July 24, 2011

Roberto Juarroz

Roberto Juarroz [Argentina]

Born in Coronel Dorrego, Buenos Aires on October 5, 1925, Roberto Juaroz graduated from the Faculty of Arts at the University of Buenos Aires. He later studied at the Sorbonne, becoming a professor, becoming the director of the Department of Library Sciences, where he worked for thirty years. He also served as the librarian for OAS for various countries.

From 1958-1965 he headed the magazine Poetry=Poetry and committed to numerous publications in Argentina and abroad.

1958 saw the publication of Juarroz's book, Poesía Vertical (Vertical Poetry) of which he eventually published 15 volumes, the last edited by his wife, the poet and critic Laura Cerrato, and published posthumously in 1997.

As translator Mary Crow has noted:

In Juarroz's body of work, there are no phases of development or
periods of experimentation with various styles and techniques. His
poetry, from his first book, First Vertical Poetry, published in 1958,
to his most recent, Eleventh Vertical Poetry, published in 1988 [Crow
wrote his in 1992], employs the same style and the same form, the
themes continuing from book to book where they are looked at by
the poet/speaker, described, turned over and re-examined, re-
exmined, looked at again, re-described in the relentless interplay of
Juarroz's attempt to fix the mobility of life and ideas.

While there is perhaps no equivalent to Juarroz's body of work in English, critics point to an Argentine tradition beginning with Antonio Porchia (1886-1969), who published his books under only one title, Voces (Voices), and the poet Aldo Pellegrini (1903-1973). The tradition has continued with Guillermo Boido.

Octavio Paz has said of Juarroz: "Each poem of Roberto Juarroz is a surprising verbal crystalization: language reduced to a drop of light."

Juarroz also published several critical books, including Poetry, Literature, and Hermeneutics: Conversations [with Teresita Saguí] and Poesía realidad (Poetry and Reality, 1987).
Juarroz died in Temperley, Argentina in 1995.


Juarroz's Poesía Vertical was published by various Spanish-language presses in Argentina and elsewhere in 1958, 1963, 1965, 1969, 1974, 1976, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1988, 1997


Vertical Poetry, trans. by W. S. Merwin (Kayak Books, 1977); Vertical Poetry [enlarged ed.], trans. by W. S. Merwin (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1988); Vertical Poetry: Recent Poems, ed. and trans. by Mary Crow (Fredonia, New York, 1992); Vertical Poetry: Last Poems, ed. and trans. by Mary Crow (Fredonia, New York, 2011)

For reading of a poem of Juarroz's in Spanish (read by another reader), click here:

Tenth. 3

In every world
there are floating images,
vagabond icons
whose destiny is to float adrift,
figures disquieting to fixed beings
and to everything tied-down.

But there are also worlds
made only of images,
without anchorage or ports,
entirely nomadic,
rootless glimmerings,
fleeting flashes.

Every image tends to stretch out spontaneously,
discard its source
and stand on its own.
And those worlds of floating images
also try to do without the others
in search of a freer space.

Because beyond the weight of bodies,
only images are free.
Therefore man ought
to turn into image.
Or let his image drift freely
and learn to exist with no image.

—Translated from the Spanish by Mary Crow

(from Tenth Vertical Poetry, 1985)

Eleventh. I. 13

The craziness of the world must be changed.
To begin this work,
we could, for example,
take all the proper nouns
and write them again with lower case letters,
beginning with the one you love
of the biggest absence,
without overlooking
the proper noun for death.

By making names progressively smaller,
we will be gradually recovering the emptiness they contain
and perhaps we can find an extra,
the proper name of nothingness.

And to name nothingness
could be precisely
the foundation we lack:
the foundation of a craziness
we won't need to change.

—Translated from the Spanish by Mary Crow

(from Eleventh Vertical Poetry, 1988)

English language translations copyright ©1992 by Mary Crow.

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