Five Spanish American (Southern Cone) Women Poets translated by Catherine Chandler


I know not where it is, but it beckons me,
oh mysterious star of changeless destiny!…
Its hidden blaze and secret, unseen flame
in holy silent echo calls my name.

And if at times I leave the beaten track,
with an unknown force it always pulls me back:
chimera, phoenix, oriflamme and glory,
or love, beyond reach, strange and transitory…

I walk forever down an empty street
behind the fatal star that guides my feet
but never, never, never shows its light!

And yet its light calls out, its silence charms;
it summons me, while in the dark, my arms
in blind, despairing hope drag through the night.

from the Spanish “La estrella misteriosa”
by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira (La isla de los cánticos, 1925)

Glad and Sorry Seasons
by Catherine Chandler,
80 pages; 16.95USD/18.95CAD

Build me a boat as lofty as a thought…
then name her Star or else Obscurity.
The whimsies of the wind and hand must not
command a craft as bold and fair as she!

She’ll move to the pulsation of a heart
incarnadine with fierce vitality;
she’ll make me strong as in the arms of God.
Trimmed to the wind her sails must always be!

I’m loading all my sorrow in my boat;
with no set course, a lotus flower, I’ll float
along the vague horizon of the sea…

O Boat, my Soul Mate, what uncharted land,
what unexpected truths may lie at hand?…
This life, these dreams, shall be the death of me…

from the Spanish “La barca milagrosa” by Delmira Agustini
(Cantos de la mañana, 1910 )


Men put you in an icy tomb, but I
will lower you to the humble, sunny earth.
They did not understand that, when I die,
we’ll share one pillow and one dream in death.

I’ll lay you gently in the sunlit ground,
as a mother puts her sleeping son to bed,
the soil soft upon your every wound,
a cradle for a child, though he be dead.

Then I will sprinkle rose dust with the loam,
and underneath the moon’s blue-tinted glow,
your slight remains shall keep. In joyous tones

I’ll sing my sweet revenge as I turn home,
because no other woman’s hand shall claw
so deep to wrest from me your meagre bones!

from the Spanish “Los sonetos de la muerte” 
by Gabriela Mistral (1914 )


You told me: father never wept;
you said: grandfather would not wail;
men of my race have never cried,
they’re made of steel.

And as you said these words, your tear
fell on my lips… such bitter gall
I’ve never tasted from another
cup so small.

This poor, weak woman drank, for I
to centuries of pain relate:
but oh, my soul cannot withstand
its crushing weight!

from the Spanish “Peso ancestral” by Alfonsina Storni
(Irremediablemente, 1919)


Charon: I’ll be a scandal in your barque.
Those other souls may pray, lament or cry
beneath your evil patriarchal eye,
while timid spirits murmur in the dark.

Not I. I’ll be the lark that flits and sings.
I’ll flaunt my savage musk, and I will beam
my bright blue lantern on the bleak black stream,
sailing above the crossing on my wings.

You may not like it; and although you glare
at me with baleful eyes, I just don’t care.
Charon, in your barque I’ll be a scandal.

Then, when I’m cold and weak and fight no more,
your arms will drop me on the other shore—
vanquished—like the captive of a Vandal.

from the Spanish “Rebelde” by Juana de Ibarbourou

(Las lenguas de diamante, 1919)


Catherine Chandler's poetry, translations and essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies in North America, the U.K. and Australia. Winner of the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award, she is the author of Lines of Flight (Able Muse Press, 2011), a collection of sonnets, This Sweet Order (White Violet Press, 2012) and two chapbooks. Glad and Sorry Seasons is her second full-length collection. Recently retired from McGill University where she lectured in the Department of Translation Studies, Catherine resides in Saint-Lazare, Quebec.