Translations: Bolivian poet Adela Zamudio (1854-1928)

Here’s another chapter from my (unpublished) anthology, Spanish American Women Poets (1880-1930).

Adela Zamudio was a Bolivian poet, essayist, novelist, teacher, and school director. She was also an activist and an advocate of women’s higher education. In her early years, her poems were published under the pseudonym “Soledad” (Aguirre Lavayen 12). Throughout her life, well into her sixties, Zamudio fought for divorce laws, secularization, women’s labor movements, and other feminist liberal causes. She was also a painter, though most of her paintings are lost. Zamudio wrote a long narrative poem, “Loca de hierro” ‘Iron madwoman.’ She was one of the founding members of Feminiflor, a Bolivian feminist magazine.

Her publications include: Ensayos poéticos (1887); Ensayos politicos (1887); Intimas (1912); Peregrinando (1912); Ráfagas (1912); and Cuentos breves (1921). Her books were published in Bolivia, Paris, and Buenos Aires. Íntimas was a romantic epistolary novel about and for women, meant to expose the hypocrisy of the upper classes (García Pabon vii).

Her poems, romanticist and controversial, were called “virile” and “rationally masculine” by her contemporaries; they considered her a “mujer-macho” (Cajías Villa Gómez 38). She read and admired Byron, de Musset, Becquer, José Zorrilla, and José Espronceda. The all-male La Paz Literary Circle, who considered themselves to be romanticists, elected her an honorary member in 1888. An entry in the Diccionario de Mujeres Celebres of 1959 lists her as a leader of the women poets and novelists of Bolivia, who included: Hercilia Fernández de Mujía (“la ciega Mujía”), Lindaura Anzoátegui, Mercedes Belzu, Sara Ugarte, and Amelia Guijarro. In 1926 she was given a medal by the president of Bolivia (Sáinz de Roblez 1200). October 11th, her birthday, is Bolivian Women’s Day.

There are biographies of Zamudio written by Gabriela de Villarreal, Alfonsina Paredes, Augusto Guzmán, and Sonia Montaño.

Much of her work remains unpublished.

She compiled a spelling book in Quechua for use in schools, and composed many poems in Quechua, among them “Wiñaypaj Wiñayninkama” ‘Para siempre / Forever’ (Taborga de Villarroel 181). Her translation of the poem into Spanish puts it into octosyllabic lines, a romance de arte menor. I have translated it from Spanish. Though I do not know Quechua, I include the original here because it was useful to refer to the word patterns. For example, the original used repetition in a way that the Spanish version does not duplicate.

“Nacer Hombre,” her most famous short poem, was published in 1887. It is a poem “pie quebrado,” ‘broken meter,’ with verses of octosyllabic lines and one line shortened to four or five syllables, and thus is de arte menor, in a popular form for poetry and folk song.



Nacer Hombre


Cuánto trabajo ella pasa
Por corregir la torpeza
De su esposo, y en la casa,
(Permitidme que me asombre).
Tan inepto como fatuo,
Sigue él siendo la cabeza,
Porque es hombre!

Si algunos versos escribe,
De alguno esos versos son,
Que ella sólo los suscribe.
(Permitidme que me asombre).
Si ese alguno no es poeta,
Por qué tal suposición
Porque es hombre!

Una mujer superior
En elecciones no vota,
Y vota el pillo peor.
(Permitidme que me asombre).
Con tal que aprenda a firmar
Puede votar un idiota,
Porque es hombre!

El se abate y bebe o juega.
En un revés de la suerte:
Ella sufre, lucha y ruega.
(Permitidme que me asombre).
Que a ella se llame el "ser débil"
Y a él se le llame el "ser fuerte."
Porque es hombre!

Ella debe perdonar
Siéndole su esposo infiel;
Pero él se puede vengar.
(Permitidme que me asombre).
En un caso semejante
Hasta puede matar él,
Porque es hombre!

Oh, mortal privilegiado,
Que de perfecto y cabal
Gozas seguro renombre!
En todo caso, para esto,
Te ha bastado
Nacer hombre.

To be born a man


She works so hard
to make up for the sloth
of her husband, and in the house
(Pardon my surprise.)
he's so inept and pompous,
that of course he's the boss
because he's a man!

