Eunice Odio

“I detest biographies,” Eunice Odio once wrote. “The affairs of my private life are the most private and, in general, no one knows them, except me.”

Despite these objections, a few words of introduction will provide a sketch of the writer considered the foremost Costa Rican poet in the 20th century.

She was born Eunice Odio Infante in the capital of San José in 1919. In the early 1940s, she launched her career reading poems on Costa Rican radio under the pseudonym of Catalina Mariel. Her first collection, Los Elementos Terrestres, was published in Guatemala in 1947 as the winner of the Premio Centroamericano “15 de Septiembre”. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Guatemala and became a legal citizen, never returning to live in her birth country.

Additional volumes – Zona en Territorio del Alba and El Tráánsito de Fuego – followed in 1953 and 1957. The latter collection, a book-length epic poem, uses a cast of classical and invented mythological characters to tell the story of the world’s creation. In 1959 Odio moved to New York City for two and a half years. “The United States scares me,” she would later write.

Although a “model of social justice” and a “paradise of the proletariat,” she concluded that the country was a “highly-polished disaster.” She disliked, in particular, the Beats, Pop Art, and feminism. The latter comes as a surprise, given that she lived an independent life wholly dedicated to her art. A self confessed “reaccionario,” she complained: “In North America roles are inverted: she is he; he is she.” Despite her misgivings, a certain affection developed for the country. She wrote a poem in praise of the Statue of Liberty, an elegy for Louis Armstrong, and a tribute to the Hudson River, the mighty waterway that runs along the western shore of Manhattan. 

– from the introduction by Keith Ekiss in MPT Series 3/1, Introductions