Madwomen: Poems of Gabriela Mistral

A schoolteacher whose poetry catapulted her to early fame in her native Chile and an international diplomat whose boundary-defying sexuality still challenges scholars, Gabriela Mistral ( 1889–1957) is one of the most mportant and enigmatic figures in Latin American literature of the secon century. The Locas mujeres poems collected here are among Mistral ’ s most complex and compelling, exploring facets of the self in extremis —poems marked by the wound of blazing catastrophe and its aftermath of mourning.
From disquieting humor to balladlike lyricism to folkloric wisdom, these pieces enact a tragic sense of life, depicting “ madwomen ” who are anything but mad. Strong and intensely human, Mistral ’ s poetic women confront impossible situations to which no sane response exists. This groundbreaking collection presents poems from Mistral ’ s final published volume as well as new editions of posthumous work, featuring the first English-language appearance of many essential poems. Madwomen romises to reveal a profound poet to a new generation of Anglophone readers while reacquainting Spanish readers with a stranger, more complicated “ madwoman ” than most have ever known.

Year of the Publication
Available Languages
Number of Pages
Original Title of the Book
Locas mujeres
Publication Date
Published April 15th 2008 by University of Chicago Press (first published April 1st 2008

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Not really knowing much about her before, apart from reading the odd poem here and there, this edition comes with a brilliantly detailed introduction to Mistral 's life, body of work, and what she stood for as a person in a climate of aggression against women.Taking into account pages of texts and sources, notes, and other extras, the actual poems included in his novel, bearing in mind it 's bilingual, did n't feature as many as I 'd aske for, but it 's bsolutely a case of quality over quantity, with a small handful of them being as stunning as anything else I have ever read by any other autho.

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Gabriela Mistral is a remarkably interesting historical figure I wish I knew more about before.

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Some ay the poems in thi nove are the any characters she took upon in her life.

I read he first lines of the first poem- The Other in th novel.' I killed a woman in me: one I did not love. 'And that 's it.

My favourite poems from the book are The Other and The Abandoned Woman.

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Gabriela Mistral 's life and story read like a myth spun from her self- addressing as " a daughter of my land ", deeply identifying with her country and people; her powerful voice in defense of the under-privileged or socially oppressed; of volcanic emotions from a tragic love affair; from sonnets of love, enderness and humanism which cast her with the spiritual image of a madonna of the Americas- and yet, such perceptions in contrast were darkened by criticism for her political role and relationship with the state, and her sexuality contained in public dubiousness which she masterfully infused in her writings.We must give expression to the soul in all its intensity, and boldly utter the message which springs from the heart before it ceases to beat.-Gabriela MistralForged by an unlimited love of humanity, clarity of forward vision and a prophetic sense of the estiny of Latin America, Mistral 's prose and poems sought to redefine women 's roles, specific to their plight in a patriarchal society that has been traditionally unconcerned for women 's suffering.

In La abandonada/The Abandoned Woman, she is desolate from the absence of love: Now I am oing to learnthe sour country, and unlearn your lovewhich was my only language, like th river that forgetsits current, bed, and banks.I have sat down in the middle of the Earth, my ove, in the middle of my life, to open my veins and my chest, to peel my skin like a pomegranate, and to break the red mahogany of these bones that loved you. ( At the same time, she is left an angry and vengeful victim of domestic conflict): I ’ m burning all that we had: the wide walls, the high beams— ripping out one by onethe twelve doors you opened and closing with ax blows the cistern of happiness.Considered to be the most revealing self-portrait of Mistral is La otra/ The Other ( my personal favorite), in which the poem 's narrator destroys a part of herself: I killed a woman in me: one I did not love.I left her to die, robbing her of my heart ’ s blood.She ended like an eaglestarved of its food.The beating wing grew still; she bent, spent, and her dying emberfell into my hand ... The write 's voice is scorching, harsh, unforgiving, leaving la otra to shrivel in death 's eventuality.Gabriela emphasized that her poetry was never " an end in her life ", insisting she was- in heart, first and foremost- a teacher, and described her poetic work as more of th " relief of her spirit, to undo knots. " In Madwomen, glimpses of a complex and controversial writer are illuminated, but more true to Mistral 's purpose, I would surmise, they re the reflections of the faces, the flesh and blood experiences of mother, child, wife, daughte, daughter; she is as the poems' titles intone: Fugitive, Humbled, Happy, Fervent, Unburdened, Pious, Storyteller, Forgotten, Unchanged; she is Electra, Antigone, Cassandra, Clytemnestra; she may be you or I, but without question, she is everywoman.

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I am still under a spell of madwomen portrayed by Gabriela Mistral ( 1889-1957), a Chilean poet and Nobel prize laureate.

As Czesław Miłosz observed, 'The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will.' Gabriela Mistral 's 'guests' are the madwomen, locas mujeres.

[ Image source ] In Mistral 's collection you will encounter anonymous women whose fate is drawn in the titles of poems with a few brushstrokes only, for instance 'The Abandoned Woman', 'Prisoner 's Woman' or 'She Who Waits'.

You can almost feel their pulse, hear them weeping, find and lose yourself in their dramatic stories.Gabriela Mistral 's poems are very visual, they resemble paintings made alive: 'Love loved solitudeslike the silent wolf.He came to dig his housein the narrowest valleyand we followed his trackwithout asking to return ... ''Our happiness is likethe honeycomb that hides its gold; the honey with its heady weightweighs on my breast, and I go giddy, or grave, I feel and I don ’ t believ myself. 'The author uses mainly natural, biblical, and classical imagery but transforms it in an original way.

Actually the madwomen are in the spotlight.I think no words can describe Gabriela Mistral 's poetry better than her own:' I start from an emotion that little by little is put into words, helped by a rhythm that could be that of my own heart.

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© Nicole Waggonner