If some poems get written,
a person must have written them,
but she just transcribed them.
(Pardon my surprise.)
If we're not sure who's the poet,
why assume it was him?
Because he's a man!

A smart, classy woman
can't vote in elections,
but the poorest felon can.
(Pardon my surprise.)
If he can just sign his name
even an idiot can vote
because he's a man!

He sins and drinks and gambles
and in a backwards twist of luck
she suffers, fights, and prays.
(Pardon my surprise.)
That we call her the "frail sex"
and him the "strong sex"
because he's a man!

She has to forgive him
when he's unfaithful;
but he can avenge himself.
(Pardon my surprise.)
In a similiar case
he's allowed to kill her
because he's a man!

Oh, privileged mortal
you enjoy lifelong
honor and perfect ease!
For this, to get all this,
it's enough for you
to be born a man.

Wiñaypaj wiñayninkama Para siempre


Ripunaykita yachaspa Al saber que ya te irías
Tuta-p'unchay yuyask'ani noche y día me atormento,
Sonqoy ukhu pakasqapi y sangra mi corazón
Waqaspa tukukusqani. como una sombra en tormento.

Ripuy, ripuy waj llajtaman Véte a ciudades lejanas,
Waj kausayta kausarqamuy anda a vivir otra vida,
Kaypi ñak'arisqaykita, y lo que yo haya sufrido
Chay kausaypi qonqarqamuy. olvídalo en tu existencia.

Ya(. . .)huyu, lakha phuyu Nubes negras, celajes oscuros
Uyaykipi rikukusqan se aborrascan en tu frente,
Chay shhika llakikusqayki y el dolor que he sentido
Llakiyniywan tantakusquan. brota en cascada de lágrimas.

Rejsisusqaymanta pacha Desde el día en que te vi
Wasiykita saqerpariy, nimbé mi alma en tus ojos,
Sonqoyki rumiyachispa y saturé mi corazón
Waj kausayta kausarqamuy! con unos pétalos rojos.

T'ikachus sonqoypi kanman, Si en mi pecho hubieran flores
Umphu sonqoy ch'akisqapi desde este corazón lánguido
T'kata t'akarpariyman, y marchito, alfombraría con pétalos
Purinayki yan patapi. el pasar de tu camino.

Ripuy, ripuy waj llajtaman, Véte a esas tierras lejanas,
Waj kausayta kausarqamuy, corre a vivir otra vida,
Ripuy, ripuy qonqarqamuy y sepulta en el olvido
Tukuyta kaypi kaj kama. todo cuanto aquí ha existido.

Forever


Knowing that you're leaving
torments me night and day
my heart bleeds
like a damned soul in hell.

Depart, depart for distant cities
keep on living your other life
and forget whatever I've suffered
as you enjoy existence.

Black mists, jealous clouds of darkness
obscure your brow in storm,
and the pain that I've felt
bursts forth in a torrent of tears.

Since the day I saw you
my soul glows haloed in your eyes
and my heart is full
of scarlet petals.

If in my chest there could be flowers
since this heart languishes, withering,
it would carpet with petals
the road where you walk.

Depart, depart for distant lands
go on living your other life
and bury in forgetfulness
everything that's existed here.

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List of poets in the anthology

Here’s the list of women poets that I have translated so far (some, many poems; some, only one).

limitation is that they should have been publishing or writing between 1880 and 1930. I have another list of many more poets from the same era – some that I want to translate and expand into a really big book. I will probably put the bios of the poets online. In fact I feel like I could have more of an effect by making Wikipedia pages for all these poets, and by tagging them up. But I would like a book.

The long list (not posted yet) is only a few of the many hundreds of women whose work I’ve seen.

