As a little girl, Beatriz started to write poems with the same talent—also known as genius—with which she writes today. Her theme was the same: Death.When she had barely come out of adolescence, she started to publish and receive awards and honorable mentions in her country - Argentina - and abroad. She soon became a rising star dazzling everyone around her. Her talent, combined with her beauty, brought the powerful literary circles to her feet. Beatriz was on the road to become a famous poet and (having worked since she was 14 to help her mother) to be able to live off her poetry.
But major publishers were still reluctant when a strange disease put her at death's door:lupus. Beatriz received the extreme unction, and when everyone was expecting the poet's death, the poet revived. No one knows what was said at that face-to-face encounter with death, but the poet moved away from literary circles forever, and she stopped publishing and participating in contests, though she never stopped writing.
The rising star became a lonely warrior. She spent many years fighting against lupus, working in dreadful places, suffering from the lack of money that would not allow her to get better treatment, and living in rented apartments and, mostly, dark hostel rooms. She went through many universities - Law, Arts, Philosophy, Psychology - learning what she wanted in each of them and not staying in any. Disease was always by her side depriving her of almost everything, from hair to sight, from the possibility of having children to the ability to walk, from being under the sun (a mortal enemy) to eating what she wanted, but she never gave up. And she always gave love a chance, even though it caused her the same problems money did: when she thought it was genuine, it turned out to be fake. Nonetheless, Beatriz loved and was loved. She lived intensely in the midst of war to save her life, which was her daily endeavor.
After a decade, Beatriz won the fight against lupus and got cured from a disease that is considered chronic. Beatriz won and remained unbroken, without any traces or damages from her disease, perhaps because this had not been her first battle or her first encounter with death. Death had been her companion since adolescence, when she used to be her permanent guest, her loving shadow, which would not abandon her no matter how many times the poet stood her up. Death tried to drag her when she was 15, when she was 16, when she was 18… Death.
And the poet kept writing with such genius that when she decided to publish once again some years ago, in Europe and the USA they compared her to Sylvia Plath, Goethe, Alejandra Pizarnik, Novalis.
Her native country ignores her, and she does not care - she keeps staying away from literary circles.
Let's hope Beatriz Iriart does not suffer the same fate as Alejandra Pizarnik, who had to endure the indifference of major publishers and work her heart out to survive. Once dead, Alejandra became a big publishing success—she pays great dividends.
Let's hope publishers do not do the same to Beatriz Iriart because they will end up losing: the poet expects to live for at least 200 years. Publishing, of course.
When you leave
cypresses shall not weep
over your grave
for there will be no grave
This year you changed your surname - you no longer bear the López Osornio name by which you used to be known, and have adopted "Iriart" instead. Why was that?
It's a late homage to my mom, thanks to whom I was introduced into the world of art and culture, taken by the hand as if it were a game, when I was just beginning to walk.
When did you begin to write?
In primary school. My writing assignments always received congratulations and awards from my teachers and the school. I wrote my first poem when I was about 10 years old and my mom told me I behaved as badly as "Pepita La Pistolera"I, didn't know who this character was but I wrote my first poem with that name as a title.
Did you mother read it?
I don't remember, I think she didn't, and the "poem" was lost. From that moment, without being aware of it, writing poems became part of my daily life.
Were any of the poems we read today written during your childhood?
Yes. Decreto (Decree) is a poem I wrote when I was 11 or 12 years old.
Did you show it to anyone?
No, it wasn't until the end of my adolescence that I began to show my poems, after I got in contact with the underground culture movement, in whose magazines I got published for the first time when I was around 19 years old.
When did you publish your first book and what was it called?
Perspectivas (Perspectives), and I published it independently in 1977. It was a short, very sober book that was well received by the literary circle. They made me a cult poet in my town, because they said my poetry was like no one else's. But although I was well received, publishers have always been reluctant: I have published three books and all three of them are independent publications.
Were you influenced by any other poet - man or woman?
No. When I was a little girl I read the compulsory poetry books from school, but even though I was a great reader of legends and short stories, I was not a great reader of poetry. I admire two or three poets, but I don't feel I have been influenced by them, and I've never wanted to write like them: Julio Cortázar- who was more known for being a prose writer than a poet and whose complete work I love -, Sylvia Plath, and Alejandra Pizarnik.
That's curious, because in the prologue of your last book, "La Muerte Quiere" (Death Wants), the Chilean-American professor Sonia M. Martin compares you with both poets.
Yes, I was really surprised when I read that, because I'd never felt my poetry was similar to theirs... They are sublime! So I was very grateful to Professor Martin for her appreciation, which I received as a great recognition that I must honor.
The poems you wrote when you were a teenager have a depth that only comes after living for a long time. Where did you get that depth from?
