Poem and translation: A Mercedes Matamoros.
Aurelia Castillo was known as a Cuban poet, patriot, humanist, and political progressive. She lived part of her life in exile in the Canary Islands and Spain, returning to Cuba in 1898. She wrote fables, stories, translations, travel narratives, and literary criticism as well as poetry. Her translations include work by D’Annunzio, Vittoria Agancor Pompili, Ada Negri, Carducci, Lamartine, Coppé, Fernand Gregh, and Byron (Arencibia Rodríguez). She was a member of the Cuban Academia Nacional de Artes y Letras (Lugones Andrés).
Her work was included in Arpas Cubanas (1904) and in Florilegio de escritoras cubanas (1919) (Davies 12). She wrote the preface to Poesías de los Borrero (a book of poems by the Borrero family) and the preface to a book by Mercedes Matamoros.
“A Mercedes Matamoros” is a beautiful example of a décima, written in response to Matamoros’ poem “A Aurelia” (included in this thesis on page 92). Both poems were published in El Fígaro in 1892. The décima is written with the rhyme scheme and form abba:ac, cddc; the first four lines establish the subject, the fifth and sixth lines pose a question or problem, the poem’s “turn,” and the final four lines answer the question. In this witty exchange of poems, the two women pay each other extravagant compliments. Castillo implies that Matamoros heard a poem but could not compose one in, perhaps, its new meter. The insult turns neatly to a compliment, as Castillo then implies Matamoros invented an even better poetic form. Matamoros’s poem to Castillo suggests that Castillo is such a good poet, some other poet went insane and died of jealousy.