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  • Prison Cell and Key:Scrutiny of the Physical Self in Olga Orozco's Museo salvaje and Gioconda Belli's Sobre la grama
  • Amy Frazier-Yoder

In 1974, both Argentine poet Olga Orozco and Nicaraguan poet Gioconda Belli published collections that turned their focus to the body, but did so with widely-divergent portrayals of its relationship to the human form, and, in turn, its relationship to a creator. Orozco's collection, Museo salvaje, is an attempt to reach something beyond the limitations of the flesh. The poetic voice laments the confines of the human form, which is largely represented as a barrier that inhibits union with the divine. The inward-looking collection narrates the body's ruptured union from the supreme divine source, and a frustrated inquiry into the body, searching for remnants of this link. By contrast, in Belli's collection of poems, Sobre la grama, published the same year, the body is exalted for its liberating creative and sexual powers. The poetic voice links the body to the creator's intent, connects it to poetic creation, and celebrates sexual desire, fertility, birth, breastfeeding, and menstruation. This study examines how the 1974 collections portray the human form and its relationship to a creator. Despite marked differences, the collections converge in their exploration of the connection between the body and a creator, a search for insight and transcendence through something present in the human form, and a thwarted grasp for something beyond the corporeal.

Context of Museo Salvaje

In 1998, Orozco received the Juan Rulfo Prize for Literature, marking her prominence among Latin American writers. In spite of this recognition, Museo salvaje remains understudied. Orozco's first collection Desde lejos was published in [End Page 153] 1946 just after what many critics define as the period of vanguardista poetry in Latin America. Throughout her work, following the vanguardista tradition, Orozco continued to reject any concrete historical dimension. Her metaphor-rich poetry resonates with the angst present in Vallejo's Los heraldos negros (1918), the sordid nature of the material world found in many of Neruda's poems from Residencia en la tierra (1935), and the accumulation of incongruous images common to vanguardista poetry.

Yet, the corpus of Orozco's work avoids easy classification.1 She wrote at a time of immense stylistic plurality. As Luis Cárcamo-Huechante and José Antonio Mazzotti write:

A partir de los 60, y con especial énfasis hacia los 80, la heterogeneidad de poéticas en juego pone en escena prácticas escriturales que podrían afiliarse con variadas tendencias (por ejemplo, antipoesía, conversacionalismo, nadaís -mo, exteriorismo, neobarroco y, posteriormente, "neobarroso", poesía feminista, poesía "gay", lumpenpoesía, "cloaquización") hasta innumerables y valiosos registros de aliento individual que simplemente se repliegan en su singularidad.


Orozco's poetry is further difficult to categorize due to its varied themes and structures, as well as its incorporation of diverse influences, including mystic and surrealist poetry.

Nevertheless, the poet's collections are marked by a unifying factor: an exploration of a lost relationship with a creator. The notion that unseen sparks of the divine may exist within the body underscores a fundamental dimension of her poetry: the elements of Gnosticism. Cristina Piña describes this essential aspect of Orozco's poetry as being "la nostalgia de la unidad primordial" (14). In Museo salvaje, it is through the exploration of various facets of the body that Orozco turns the poetic gaze to the search for lost unity. The collection, Orozco's fourth, resonates with a frustrated, yet persistent inquiry into the body, which is combed in the hopes of finding a passage to, or even a fleeting vision of, this primordial state.

The focus on the human form serves as a platform for Orozco's uniquely personal expression of primary experiences and inquiry into the origins of metaphysical crisis. It is not poetry tied to feminist themes in the spirit of the era nor is it poetry of social or political activism; the increasing political polarity of the early 70s in Argentina is absent from her poetry.2 Rather, reflecting a total rejection of all things worldly, it is a timeless...


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