From life, from a life that never showed me her brightest side. My childhood and my youth were a nightmare from which I still cannot wake up.
I've had a very hard life since I was a little girl; my mother gave us a lot of love but little joy, as contradictory as it may sound. By when I was 10, I was an old woman already. Writing poetry was a way of transmuting that pain. And if my poetry is as painful today as it was then, it's because my pain has been so loyal that, by life decree, it will not abandon me.
Do you write because your life is hard?
No. I believe my path had already been set. I simply write because poetry emerges, arises; I never stop to wonder why.
Were you not influenced by the 70's, when poets with a tragic life, suicidal poets, were deified?
No, not at all. I read Cortázar, and not only was he alive, but he was also far from being a "damned poet". And when I got in contact with the underground cultural movement I found that theirs was a hymn to life, not death.
It's striking that your poetry does not reflect your life at all.
It doesn't, my poetry is independent from my life - don't ask me why because I don't know. When I write I feel like a bridge between life and death.
Do you feel that poetry saved you from all that pain?
Yes, now I feel it saved me, and saves me, from pain, but I didn't use to feel like that.
Why did you move away from literary circles?
I abandoned them because I felt like those horses that are very well taken care of, but which are locked up, and I needed to come out to an open field. I felt I needed to be alone, and I looked for the company of other lonely poets, that is, not belonging to any literary group, like me.
Were you not affected by the fact that you lost your early "fame"?
Well, I've learned through the years that this is the hand I've been dealt.
Does it not bother you that publishers from your country don't publish your work?
No. I simply wait. I know there will come a day when Zephyrus will grant me the fleeting kiss of recognition.
Besides "waiting", are you knocking on any publishers' doors?
Aren't you interested in publishing?
No. I believe in destiny, and I believe there will come a day when my poems will come to light in many places... I may not be there to see it, but I know it will happen.
Don't you mind not being there to see it?
No. Because I don't write to get joy or be recognized. I write because I can't stop doing it. I know my poetry is destined to be known, the "when" is irrelevant.
Don't you think destiny may need a little help sometimes?
Is your recognition abroad a consolation for the indifference you get in Argentina?
The fact that my poetry has traveled across boundaries is something I take in, celebrate, and thank the gods for.
Do you live off your poetry?
No. I work since I was 14, because even though my mom worked more than 12 hours a day, the money she earned was not enough to pay the house rent and raise my two sisters and me. Making a living has always been a very hard task. I went from being a salesclerk to a civil servant, a secretary for a district attorney and a clinic, and finally a caregiver of terminally ill patients. I've never been able to live off poetry, but I'm only alive because I write.
Did you work and study at the same time?
No. I attended classes for one year and had to quit. Finishing high school was a personal goal I needed to achieve, and I felt really bad because society was very cruel, it alienated me, but at the age of 30, by studying at night and having two jobs, I graduated with honors. And the greatest honor was having graduated despite the fact that I got lupus and nearly died several times.
Is it still hard for you to "get your daily bread"?
(Laughs) Yes. I live very, very austerely. I retired before 40 because of my illness, and my pension is minimal. But I've got used to it. Lack of money does not prevent me from fully enjoying each day as if I were a millionaire.
What do you expect from life now?
I'm still watchful for the mandates of Thanatos, Gnomes, Sylphs, Anubis, Salamanders, Dryads, and Undines, who mark the path I tread.
Beatriz, thank you so much for this interview. I hope a great publisher discovers you soon, and you get all the recognition, and money, that you deserve.
Thank you very much, I hope so too.
Buenos Aires, December, 2010
Translation from Spanish by Luciana Valente
"Pepita the Gunfighter", an affectionate nickname mothers would tell naughty daughters, in reference
to the comic strip character Little Lulu
BIOGRAPHY OF BEATRIZ IRIART
She was born in autumn (May 12,) in La Plata, Argentina.
She is a member of the “Latin American Writers Association of California and International Chapter on the Internet” (whose acronyms in Spanish are SELC and CII), California, USA. Prizes: S.A.D.E, S.E.P.
“Collage of Five” (1981)
“Death wants” (2003)
Her literary work is published in English and Portuguese in several countries and in different anthologies in her native country and around the world.
She has studied pottery and art.
She took part in the Underground Movement in the 70’s, collaborating with the literary magazine “Machu Picchu”.
Nowadays, she publishes in digital magazines in the United States, Canada, Spain, Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina, Alemania, among others.
The renowned Venezuelan composer Diana Arismendi wrote in 2015 the work "In memoriam" to commemorate the HOLOCAUST; the second movement of the work was inspired in the poem “Yo estuve en Auschwitz” (I was in Auschwitz) by poet Beatriz Iriart. The concert was organized by Espacio Anna Frank from Caracas with the participation of Venezuela's Symphony Orchestra directed by maestro Alfredo Rugeles.