December 1, 2008

Oliverio Girondo

Oliverio Girondo [Argentina]

Born of a wealthy family in Buenos Aires in 1891, Oliverio Girondo spent his early years in Argentina and Europe, traveling to the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1900, when he was only nine, and where he later claimed to have seen Oscar Wilde stalking the streets with sunflower in hand. After spending some time at the Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris and Epsom school in England, he made an agreement with his family to attend law school in Buenos Aires if they would send him each year to Europe for the holidays. For the next several years, Girondo explored the continent, even travelling to find the source of the Nile.

Meanwhile, back at home he had begun writing avant-garde plays, which caused a stir in the theater world of Argentina. In 1922 he published, in France, his first volume and verse, 20 Poems to Be Read in a Trolley Car, which shows the influence the Appolinaire and the Parisian scene. Only in 1925, with the second printing of this book, did Girondo receive attention in Argentina. By this time, the ultraists, lead by Jorge Luis Borges, had become a major force the scene, and Girondo continued his own humorous exploration of the aesthectic in his second volume, Decals. In the same period he became involved with the avant-garde journal Martin Fierro, which brought together younger poets such as Girondo and Borges with more established figures such as Ricardo Güiraldes and Macedonion Fernández.

After a five year period of traveling again, Girondo returned to Buenos Aires, publishing two of his major works, Scarecrow (1932) and Intermoonlude (1937). A new book, Our Countryside, appeared in 1946, the same year he married the poet Nora Lange. In this new work he moved away from the ultraist ideas, playing with elaborate metaphoric language. As Borges moved toward his more fantasist works, and a new generation of poets arose, Girondo was increasingly described as a humorous or even frivolous poet, but his 1956 work, Moremarrow stood as a darker summation of his career, a work that bears comparison with the great Chilean writer Vicente Huidobro's Altazor. However, many readers feel that Girondo went further in his linguistic explorations. During that same period Girondo revived the journal Contemporánea.

In 1964 Girondo was hit by a car, and for the several years suffered terrible pain before dying of those injuries in 1967. His last works were gathered by the surrealist poet Enrique Molina.


Viente poemas para ser leídos en el travía (Argenteuil, France: C. H. Barthélemy, 1922); Calcomanías (Madrid: Editorial Calpe, 1925); Espantapájaros (Al alcance de todos) (Buenos Aires: Editorial Proa, 1932); Interlunio (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sur, 1937); Persuasión de los días (Buenos Aires: Editorial Losada, 1942); Campo nuestro (Buenos Aires: Editorial Sudamericana, 1946); En la masmédula (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1954, 1956, 1963); Obras completas (Buenos Aires: Losada, 1968); Obra completa (Madrid: Galaxia Gutenberg, 1999).


Scarecrow and Other Anomalies, trans. by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert (Riverside, California: Xenos Books, 2002).


I don't have a personality: I am a cocktail, a conglomerate, a riot of personalities. In me, personality is a species of inimical furunculosis in a chronic state of eruption; not a half hour can pass without my sprouting a new personality.

Whenever I think I am alone, the assembled host surrounds me, and my house looks like the consulting room of a fashionable astrologer. There are personalities everywhere: in the reception room, in the halls, in the kitche, even in the W.C....

It's impossible to strike a truce, or find a moment's rest! It's impossibel to know which one is the real me!

Although I see myself forced to live in the most abject promiscuity with them, I am not convinced that they have anything to do with me.

What connection can they possibly have — I ask myself — all these univited, unconfessed personalities, so bloddthirsty they could make a butcher blush with embarrassment? How can I allow myself to identify, for example, with this shrivelled-up pederast who didn't even have the courage to act it out, or with this cretinoid whose smile could freeze a speeding locomotive?

The fact that they inhabit my body is enough, however, to make me sick with indignation. Since I cannot ignore their existence, I want to make them hide in the inmost convolutions of my brain. For they have to do with a certain petulance...a certain selfishness...a certain absence of tact....

Even the most insignificant personalities arrogate to themselves certain cosmopolitan airs. All of them, without exception, consider themselves entitled to display an Olympian disdain for the others, and naturally there are quarrels of all sorts, inerminable disputes and disagreements. You'd think they might have some grounds for compromised, adopt some means of living together, but no, sir, each one claims the right to impose its will, without taking into account the opinions and tastes of the others. If one of them cracks a jake that makes me break out laughting, during the act another comes out to propose a little stroll through the cemetery. Nor is it good that the former wants me to go to bed with every woman in the city, while the latter attempts to show me the advantages of abstinence; and while one takes advantage of the night and does not let me sleep until down, the other wakes me at daybreak and insists that I get up with the chickens.

My life thus becomes a breeding of possibilities that are never realized, an explosion of opposing forces that confluct and collide in the process of mututal destruction. The attempt to make the least decision causes me such a mass of difficulties, before undertaking the most insignificant act I must put such personalities in accord, so that, frankly, I prefer to give up everything and wait from them to get tired of arguing over what they have to do with my person, in order to have, al least, the satisfaction of consigning one and all to the shitcan.

—Translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilert


They admire, they desire, they gravitate
they caress, they undress, they osculate
they pant, they sniff, they penetrate
they weld, they meld, they conjugate
they sleep, they wake, they illuminate
they covet, they touch, they fascinate
they chew, they taste, they salivate
they tangle, they twine, they segretage
they languish, they lapse, they reintegrate
they wriggle, they squirm, they infundibulate
they fumble, they fondle, they perficate
they swoon, they twitch, they resuscitate
they sulk, they pout, they contemplate
they ignite, they inflame, they incinerate
they erupt, they explode, they detonate
they nab, they grab, they dislocate
they clinch, they clutch, they concatenate
they solder, they dissolve, they calcinate
they paw, they claw, they assassinate
they choke, they shudder, they federate
they repose, they loll, the oscitate
they splace, they smolder, they colligate
they abate, they alate and they transubstantiate.

—Translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert


Weep living tears! Weep gushers! Weep your guts out! Weep dreams! Weep before portals and at ports of entry! Weep in fellowship! Weep in yellow!

Open the locks and calas of tears! Let us soak our shirts, our souls! Inundate the sidwalks and the boulevards, and bear us along safely on the flood!

Assist in anthropology courses, weeping! Celebrate realtives' birthdays, weeping! Walk across AFrica, weeping!

Weep like a caiman, like a crocodile...especially if it's true that caimans and crocodiles have no real tears in them.

Weep anything, but weep well! Weep with your nose, with your knees! Weep through your navel, through your mouth!

Weep of love, of hate, of happiness! Weep in your frock, from flatus, from frailty! WEep impromptu, weep from memory! Weep throughout the insomniac night and throughout the livelong day!

—Translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert


May noises bore into your teeth like a dentist's drill, and may memory fill you with rust, broken words and the stench of decay.

May a spider's foot sprout from each of your pores, may you find nourishment only in packs of worn cards and may sleep reduce you, like a steam roller, to the thickness of your photograph.

When you step into the street, may even the lampposts dog your heels, may an irresitible fanaticism oblige you to prostrate yourself before every garbage pail and may all the inhabitants of the city mistake you for a urinal.

When you want to say "My love," may you say "fried fish": may your own hands try to strangle you at every turn, and every time you go to flick away cigarette, mayit be you who is hurled into the spittoon.

May your wife deceive you even with the mailboxes; when she snuggles next to you, may she metamorphose intoa blood-sucking leech and, after giving birth to a crow, may she bring forth a monkey wrench.

May your family amuse itself deforming your bone structure, so that mirrors, looking at you, commit suicide out of sheer repugnance; may your only enterainment consist of installing yoursle fin the waiting rooms of dentists, disguised as a crocodile, and may you fall so passionately in love with a toolbox that you can't desist, even for an instant, from licking its clasp.

—Translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert

(from Espantapájaros (Al alcance de todos), 1932)

Invitation to Vomit

Cover your face
and cry.
thick slivers of glass,
bitter straight pins,
worm-eaten words,
stifled shrieks of fright;
puke on this pus-flood of innocence overflowing its banks,
this slime of sickening iniquity sloshing from its trench,
and this fetid, denatured submissiveness brewed
from a flatulent broth of terror and starvation.

Cover your face
and cry...
but don't hold back.
retch in the face of this macabre paranoiac stupidity,
heave all over this delirious stentorian cretinism,
and this senile orgy of prostatic egotism:
foul coagulations of dried-up disgust,
pulped bulks of impotence already drowned
in a rancid gravy of boredom,
rotten chunks of soured hope...
hours split open by neighings of anguish.

─Translated from the Spanish by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert

(from Persuasión de los días, 1942)

The Pure No

The no
the novarian no
the cease aryan no
the nooo
the post-mucosmos of animalevolent zero no's that no no no
and nooo
and monoplurally no to the morbid amorpus nooo
nodious no
no deus
no sense no sex no way
the stiff no bones about it nooo in the unisolo amodule
no pores no nodule
nor me nor man nor mal
the no no macros dirt
the no greater than all no things
the pure no
the no bull

─Translated from the Spanish by Eliot Weinberger

(from En la masmédula, 1954)

Sodium Pentothal So What

So what's not gloomy about the lay
the harmony so what the strain
they had possessed
the head-on gasping grasping sub-sucking smacks
the skinquakes
the piritual scuba
the honeycomb-come so what
coming so what to the finish line
relapsing lapping weighed down so what what larva the tedious
tongue-twisting in poisonous cubes
so many others others
thirst so what
the dizzy nexus
the taste of so what nakedness
the stubborn stillborn helliday with the kids
the exnubile pros
giving yourself to give to what
the endless accompaniments
the undressed wounds
the pounding impounding
the warping warp in the daily Sing Sing of the blood
the ideonecrococci with their ancestors of dirt
to be so what
or not to be so what
tough luck
the slow summing shrinking
the veneral Avernos
the fish in the nau-sea for what
whosoever so what's whoever
s many sowhats

so what

so what

so what

and yet

─Translated from the Spanish by Eliot Weinberger

(from En la masmédula, 1954)


[I know nothing], [8], [12], [18], and [21] from Scarecrow and "Invitation to Vomit,"
reprinted from Scarecrow and Other Anomalies, trans. by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert (Riverside, California: Xenos Books, 2002). Reprinted by permission of Xenos Books and the translator.

from "The Pure No" and "Sodium Pentothol So What,"
Reprinted from The Borzoi Anthology of Latin American Literature, Vol. II, edited by Emir Rodriguez Monegral (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977), pp. 623-624. Oliverio Girondo trans. by Eliot Weinberger. Reprinted by permission of Eliot Weinberger.