being there to see it?

No. Because I don't write to get joy or be recognized.I write because I can't stop doing it.I know my poetry is destined to be known, the "when" is irrelevant.




Don't you think destiny may need a little help sometimes?

No.




Is your recognition abroad a consolation for the indifference you get in Argentina?

The fact that my poetry has traveled across boundaries is something I take in, celebrate, and thank the gods for.




Do you live off your poetry?

No. I work since I was 14, because even though my mom worked more than 12 hours a day, the money she earned was not enough to pay the house rent and raise my two sisters and me.Making a living has always been a very hard task. I went from being a salesclerk to a civil servant, a secretary for a district attorney and a clinic, and finally a caregiver of terminally ill patients.I've never been able to live off poetry, but I'm only alive because I write.




Did you work and study at the same time?

No. I attended classes for one year and had to quit.Finishing high school was a personal goal I needed to achieve, and I felt really bad because society was very cruel, it alienated me, but at the age of 30, by studying at night and having two jobs, I graduated with honors.And the greatest honor was having graduated despite the fact that I got lupus and nearly died several times.




Is it still hard for you to "get your daily bread"?

(Laughs) Yes.I live very, very austerely.I retired before 40 because of my illness, and my pension is minimal.But I've got used to it.Lack of money does not prevent me from fully enjoying each day as if I were a millionaire.




What do you expect from life now?

I'm still watchful for the mandates of Thanatos, Gnomes, Sylphs, Anubis, Salamanders, Dryads, and Undines, who mark the path I tread.




Beatriz, thank you so much for this interview.I hope a great publisher discovers you soon, and you get all the recognition, and money, that you deserve.

Thank you very much, I hope so too.


Buenos Aires, December, 2010
Translation from Spanish by Luciana Valente

[1]"Pepita the Gunfighter", an affectionate nickname mothers would tell naughty daughters, in reference to the comic strip character Little Lulu.










BIOGRAPHY OF BEATRIZ IRIART

She was born in autumn (May 12,) in La Plata, Argentina.
She is a member of the “Latin American Writers Association of California and International Chapter on the Internet” (whose acronyms in Spanish are SELC and CII), California, USA. Prizes: S.A.D.E, S.E.P.

Books published:
Perspectives” (1977)
“Collage of Five” (1981)
“Strange Lineage”(1984)
Death wants” (2003)
Her literary work is published in English and Portuguese in several countries and in different anthologies in her native country and around the world.

She has studied pottery and art.
She took part in the Underground Movement in the 70’s, collaborating with the literary magazine “Machu Picchu”.


Nowadays, she publishes in digital magazines in the United States, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina, Alemania, among others.



The renowned Venezuelan composer Diana Arismendi wrote in 2015 the work "In memoriam" to commemorate the HOLOCAUST; the second movement of the work was inspired in the poem “Yo estuve en Auschwitz” (I was in Auschwitz) by poet Beatriz Iriart.The concert was organized by Espacio Anna Frank from Caracas with the participation of Venezuela's Symphony Orchestra directed by maestro Alfredo Rugeles.

POEMS IN VIDEO:



Blog:











POEMS ABOUT THE HOLOCAUST by Beatriz Iriart

  Poems and story dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust   





“Dear Beatriz,
Your texts are very touching and truly poetic about a subject which is not easy to write about.  And it is not only a Jewish pain but also a human tragedy.
Thanks for sharing those texts with me."

Warmly

Eliahu Toker

www.eliahutoker.com.ar







YEARNING
                              To the survivors of the Holocaust.
         

I’ve dreamt about you so much
These days
Of potage and bread    
I’ve dreamt about you so much
With the frost and the famine
With chains lacerating the ankles
With terror
settled in the shack
I’ve dreamt about you so much
FREEDOM.



© Beatriz Iriart







 I WAS IN AUSCHWITZ.

                        To the memory of Primo Levi
                       January 27th, 2006
                   

I was in Auschwitz.
I gave birth to children
Of bitterness, pain and horror
I walked barefoot
in the mud of a field with mown flowers
like the fresh seeds
of our flocks
And today after 61 years
Of the camp liberation
I’m a shadow
A woman without face
Desolation and hunger
I…
I Was in Auschwitz.



© Beatriz Iriart







THE SCULPTOR

       
                              To the memory of Anna Frank


To possess a spoon-knife
is to become an avid sculptor.
You shall locate
A piece of brass and let it rise
Not to waste
A drop of potage
And with the knife
We cut the bread
To trade it
For more useful things
Indeed, to possess a spoon-knife
These days
Is certainly an art.




© Beatriz Iriart










NUMBERS

                      
                        To the memory of Itsjok Katzenelson


Don’t ask, don’t wait for an answer
Before the “beasts” we are a thing
A burden
That is hated and justified.
The shack is cold
Like winter out there.
Only the memory of homeland
Is warm and good to snooze
With that ancient flavour.
There’s no way out
Of these fields
But you can wait a “selection”
To metamorphose into a bird
Or simply wait
A shot
At random.




© Beatriz Iriart






THE EXPOSITION


“Only work will set you free”
(Legend about the concentration camp on Auschwitz)


They got a ticket to the following station. The driver treated them kindly.
They  exchanged opinions, memories and a near future. They arrived. The melancholic notes enveloped the morning fog.
Soon, the tasks in the atelier would get started. The music was sliding smoothly. They undressed; the hygiene was the fundamental discipline for that face of art. The showers would help too.
They were accompanied until the vast exposition, before the immense collage where there were dreams, bones, illusions, fears, but no faces.



 © Beatriz Iriart







POLAND


The "Wolf" promulgates
“To design" meticulously
the Treblinka camp
and the Stangl Nazi answers.
Countless souls
Lie at the end of the “deliveries”
The curtain fell.
The work is not the same
But the atavism is still valid
at other times
other areas
other stigmatas
other essences ...
which throughout the centuries are
the enduring panacea of Simon:
"I will never forget you".



© Beatriz Iriart









THE NIGHT OF BROKEN GLASS



They dreamt that life was flowing.
They woke up surrounded by pogroms
Frost, glass, barbed fences
and torment.
Their names already swelled
the list of stiff beings.




Translation from Spanish by D.H








OTHERS POEMS










REAP FRUIT


I give to you
My true sunflowers
You give me
A song
With your killing hands
Both of us create
The cruel and devastating melody
Of a premature exile.



© Beatriz Iriart






THE ORCHARD

To Raul Zeleniuk's memory

At the orchard
Have bloomed seven
Of your "incipient ladies of the night"
Seven were their screams
Seven are the memories
Seven your deaths
And your "incipient ladies of the night"
Bring seven lives
When the sun goes down,
And I
Await.



© Beatriz Iriart






INSOMNIA


I am a wandering nightmare
An aborted dream
A day break blues
A foreseen mourning
On the frozen nights of
The incoming Autumn


© Beatriz Iriart






I WAS IN AUSCHWITZ

To the memory of Primo Levi
January 27th, 2006

I was in Auschwitz.
From bitterness
Pain and terror
I bore children
Barefoot I walked through mud
And harvested flowers fields
Just like the fresh seeds
Of our flocks.
Today 61 years after
The camp liberation:
I am a shadow
A faceless woman
Desolation and hunger.
I...
Was in Auschwitz. 



Translation from Spanish by Olga Y. Mancinelli