Hi toads and friends of the garden. I am excited to introduce to you the work by Gabriela Mistral.
Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), pseudonym for Lucila Godoy y Alcayaga, was born in Vicuña, Chile. She taught elementary and secondary school for many years until her poetry made her famous. She played an important role in the educational systems of Mexico and Chile, was active in cultural committees of the League of Nations, and was Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon. She held honorary degrees from the Universities of Florence and Guatemala and was an honorary member of various cultural societies in Chile as well as in the United States, Spain, and Cuba. She taught Spanish literature in the United States at Columbia University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, and at the University of Puerto Rico.
I feel my heart melting
in the mildness like candles:
my veins are slow oil
and not wine,
and I feel my life fleeing
hushed and gentle like the gazelle.
She was the first Spanish American author to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1945; as such, she will always be seen as a representative figure in the cultural history of the continent. "It is to render homage to the riches of Spanish American literature that we address ourselves today especially to its queen, the poet of Desolación, who has become the great singer of mercy and motherhood," concludes the Nobel Prize citation read by Hjalmar Gullberg at the Nobel ceremony. Mistral's works, both in verse and prose, deal with the basic passion of love as seen in the various relationships of mother and offspring, man and woman, individual and humankind, soul and God.
Let us go now into the forest.
Trees will pass by your face,
and I will stop and offer you to them,
but they cannot bend down.
The night watches over its creatures,
except for the pine trees that never change:
the old wounded springs that spring
blessed gum, eternal afternoons.
If they could, the trees would lift you
and carry you from valley to valley,
and you would pass from arm to arm,
a child running
from father to father.
Although she mostly uses regular meter and rhyme, her verses are sometimes difficult to recite because of their harshness, resulting from intentional breaks of the prosodic rules. This apparent deficiency is purposely used by the poet to produce an intended effect—the reader's uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty and harshness that corresponds to the tormented attitude of the lyrical voice and to the passionate character of the poet's worldview. Even when Mistral's verses have the simple musicality of a cradlesong, they vibrate with controlled emotion and hidden tension. In her prose writing Mistral also twists and entangles the language in unusual expressive ways as if the common, direct style were not appropriate to her subject matter and her intensely emotive interpretation of it.
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 alien 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.
Woman: The Mad One (In part, please click to read the entire poem)
As soon as nighttime thickens
And all that was erect must rest
And all that was most secret stirs,
I hear him climb up the stairs.
No matter that he comes unheard,
That I am the only one aware.
Why should his step resound
in another sleeplessness?
In one breath of mine he's climbing
And I suffer till he comes-
Mad cataract his destiny
One time rejects, uplifts another
And thornbranch, feverish mad
That grates against my door.
I dare not rise, my eyes are closed,
But I see his form entire-
That instant, like a small quarry,
We have truce beneath the night.
But I hear him climb back down
Like an eternal tide.
You can read more about Gabriela Mistral's life here.
Our challenge is to write a new poem or prose poem in response to Gabriela Mistral's words. Some examples of responses include affirming what the speaker said or using her title or line of verse as a jumping board for your own writing. The prompt is wide open so feel free to explore where your muse takes you. I look forward to reading your work ~ Happy weekend to all ~ Grace