Chilean poet & activist Gabriela Mistral is the first Latin American, and the only woman Latin American, to receive the Nobel Prize.  Mistral passionately devoted herself to poetry and a spiritual commitment to liberty & civilization, thru education & service, which she considered alternatives to barbarism.  She was a founder of UNICEF, champion of women and children, and an international worker in the struggle against poverty, illiteracy and oppression.

Someone who identified all her life with the poor and outcast, Mistral’s commitment to social justice and poetry make her revered throughout Latin America.  She placed value on communication and the gift of translating one’s own reality to the reality of another.  Her poems use language of clarity and truth that all people can relate to.

A distinctive author herself, Ursula Le Guin’s beautiful translations provide the first substantial collection of Mistral’s divine poems in both Spanish and English.

Mistral’s stanzas are so gorgeously visceral I can hear them thru my fingertips:

   Hincho mi corazón para que entre
como cascada ardiente el Universon.
El Nuevo día llega y su llegada
me deja sin aliento.
Canto como la gruta que es colmada
canto mi día Nuevo.
   Por la gracia perdida y recobrada
humilde soy sin dar y recibiendo
hasta que la Gorgona de la noche
va, derrotada, huyendo.
-by Gabriela Mistral
   I open out my heart so the Universe
can enter like a cataract of fire.
The new day comes; its coming
takes my breath away.
I sing, a hollow filled to overflowing,
I sing my break of day.
    For grace lost and grace regained,
I am humble, not giving and receiving
until the Gorgon of the night
flees defeated and takes flight.
-translation by Ursula K. Le Guin


Work cited:

Mistral, Gabriela.  Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral.  Trans. Ursula Le Guin.  Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2003.  Print.