La Bailarina (The Dancer) by Gabriela Mistral

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

http://youtu.be/Q7n3Ki73D1Q

Poem by Gabriela Mistral — full text here; excerpts used in the poem below

Animation by ultapopdsgn

La Bailarina
The Dancer

La bailarina ahor est danzando
la danza del perder cuanto tenia
The dancer now is dancing
the dance of losing it all

Se solto de su casta y de su carne
She loosed herself from caste and flesh

desnuda de todo y de si misma
stripped of everything and of herself

sigue danzando sin saberse ajena
she dances on, not knowing she is changed

unica y torbellino, vil y pura
alone, a whirlwind, foul and pure
(Ursula K. Guin, trans.)

An interesting attempt to convey the mood of a work with just a few fragments of text, given out of order, and a rapid, pop music-video-style succession of images. I like it!

Since this is Women’s History Month (in the U.S., at any rate), I thought this would be a good time to recall that Pablo Neruda was not the first Chilean poet to win the Nobel Prize. I’m not sure which are the best English translations, but the volume I own seems pretty good: Gabriela Mistral: A Reader, tr. by Maria Giachetti and ed. by Marjorie Agosin. Its only drawback is that it does not include the original Spanish. The translation used above comes from a more recent book — Selected Poems of Gabriala Mistral, tr. by Ursala K. LeGuin, which I haven’t seen.

Though never well known in North America, Mistral remains a beloved figure in Latin America. She appeals strongly to conservatives and leftists alike, who tend to project their own values onto the clear and deceptively simple surfaces of her poems, much as readers do here with Emily Dickinson. Unlike Dickinson, Mistral was very active on the world stage, and her mix of progressive activism and traditional Catholic religiosity makes her supremely dificult to pigeonhole. According to Petri Liukkonen,

In 2001 Mistral’s sexual inclinations arose fierce debate in Chile. Yuri Labarca’s film, La Pasajera, written by Francisco Casas, dealt with her relationship to Doris Dana, her American secretary. Mistral’s devoted readers considered the film outrageous and said that her true, traditional views of life and love were present in her works. However, an independent woman, Mistral has also been presented as a feminist icon. The absence of male friendship and her life as an unmarried woman has contributed to her image of a defender of all racial minorities and “the mixed-race mother of the nation”.

As for me, I am of course fondest of her nature poetry.

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