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Marjorie Agosín

Marjorie Agosín was born in Chile in 1955. She began writing poetry as a child, and after her family moved to Athens, Georgia, in 1969, she continued to write poems in Spanish. She received a BA from the University of Georgia and an MA and PhD from Indiana University.

Agosín is the author of numerous poetry collections, including At the Threshold of Memory: New & Selected Poems (White Pine Press, 2003); Toward the Splendid City (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1994), winner of the 1995 Latino Literature Prize; and Sargasso (White Pine Press, 1993). Isabel Allende writes, “Agosín’s poetic language engages the reader in a mesmerizing journey of inward reflection and exile.”

Agosín, who writes primarily in Spanish, frequently invokes themes of displacement and immigration in her poetry. In an interview with Blackbird, she says, “I feel that I don’t belong. I feel like a stranger, which is very good for a poet, to feel like a stranger.”

Agosín is also the author of several works of prose, including A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile (University of New Mexico Press, 1995) and I Lived on Butterfly Hill (Atheneum Books, 2015), winner of the 2015 International Latino Book Award in young adult fiction.

A human rights activist, Agosín is known for her work promoting social justice and feminism. In 1998, she received a United Nations Leadership Award for Human Rights, and in 2002, she was awarded the Gabriela Mistral Award for Life Achievement by the Chilean government. A recipient of Spain’s prestigious Letras de Oro prize, Agosín is a professor of Spanish at Wellesley College. She lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry
Mother, Speak to Us About War/Madre, hablanos de la Guerra (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2015)
At the Threshold of Memory: New & Selected Poems (White Pine Press, 2003)
The Angel of Memory/El angel de la memoria (White Pine Press, 2001)
Melodious Women (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1998)
Dear Anne Frank (Brandeis University Press, 1998)
Toward the Splendid City (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1994)
Sargasso (White Pine Press, 1993)
Circles of Madness: Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo (White Pine Press, 1992)
Zones of Pain (White Pine Press, 1988)
Women of Smoke (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1988)
Brujas y algo más/Witches and Other Things (Latin American Literary Review Press, 1984)

Prose
Invisible Dreamer: Memory, Judaism & Human Rights (Sherman Asher Publishing, 2015)
I Lived on Butterfly Hill (Atheneum Books, 2015)
Of Earth and Sea: A Chilean Memoir (University of Arizona Press, 2008)
Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez (White Pine Press, 2006)
A Cross and a Star: Memoirs of a Jewish Girl in Chile (University of New Mexico Press, 1995)
Scraps of Life: Chilean Arpilleras (Red Sea Press, 1987)

By This Poet

4

Secrets in the Sand [And the night was a precipice]

And the night was a precipice,
And the night was a hollow sound,
Beyond all depths and silences.
It was night in the city of Juárez and the dead women of Juárez
Protected the living ones.
It didn’t seem like a typical night at the border.
It seemed more like the drowsiness of a mute inferno
And flames transforming into knives.

Night in Juárez was a perverse mirror
Where death breathed its hollow
Trophies over the sand.

And night in the city of Juárez didn’t have a beginning or an end
Just fear
Just death.

A Woman Sleeps on an Island

translated by Cola Franzen

A woman sleeps on an island
and from her hair is born the dwelling place
of memories and wild birds.
Her body is a figurehead,
and they say that since
she fell asleep on the island
she seems to have been touched by the rains
of madness, that her hair blossoms each evening
next to the music of the sea. Others say
her eyelids trace maps of strange geographies,
savage tattoos kept only in the tenuous
circle of her dreams.

A woman sleeps on an island
and stops being herself,
free now of the land.
She sails and drinks
the vastness of the sea.
Seeds fill her floating hair;
she is an island
surrounded by stars.


Un mujer duerme en una isla

Una mujer duerme en una isla
y del cabello nacen las moradas
de memorias y pájaros salvajes.
Su cuerpo es un mascarón de proa
y dicen que desde
que durmió en la isla
pareciera haber sido tocada por las lluvias
de la demencia, que su pelo florece en los atardeceres
junto a la música del mar. Otros dicen
que sus párpados dibujan mapas de extrañas geografías,
tatuajes salvajes que ella guarda sólo
en la redondez tenue del sueño.

Una mujer duerme en una isla
y deja de ser ella misma
libre ahora de la tierra.
Navega y bebe
la inmensidad del mar.
Las semillas llenan su pelo que flota
y ella es una isla
rodeada de estrellas.

Seven Stones

translated by Cola Franzen

Today I picked up
seven stones
resembling birds and orphans
in the dead sand.
I looked at them
as if they were offerings
of uncommon times,
as if they were
seven endangered travelers.

Like a sorceress, I came near
and very gently
moistened them
against my cheek.

I wanted
to be seven stones
inside my skin,
to be, for an instant, very round and smooth
so somebody would pick me up
and make clefts in my sides
with the damp voice of the wind.

I wanted
you to pick me up,
to kiss me,
so I could be a river stone
in your estuary mouth.

I keep the seven stones
in my pocket.
They make a mound
in my hand
and in my stories
of absences,
a mossy sound.


Siete piedras

Hoy recogí
siete piedras
parecían pájaros y huérfanas
en la arena difunta.
Las miré,
como si fueran obsequios
de tiempos raros,
como si fueran
siete viajeras amenazadas.

Me acerqué maga,
y así muy dulce,
las humedecí
con mis mejillas.

Quise ser
siete piedras
en mi tez,
por un instante ser muy lisa y ronca
para que alguien me recoja
y haga de mí, hendiduras con la voz
de un viento humedecido.

Quise que
me recojas
me beses,
para ser piedra del río
en tu boca de estuarios.

Guardé en mi delantal
las siete piedras,
hacían una loma
en mi mano
eran en mis historias
de ausencias
un sonido enmohecido.