Emma Vargas Flórez de Arguelles (1885-19??)

Poem and translation: Manos Feminiles.

Emma Vargas Flórez, a Colombian poet, was related to the poets Luz and Paz Flórez Fernández and to Julio, Manuel de Jesus, and Leonidas Flórez, symbolist poets (Biblioteca Aldeana de Colombia 32). Her work was published in newspapers and magazines, often under the pseudonym “Concha del Mar.” Her books include Melodias del alba, Ecos del Alma, Camparas de cristal, Luz en la senda, and Policromías, a book of short stories (Biblioteca Aldeana de Colombia).

“Manos Feminiles,” written in sexta rima, is conventional on the surface, yet its sentiment is radical. Vargas Flórez enlists stereotypical images of women as embodiments of virtue and caring, to proclaim the right of women to work as writers, to write of their dreams rather than of political events and war, and to participate in a sisterhood of women of all nations. She often wrote poetry about women’s lofty missions and civilizing conscience, wrote poems to other women poets, and even wrote a sonnet to Manuelita Saenz, pardoning her sins for the sake of her sincere passion and her strength (Vargas Florez, Melodias 52).
“Manos Femeniles” would be considered an old-fashioned and romanticist poem by many poets of modernism and postmodernism. Vargas Flórez continued writing formal, mannered verse well into the 1950s and 1960s, and defended this adherence to style in an essay which praised all “nuevas manifestaciones de arte” ‘new manifestation of art’ and yet railed against those which break form, sense, elegance, and beauty not for the sake of liberty but merely for the sake of destruction, like atomic bombs (207-08).

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