Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sunday's Mini-challenge: Gabriela Mistral

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. 

Pine Forest

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


Kerry O'Connor said...

Thank you for this wonderful post, introducing another exceptional poet to us, Grace. I find her work resonates with me very much and hope to transform her inspiring writing into a worthy response.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

What a beautiful poet, Grace - I especially resonate with Pine Forest and the image of the trees carrying one in their arms, like a father.......sigh. Gorgeous.

brudberg said...

What a great introduction.. I have never read anything by her... but as a Swede I'm well aware of Hjalmar Gullberg... one of the few poets I read at school... but I will have to do some research on this one.

Hannah said...

Thank you, Grace!

Grace said...

I am now making my rounds ~ I am happy to read that her work resonates with you ~ I am still editing my work having returned from my summer vacation ~

Jim said...

This is an excellent choice, Grace. I read all of Ms. Mistral's "Woman: The Mad One.. It was a wonderful, but sad story of a haram member lady's encounter, one of many, with the owner (sultan?). Very gripping, her feelings I could not have imagined before. Especially the strange kind of love sh felt towards him.

I did write what came to mind after reading but I won't post it. Instead I will think about another of her writings and perhaps post what it led me to. THANK YOU for bringing to us our introduction to Ms. Mistral.

Unknown said...

Wow Grace... very beautiful... i love the pine trees poem... thank you for sharing this exquisite poet!!

Unknown said...

Wow Grace... very beautiful... i love the pine trees poem... thank you for sharing this exquisite poet!!

avalon said...

She is special. So full of poetics and original. I feel too pedestrian to be worthy of composing a response. No way can I do anything but admire and enjoy.
Thank you for bringing her to our attention.

Grace said...

Jim, Mad One is one outstanding poem ~ I only managed to respond to Dusk but her other pieces do leave me wordless ~ I look forward to your response ~

Jo-hanna, pedestrian-viewpoint is fine with me ~ This prompt is wide open so feel free to respond in your own unique way ~

Helen said...

What an amazing woman ~ and talent. Thanks for this challenge, I sunk into her poetry .. deeply.

Susie Clevenger said...

Thanks Grace for introducing us to such a wonderful poet.

Anonymous said...

fantastic - thanks for the introduction, Grace ~

Jim said...

Yay!! I finished. Not the best but this one has to be it. Different, shorter, but a little of Mistral is still there.