Gabriela Mistral. Late Chilean writer, part of the famous chilean literary tradition. She was a protege of Pablo Neruda who fought to have her educated as it was not seemly during her time for a woman to be educated. Most of her writing was banned during the dictatorship as part of the crackdown on culture and are just being recovered today. She was also labelled as crazy as a young girl for talking to the birds, trees, and sitting in the sun reciting and formulating her verse. I am in great awe of the tradition as not only did it yield exquisite poets (mistral, neruda, marti, etc) but it survived dictatorship and continues to inspire many chileans today. I am grateful in a way that Mistral herself didn’t face dictatorship as she passed away in 1957, but in an ironic way, it was her writing that bore the brunt long after she left the earth. Many of her poems are originally published in Spanish, with a few surfacing on the internet in english. I find they are somewhat lost in translation having a tiny bit of spanish under my belt. I wish i had enough Spanish to read them in their proper form. This is one of my favourites of hers, translated from Spanish by Ursula LeGuin, (who’s probably part of the writers who inspire me list i plan to blog)
the stranger (La Extranjera)
She speaks in her way of her savage seas
With unknown algae and unknown sands
She prays to a formless, weightless God,
Aged, as if dying.
In our garden now so strange,
She has planted cactus and grass.
The desert zephyr fills her with its breath
And she has loved with a fierce, white passion
She never speaks of, for if she were to tell
It would be like the face of unknown stars.
Among us she may live for eighty years,
Yet always as if newly come,
Speaking a tongue that plants and whines
Only by tiny creatures understood.
And she will die here in our midst
One night of utmost suffering,
With only her fate as a pillow,
And death, silent and strange