Obituary: Olga Orozco

Click to follow
OLGA OROZCO was the grand old lady of poetry in Argentina, and some said in Latin America as well.

Although some critics placed her close to the Surrealists, she agreed to that position "because I liked their sense of freedom, but I did not share their feeling that everything begins from zero". She gave her work a simpler explanation: "I was born in the Pampas. There the flatness seems at a nought level. That place is filled with mystery. It has such an intense flatness that it is dizzying to look at from wherever you may stand. Any detail on that flatness becomes prominent. Just as in a picture by Magritte." In an old interview she said that "the dry plain was at the root of my writing".

Her first book was Desde Lejos ("From Afar", 1946), published when she was 26, and she went on to produce 18 volumes of poetry. In Latin American writing she is placed in the "1940s generation", which is when she joined the half-hidden writers who were not producing heroic or adulatory literature in the early years of the first government of General Juan Domingo Pern.

She said:

Our generation was driven to get together and keep in touch to write something that did not exist, and to learn what was going on because we could not read about poetry in the newspapers. In fact, we were probably very much like all other groups of poets in the immediate post-war and early Fifties: we had to start afresh because everything had been done and then dramatically destroyed. We were probably no more than small animals locked up together all of a sudden in a cage and we had to share what we had.

Horacio Armani, a former literary editor of the newspaper La Nacin in Buenos Aires, said she had been influenced by translations into Spanish of T.S. Eliot.

Her books best known in Latin America are Los Juegos Peligrosos ("The Dangerous Games", 1962), Museo Salvaje ("Savage Museum", 1974), her 1979 anthology of collected verse, and El Cerco de Tamarindo ("The Tamarind Hedge", 1995).

Orozco had received about a dozen prizes for her poetry in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America. Although not well known outside the Spanish language, she represented an anchor in Argentine poetry, in a time of literature of uncertain quality and quite sparkless writing.

Olga Orozco, poet: born Toay, Argentina 17 March 1920; died Buenos Aires 15 August 1999.