Nieves Xenes (1859-1915)

Poem and translation: Anonymous.

Nieves Xenes was a Cuban poet. She had at least two sisters who were also poets and painters. She began writing in her teens in association with the literary salon of José María de Céspedes. Her work was published in many Cuban journals and newspapers, including El País, La Lotería, El Triunfo, Revista Cubana, Letras, El Fígaro, Cuba y América, and La Habana Elegante.

She was publishing from the 1890s until at least 1906, and was associated closely with Mercedes Matamoros, Aurelia Castillo, Luisa Pérez de Zambrana, and the Borrero sisters. El Fígaro, in 1897, published a poem Xenes wrote in praise of Matamoros (Vallejo 287). She is sometimes classified as a romanticist (Biblioteca Virtual Miguel de Cervantes). Other critics, such as Vallejo, group her with the Cuban modernistas.

Her poems were only published in book form in 1915, after her death, by the Academia Nacional de Artes y Letras, of which she was an honored member. Aurelia Castillo wrote the book’s introduction. Xenes, before her death, had grouped her poetry into several book manuscripts. The first was Amorosas; the second, for patriotic poems, Evocaciónes de patria; the third, Rimas; the fourth, Florecillas; and the fifth unnamed (Catalá vii-viii).

“Anonymous,” written in 1899 but first published in 1915, describes the poet contemplating the perfect beauty of a statue of a man. She politely insults the statue and its perfect ideal of art, objectifying the statue (or the man) by denying that he has the capacity for thought.

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