An important influence on Jorge Luis Borges and others, Oliverio Girondo was at the center of Argentine poetry in the twentieth century. His first two books demonstrate his cosmopolitan wanderlust and avant-garde aesthetics. Twenty Poems to Be Read on the Streetcar crisscrosses Europe and the Americas on trams, express trains, and ocean liners. Decalcomania takes the reader on a tour of Spain that cleverly deflates its romantic appeal, but reinvigorates it with a glamour found in Girondo’s intensive wordplay and idiosyncratic flare for metaphor. Rachel Galvin and Harris Feinsod join Silvia Oviedo López to discuss their translation of Decals: Complete Early Poems by Oliverio Girondo.
“Girondo’s poetry is a song to the transgressive imagination, an assault on routine. . . . Unlike other experimental artists, his gestures usually transcended mere provocation. His work not only paved the way for a rigorous vanguardia, with a profound theoretical basis, but it also took up the quotidian as a field of action, enriching it with an absurd humor that ties it to a Hispanic tradition that stretches from Quevedo and Gracián to Ramón Gómez de la Serna, Julio Cortázar, or Augusto Monterroso. Both shores of the language, with their intense cultural differences, are present (and both are parodied) in these poems that are something like scenes of self-criticism.” —Andrés Neuman
“Girondo’s effectiveness undeniably frightens me. I came to his work from the suburbs of my own verse, from that long line of mine where there are sunsets and little lanes and a blurry girl who looks clear next to a sky-blue balustrade. I saw him as so skillful, so apt at hopping off a streetcar in full stride, being reborn safe and sound amid the menace of car horns and stepping away from the passing crowd, that I felt provincial next to him. . . . Girondo is a violent one. He looks on things at length and suddenly gives them a smack.” —Jorge Luis Borges