Poems, (PDF)

Introduction and translation, Molly Weigel

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1891, Oliverio Girondo studied and traveled widely in Europe as a young man, serving as a European correspondent for Argentine literary magazines and establishing close friendships with writers and artists who introduced him to surrealism and other vanguard movements.  Among Girondo’s circle of friends and influences throughout his life were Blaise Cendrars, Salvador Dalí, Macedonio Fernández, and Federico García Lorca, as well as Rafael Alberti and Pablo Neruda, both of whom dedicated poems to him.  Author of seven volumes of poetry, Girondo published his first book, Veinte poemas para ser leídos en un tranvía, in 1922. He belonged to the Argentine ultraist vanguard, which also included Jorge Luis Borges, and returned to Argentina in 1924 to cofound the Ultraist magazine Martín Fierro, for which he wrote the manifesto.  It exalted vitality and faith in self and in Latin American intellectual values.  Ultraism started to dissolve in 1927; Espantapájaros (1932) begins with a questioning of the referential function of language and a declaration of nihilism, elements that would continue in his work and culminate in En la masmédula (1956).  In the 1940s and 50s, the home of Girondo and his wife, writer Norah Lange, served as a meeting place for the younger literary generation, including Francisco Madariaga, Enrique Molina, and Olga Orozco.  Girondo died in Buenos Aires in 1967. 

These poems are from En la masmédula (In the Moremarrow), which culminates Girondo’s career of poetic engagement with the vanguard; his lifelong rejection of academic authority and search for new forms of poetic articulation find their last and best expression here. With this last volume, according to Trinidad Barrera, Girondo puts a period to the Latin American modernism begun in the 1920s, of which he was a central figure, and provides a model and a jumping off point for contemporary Latin American poetry’s concern with the nature of referentiality. Girondo’s work and especially In the Moremarrow is an inspiration to many contemporary Latin American poets, including Jorge Santiago Perednik and Néstor Perlongher, among others.  Like Vallejo’s Trilce and Huidobro’s Altazor, with which it is frequently compared, In the Moremarrow forges from the Spanish language a new poetic language with its own psychic vocabulary and syntax, constituting a journey into the uncharted space of whatever “more” the marrow of language may or may not hold.  The poems persistently struggle with a basic human dissatisfaction with language and other forms of human communication and with the question of whether there is anything beyond or even whether the beyond is to be found within the limitation itself.  With seemingly unlimited combinatory properties and multivalence, Girondo’s language, or “pure impure mix” (“La mezcla/The Mix,” En la masmédula/In the Moremarrow), communicates desire and disgust, moves fluidly between ironic distance and unguarded sadness or wonder at the limits and possibilities of signification.  According to Argentine poet and critic Enrique Molina, each line of En la masmédula (In the Moremarrow) is “a verbal galaxy,” an alchemy of the word in which “the language is rushing into a state of eruption.”

Recent Then

If the setting

the subslurping

the barter bang burrow

the bitterly begotten

the spawning

to the gills

if the herniated egohollow

the co-gutspilling to zero

the catalogues of disgust

the abeliefs

the finite family were less able

if they were exincapable barely of the vital scrapings

the bellyful in chains

the pallid postmasticated

if the final sinister swallow of light, fog of affliction weren’t so forecapable


the greenseeing

the seeing everything perhaps in free flutter the being

the pure being without leaves already without either coasts or wild waves or against

only its sphere only



                                                                                recent then

The One Odd No.

The one           total less

plenicorrupt odd no. no sooner coddled by the zero

that in time gone crazy returns with its sexual succubi multitudes and its fauna

            of forgetting

The one           subsoul

although unburied intact beneath its multicrypts with beyondbottoms of arcades,


that feeds its own echoes of great expert in nothing

as it grows into the abyss

The one and only                    in one

four-footed animal of chance that goes out for air before nightfall dogging its wretched


and sunflower litmus licked by innumerable putrescences interulcerates the darkness of

            its own I whole one

                                                                                crucipending only from itself