Entrance to Hilda Hilst Institute – Casa do Sol – Campinas – São Paulo – Brazil
My Poetry Corner May 2018 features an excerpt from “Poems for the Men of Our Time” (Poemas aos Homens do Nosso Tempo) by Brazilian poet, playwright, and novelist Hilda Hilst (1930-2004), born in Jaú in the interior of São Paulo, Southeast Brazil. Soon after her birth, her mother moved with her to Santos, a coastal city and port. Her father wanted a lover, not a wife. Having a girl child was “bad luck,” he told her mother. Hilda grew up determined to prove him wrong.
Hilda was seven years old when her mother revealed the truth: Her father suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. Her father’s mental illness and his frequent internment over the years, until his death in 1966, had a profound effect on her poetry and fiction which often drew upon themes of intimacy and insanity with elements of magical realism.
I initiated dialogue a thousand times. It is hopeless.
I prepare and accept myself
Flesh and spirit undone. We could try,
My father, the unequal and tortured poem,
And embrace each other in silence. In secret.
~ Final stanza, “Of the joyful and very unhappy love – 1,” Exercises by Hilda Hilst, 2001.
Though her first love was poetry, like her father, Hilst followed her mother’s advice and studied law at the University of São Paulo (1948-1952). During this period, she published her first two poetry collections (1950 & 1951). After working for a year at an attorney’s office in São Paulo, she abandoned law for the writer’s life. Continue reading