Floating between memoir and philosophical inquiry, Mariella Nigro’s Memory Rewritten explores the ongoing impact of a childhood trauma and the power of poetry to come to terms with loss, even finding beauty in it. "Sister souls of mine, never look back!" admonished Uruguayan modernist poet Delmira Agustini (1886-1914) in an elegy that reminds us of the fate of the biblical Lot’s wife as well as the ill-fated Orpheus. But sometimes, looking back is necessary – particularly when it is a sister who has been lost. Uruguayan poet Mariella Nigro’s Memory Rewritten is a meditation on the insufficiency of language to provide a container for human emotion and memory– and yet the reality that it is the only means we have. "I’m writing an elegy / and so I’m arranging a dark bouquet of useless words /with their eloquence of broken petals / and burning in the rhetoric of embroidered leaves / the poem grows in black water / of the fragile overflowing vase," Nigro states. The ghost of a beloved sister dead in childhood haunts these poems, as does the need for repetition, the compulsion to return to the sites of loss and pain.
However, rather than merely repeating memories, Nigro elegantly transforms them, salvaging beauty from the wreckage: “In a box I locked like Eleusian mysteries the poems we’d shared the previous year under the January moon, along with the colored ribbons and glass beads that we’d fought over, now mine alone.” In a poetics reminiscent of Helene Cixous’s ecriture feminine, Nigro transforms the visceral, bodily experiences of loss and brings the reader along with her on a journey where grief does not proceed in any orderly stages, where pain and healing coexist within the mess of language, and out of them emerges a poem.
Mariella Nigro (Montevideo, Uruguay, 1957) is a lawyer, poet and essayist. She who has published eight books of poetry and two of literary essays including: Impresionante Frida. Poemario al óleo (Biblioteca de Marcha, Montevideo, 1997), Mujer en construcción (Vintén, Montevideo, 2000), Umbral del cuerpo (La Gotera, Colección Hermes Criollo, Montevideo, 2003), El río vertical (Artefato, Montevideo, 2005), El tiempo circular (Yaugurú, Montevideo, 2009), Después del nombre (Estuario, Montevideo, 2011), Orden del caos (Vitruvio, Madrid, 2016), and Frida y México. De visiones y miradas (Yaugurú, Montevideo, 2017). In 2011, she received the 2011 Bartolomé Hidalgo Poetry Prize and in 2013 Morosoli Prize, awarded by the Lolita Rubial Foundation, both honoring her complete poetic work.
Jeannine Marie Pitas is a teacher, writer and Spanish-English translator originally from Buffalo, NY. She has translated or co-translated nine previous books of poetry, most recently A Sea at Dawn by Silvia Guerra (also co-translated with Jesse Lee Kercheval and published by Eulalia Books. She is Spanish Translator editor for Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry, and she teaches at Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, PA.
Jesse Lee Kercheval is a poet, writer, and translator, specializing in Uruguayan poetry. Her translations include Still Life with Defeats by Tatiana Oroño, also published by White Pine Press, Love Poems by Idea Vilariño and The Invisible Bridge: Selected Poems of Circe Maia. She is the co-translator, with Jeannine Marie Pitas, of A Sea at Dawn by Silvia Guerra. She is the Zona Gale Professor Emerita of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the coeditor of the Wisconsin Poetry Series at the University of Wisconsin Press.