Poet: Gabriela Mistral

Riqueza (Riches) by Gabriela Mistral

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After all my web hosting woes of late, I think it’s safe to say that this site, at least, is back on an even keel. To celebrate, I made a video for one of my favorite poems, and Nic S. was gracious enough to upload a reading I could use to Pizzicati of Hosanna. I found the music on SoundCloud: “The Foggy Dew” on tin whistle by Chris Kent. I blogged a bit more about this at Via Negativa just now.

The Sad Mother (La Madre Triste) by Gabriela Mistral

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Harry Garcia goes into some detail about the filming:

This is a visual experiment based on Gabriela Mistral poem “The Sad Mother”. All shoot with a Nikon D90 on a cold late October evening.

Lens: Nikkor 50mm 1.4. All lighting controlled with manual aperture. We took advantage of a couple good tricks to “tease” the D90, flashing right at the lens on “Aperture” mode to force the camera to lower down the ISO speed in order to eliminate any grain or noise. Then we locked the exposure with this settings and controlled light exclusively with manual apertures. Another reason for Nikon to add full manual control to our beloved D90!

The audio is from Daily Poetry Reading by Karin. For those who know Spanish, here’s the original poem:

La Madre Triste

Duerme, duerme, dueño mío,
sin zozobra, sin temor,
aunque no se duerma mi alma,
aunque no descanse yo.

Duerme, duerme y en la noche
seas tú menos rumor
que la hoja de la hierba,
que la seda del vellón.

Duerma en ti la carne mía,
mi zozobra, mi temblor.
En ti ciérrense mis ojos:
¡duerma en ti mi corazón!

La Bailarina (The Dancer) by Gabriela Mistral

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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.