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Hispanista: A Country of Earthquakes and Poets

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Chile was struck by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake last Saturday February 27 at 3:34 AM local time. The earthquake has left many Chileans homeless and hundreds killed. Chile is known to many as the most prosperous Spanish-speaking country in Latin America; Chile is also known for its copper exports, its empanadas (turn-overs), and its literary contributions. Chile has two Nobel prizes for literature: Gabriela Mistral in 1945 and Pablo Neruda in 1971 -both of them were poets.

Chileans have a special respect for nature; they’ve experienced so many earthquakes that those that live on the coast know to literally run for the hills to escape a possible tsunami after a strong quake. Along with this respect comes an admiration for nature. The two Chilean Nobel Laureates show this through their constant references to the sea, the forest, the mountains and the birds. Here are some examples.

Pine Forest by Gabriela Mistral

Let us go now into the forest.
Trees will pass by your face,
and I will stop and offer you to them,
but they cannot bend down.
The night watches over its creatures,
except for the pine trees that never change:
the old wounded springs that spring
blessed gum, eternal afternoons.
If they could, the trees would lift you
and carry you from valley to valley,
and you would pass from arm to arm,
a child running
from father to father

Those Who Do not Dance by Gabriela Mistral

A crippled child
Said, “How shall I dance?”
Let your heart dance
We said.

Then the invalid said:
“How shall I sing?”
Let your heart sing
We said

Then spoke the poor dead thistle,
“But I, how shall I dance?”
Let your heart fly to the wind
We said.

Then God spoke from above
“How shall I descend from the blue?”
Come dance for us here in the light
We said.

All the valley is dancing
Together under the sun,
And the heart of him who joins us not
Is turned to dust, to dust.

Water by Pablo Neruda

Everything on the earth bristled, the bramble
pricked and the green thread
nibbled away, the petal fell, falling
until the only flower was the falling itself.
Water is another matter,
has no direction but its own bright grace,
runs through all imaginable colors,
takes limpid lessons
from stone,
and in those functionings plays out
the unrealized ambitions of the foam.

Bird by Pablo Neruda

It was passed from one bird to another,
the whole gift of the day.
The day went from flute to flute,
went dressed in vegetation,
in flights which opened a tunnel
through the wind would pass
to where birds were breaking open
the dense blue air –
and there, night came in.

When I returned from so many journeys,
I stayed suspended and green
between sun and geography –
I saw how wings worked,
how perfumes are transmitted
by feathery telegraph,
and from above I saw the path,
the springs and the roof tiles,
the fishermen at their trades,
the trousers of the foam;
I saw it all from my green sky.
I had no more alphabet
than the swallows in their courses,
the tiny, shining water
of the small bird on fire
which dances out of the pollen.

-Silvia Viñas
Photos: Wikimedia Commons

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Written by whitney teal

March 6, 2010 at 2:33 pm

Posted in Hispanista

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