Poetry. Latinx Studies. Translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin. If life is no more than a prolonged flirtation with death, then Hilda Hilst's OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES is the true account of a lifelong seduction. It is at once both a reverie and reliquary, as the poet imagines and reimagines that most paradoxical moment of disintegration--the corporeal flesh fusing with death's own dark corpus. With a visceral-mystical poetic voice that is as teasingly unrestrained as it is intellectually sublime, Hilst's odes enact a baroque danse macabre, where the poet revels in the incongruities of simultaneously seeking the sacred and profane. Translating the first collection of Hilda Hilst's significant body of poetry to appear in English, Laura Cescarco Eglin renders the imagery and philosophical complexity of these minimal odes with brio, while preserving the playful tone and lush melodies that mark OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES as uniquely Hilstian.
"The spare but ornate poems in this collection are startling the way a menagerie of creatures can be startling when the creatures themselves are composed of animal bits: claw, fur, 'brain and hooves / in the pitch dark.' Each minimal ode addresses death who becomes at times a lover, a sister, a slow-moving and wild mammal ever arriving. Hilst builds 'passageways' for death with each line--corridors which are 'Intricate. In knots.' The reader cannot help but join the poet in calling out the various names for death: 'Amber / Bundle of flutes / Gutter / Light.' And these are rendered stunningly in English by Laura Cesarco Eglin, who carries over every verse with clarity and care as though she were holding up pieces of glass to sunlight."--Carolina Ebeid
"Before gaining notoriety for her highly original, experimental, and provocative works of fiction, Hilda Hilst engraved her name in Brazilian literary circles as a poet. OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES, newly and assuredly translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin, shows Hilst the poet at her distilled best. As much a multimedia conversation with poetry as with life, death, and herself, Hilst poses essential questions whose answers lie at the core of these poems."--John Keene
"In OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES by Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst, death and poetry are lifelong bedfellows. In fact, they engage in a natural partnership, or, to borrow from the poet herself, a sisterhood-in-dialogue that is at once serious and seductive, playful, perilous, and habitual. Hilst's creative wordplays and tonal spectrum, by contrast, are extraordinary, and Laura Cesarco Eglin's translation matches her inventiveness with equal illumination. Hilst's verses affirm the common ground that exists between life and death, and carry with them a vibrant, volatile charge that accompanies this complicit union."--Marguerite Itamar Harrison, Associate Professor of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies, Smith College
"The poetry of Hilda Hilst is fundamental--in every sense. Thanks to Laura Cesarco Eglin, who has accepted the challenge of translating these verses brimming with sensuality and music, a little more of Hilst's work is made known to the world. I welcome this partnership."--Adriana Lisboa
About the Author
The Brazilian poet, playwright, fiction writer, and essayist, Hilda Hilst was born in 1930 and died in 2004. She is the author of forty books, including OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES (co-im-press, 2018) and FLUXO- FLOEMA (2018), LETTERS FROM A SEDUCER (2014), and THE OBSCENE MADAME D (2012) from Nightboat Books. Literary critics consider her to be one of the most important and controversial twentieth-century writers in the Portuguese language. She has been awarded many literary prizes. She graduated from USP (University of São Paulo) with a degree in Law. In her thirties, Hilst decided to leave the city of São Paulo in order to keep away from social life and concentrate on literature. She went to Campinas and lived in her house Casa do Sol until her death. Because of her strong personality, beauty, intelligence, and her eccentricities, and because Hilst consistently questioned and went against norms and traditions, the myth surrounding Hilst's image has often overshadowed the importance of her work and the critical analysis of her oeuvre. With the republication of her work by Editora Globo, organized by Alcir Pécora in the early 2000s, Hilst's work has started gaining more readers in Brazil. She was the author honored in the sixteenth FLIP (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty) in 2018.
Laura Cesarco Eglin is a poet and translator. She is the author of three collections of poetry, CALLING WATER BY ITS NAME, translated by Scott Spanbauer (Mouthfeel Press, 2016), Sastrería (Yaugurú, 2011), and Los brazos del saguaro (Yaugurú, 2015). She is also the author of two chapbooks, Occasions to Call Miracles Appropriate (The Lune, 2015) and Tailor Shop: Threads (Finishing Line Press, 2013), translated collaboratively into English with Teresa Williams. Her poems, as well as her translations (from the Spanish, Portuguese, Portuñol, and Galician), have appeared or are forthcoming in a variety of journals, including Modern Poetry in Translation, Eleven Eleven, Cordella Magazine, Copper Nickel, SRPR (Spoon River Poetry Review), Arsenic Lobster, International Poetry Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, Blood Orange Review, Timber, Pretty Owl Poetry, Pilgrimage, Periódico de Poesía, and more. Her poems are also featured in the Uruguayan women's section of Palabras Errantes, Plusamérica: Latin American Literature in Translation. She is the founding coeditor and publisher of Veliz Books.