*Luisa Pérez de Zambrana (Cuba)
*Jesusa Laparra (Guatemala)
*Maria Luisa Milanes (Cuba) (1893-1919)
*Maria Villar Buceta (Cuba) (1899-1977)
*Salomé Ureña de Henríquez (Dominican Republic) (1850-1897) “Herminia”
*Elisa Monge (Guatemala) (18XX-1932)
*Adela Zamudio (Bolivia) (1854-1928) “Soledad”
*Mercedes Matamoros (Cuba) (1851-1906)
*Nieves Xenes (Cuba)
*Aurelia Castillo de González (Cuba) (1842-1920)
*María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira (Uruguay) ( 1875-1924 )
*Emilia Bernal de Agüero (Cuba) (1884-1964)
*Delmira Agustini (Uruguay) (1886 – 1914)
* Antonieta Le-Quesne (Chile) (1895-1921)
*Juana de Ibarbourou (Uruguay) (1894 – 1979)
*Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva (Venezuela) (1886-1962)
*Gabrela Mistral (Chile) (1889-1957)
*Emma Vargas Flórez de Arguelles (Colombia) (1885 – )
*Alfonsina Storni (Argentina) (1892-1938)
* Adela Sagastume de Acuña (Guatemala) (18XX – 1926)
*Magda Portal (Perú) (1901-1989)
*MARIA MONVEL (Chile) (1897 – 1936)
*Nydia Lamarque (Argentina) (1906-1982)
*Olga Acevedo (Chile) (1895-1970)

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outrageously erased

Today in the library I meant to write up a formal description of my anthology project, but instead skimmed through biographical dictionaries.

I checked out several huge fat multi-volume dictionaries of Latin American authors, and some other Spanish-language Encyclopedias of Famous Women. It was interesting to see patterns emerge. Some encyclopedists knew a fair amount of Cuban women writers, but missed all the Chileans. Others got the Argentinians and Uruguayans, or knew about certain of my own favorites like the Venezuelan poet Enriqueta Arvelo Larriva, or massively famous feminists like Adela Zamudio, but missed the Cubans entirely except for Gomez de Avellaneda. *Everyone* was blind to the very strong groups of Guatemalan women writers. Some of the encyclopedias who knew the Matamoros-Borrero-Xenes circle still missed Emilia Bernal, or perhaps left her out on purpose for being too scandalous – I have no idea.

Sainz de Robles’ Diccionario de Mujeres Celebres, 1959, was strong on international and historical references. I’d enjoy reading all of it someday. If I found similar books from 1900 or so, and simply read them through, I’d understand these women’s poetry better. I’d see their references, just as reading a historical review of Sappho-myths helped me understand the poetry of Mercedes Matamoros and Nydia Lamarque. And just as my somewhat random knowledge of Norse mythology clued me into understanding Juana Borrero’s poem about Ran’s daughters.

Anyway, I studied patterns, took notes, xeroxed some things, and added considerably to the short biographies of many of the poets.

I enjoyed skipping around in Cesar Aira’s dictionary of authors. The appendices, which listed writers by country and then by birthdate, looked extremely useful. Though he missed quite a lot of the women I think are interesting. I like to think that he just didn’t know about them – rather than that he knew them but rejected their work as inferior.

Then I got into a terrible history-of-literature book, Literatura Hispanoamericana, volume 5 of an enormous and authoritative-looking reference series, Historia de la literatura española. It’s from 1969, and its author, Professor A. Valbuena Briones, included only one woman in his 600-page review of five centuries of Spanish-American literature, and it was… wait for it…. who do you think? There are only two possibilities and it is unimaginable to leave one of them out. It was Gabriela Mistral! He left out Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz. Fucking incredible… of all the people you’d think it would be impossible to erase. I kept looking through the index in dismay and finally flipped through the books’ opening chapters. Nope! No Sor Juana! I still hope I’m wrong. It keeps my faith in human nature going. The Valbuena B, he’s an amazing guy. I started having flashbacks to my classes 20 years ago in the Spanish department at University of Texas… maybe those old fossils had learned off that very book. Since The Valbuena had huge bibliographies that made it clear he had at least opened the flyleaf of many fine books that had women in them, we have to think that perhaps he is the distillation of many filtering layers of sexist anthologizing and critical reviewing, so that all the times that women writers were shunted off into the last paragraph of the last chapter of the book finally came to a head, like an enormous, gross zit, and popped, leaving nothing for Valbuena Briones to work with. He didn’t even have the obligatory section of “mention a couple of women while putting them down and lamenting that they aren’t better and there aren’t more of them” which I notice in so many literary doorstops of the 20th century.

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