My interest in the Argentine vanguardist poet Oliverio Girondo began after coming across a few months ago - quite by chance - a brilliant film entitled El lado oscuro del corazón (The dark side of the heart), which was Argentina's official entry in the Oscar category for best Foreign Film in 1992.
In the film we see the young protagonist - Oliverio - attempting to live his life in late 20th century Buenos Aires according to his own absurdist manifesto.
He refuses to get a job because, he says, his true vocation is that of a poet. When economic necessity compels him, he goes into the streets reciting poetry (of Girondo, Gelman and Benedetti) to random passers-by in return for money:
He also embarks on an impossible quest to find the ideal woman - but they all ultimately disappoint him since they lack what for Oliverio is the absolutely essential quality, the ability to fly.
In 1932 the original Oliverio (Girondo) rented a funeral coach and horses, and, accompanied by footmen dressed all in black and a giant papier-maché scarecrow, drove through the streets of Buenos Aires selling copies of his new volume of prose poems, Espantapájaros (Scarecrow).
In these poems Girondo reveals the revolutionary yet irreverent aesthetic which led fellow ultraísta Jorge Luis Borges to dub him "the Peter Pan of Argentine literature".
Below is my attempt at a translation of one of these poems:
Some people enjoy mountaineering. Others are entertained by dominoes. I am enchanted by transmigration. While they spend life hanging by a rope or throwing punches over a table, I spend it transmigrating from one body to another, I never get tired of transmigration. Beginning at dawn I install myself in a eucalyptus in order to inhale the morning breeze. I sleep a mineral siesta within the first stone that I find in the road, and before nightfall I am already thinking of night and chimneys with the spirit of a cat. What a delight to metamorphasise into a bumblebee, to lick the pollen of the roses! What voluptuousness to be earth, to feel oneself penetrated by tubers and roots, by a latent life that fertilizes us... and tickles us! In order to appreciate ham is is not indispensable to be a pig? Whoever does not manage to transform themselves into a horse, will they taste the pleasure of the valleys and be aware of what "to pull the cart" means? To posses a virgin is very different to experiencing the sensations of the virgin while she is being possessed, and it is one thing to look at the sea from the beach but another to contemplate it with the eyes of a crayfish. Because of this I enjoy entering into alien lives, living all their secretions, all their hopes, their good and bad moods. Because of this I enjoy grazing the pampa and the twilight personified in a cow, to feel gravity and branches with the mind of a walnut or chestnut, to kneel down in the middle of the countryside in order to sing to the stars with a voice of sap. Ah, the enchantment of having been a camel, carrot, apple, and the satisfaction of understanding, in depth, the laziness of the pool...and of the chameleons!...To think that during all your existence, the majority of men have never even been women! How is it possible that they do not get bored of their appetites, of their spasms and that they do not need to experiment, from time to time, those of the cockroach... those of the honeysuckle? Although I have placed myself many times in the mind of an imbecile, never have I understood that one might live eternally with the same skeleton and the same sexual organ. When life is all too human - only human! - will not the mechanism of thought result in a sickness far longer and more dreary than any other? I, at least, am certain that I would not have been able to endure it without this ability to escape, which permits me to move to where I am not: to be an ant, giraffe, lay an egg, and what is more important still, to find myself in the same moment that I have forgotten, almost completely, my own existence.