Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst


If life is no more than a prolonged flirtation with death, then Hilda Hilst’s OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES is the true account of a lifelong seduction. It is at once both a reverie and reliquary, as the poet imagines and reimagines that most paradoxical moment of disintegration—the corporeal flesh fusing with death’s own dark corpus.

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With a visceral-mystical poetic voice that is as teasingly unrestrained as it is intellectually sublime, Hilst’s odes enact a baroque danse macabre, where the poet revels in the incongruities of simultaneously seeking the sacred and profane. Translating the first collection of Hilda Hilst’s significant body of poetry to appear in English, Laura Cescarco Eglin renders the imagery and philosophical complexity of these minimal odes with brio, while preserving the playful tone and lush melodies that mark OF DEATH. MINIMAL ODES as uniquely Hilstian.

“The spare but ornate poems in this collection are startling the way a menagerie of creatures can be startling when the creatures themselves are composed of animal bits: claw, fur, ‘brain and hooves / in the pitch dark.’ Each minimal ode addresses death who becomes at times a lover, a sister, a slow-moving and wild mammal ever arriving. Hilst builds ‘passageways’ for death with each line—corridors which are ‘Intricate. In knots.’ The reader cannot help but join the poet in calling out the various names for death: ‘Amber / Bundle of flutes / Gutter / Light.’ And these are rendered stunningly in English by Laura Cesarco Eglin, who carries over every verse with clarity and care as though she were holding up pieces of glass to sunlight.”—Carolina Ebeid

Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst