Biography and History

Alejandra Pizarnik, also known as Flora Alejandra, was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents on April 29, 1936, in Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, Argentina. When she was 20, a year after entering the department of philosophy and letters at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, Pizarnik published her first book of poetry, La tierra más ajena (1955). Soon after, she left the university to study painting with Juan Batlle Planas. This graphic arts experience influenced Pizarnik's poetry; she was conscientious of the layout of words on the page almost like a drawing.1 Pizarnik followed her debut work with two more volumes of poems, La última inocencia (1956) and Las adventuras perdidas (1958).

From 1960 to 1964 Pizarnik lived a frugal but happy and productive existence in Paris. There she worked for the journal Cuadernos, sat on the editorial board of the magazine Les Lettres Nouvelles, and participated in the thriving Parisian literary world, meeting or befriending prominent French and Latin American writers. Pizarnik also attended a variety of courses at the Sorbonne, including contemporary French literature. The freedom and inspiration of Paris encouraged Pizarnik's own literary production. During this time she wrote Arból de Diana (1962, with a prologue by Octavio Paz), as well as published other poems in French and Latin American journals. Upon her return to Buenos Aires, Pizarnik published Los trabajos y las noches (1965), which primarily consisted of poems composed in Paris. This work went on to win both the Primer Premio Municipalidad de Buenos Aires and the Fondo Nacional de las Artes. On the merits of her writing, Pizarnik would later receive a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1969 and a Fulbright in 1971.

Extracción de la piedra de locura (1968, containing writing from 1962 to 1966) and El infierno musical (1971) have a different tone than her earlier poetry; they are primarily characterized by darkness and madness, two recurring themes in both Pizarnik's writing and life. La condesa sangrienta (1965), a work of prose loosely based on historic fact, takes these themes one step further. In this text and other writings from this period, Pizarnik explores her fascination with sadism, obscenity, and the grotesque. Other themes in Pizarnik's poetry include depression, alienation, and the difficulty of communication. These motifs combine to produce poems full of internal torment and near-palpable pain. Not surprisingly, she nurtured an obsession with suicide which would later become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

On September 25, 1972, Pizarnik died of an overdose of Seconal while at home for the weekend from a psychiatric clinic. Julio Cortázar, Olga Orozco, and others paid homage to the thirty-six year old with poems written in her honor. Even posthumously, Pizarnik's poetic voice continued to be heard through the release of collections of her previously unpublished writings.

Source: From the finding aid for C0395