Uruguay, with a population of only 3.3 million, is the smallest Spanish speaking country in South America, but it is a country with an strong tradition of poetry by women. This selection of poems by five women poets, Melisa Machado, Laura Cesarco Eglin, Virginia Lucas, Karen Wild Díaz and Eloísa Avoletta, born from 1966 to 1995, represents the latest links in this unbroken chain of Uruguayan women poets. And these five poets are well aware of this inheritance of poetic riches.
As part of the brief Q & A with each poet and translator in this Editor’s Feature, I asked the poets to name the Uruguayan woman poets who had influenced them most. Several name Juana de Ibarbourou and Delmira Agustini, in many ways the twin “mothers” of Uruguayan poetry. Two poets mention Susana Soca, a poet who died in a plane crash in Brazil in 1959 but who has re-emerged as an important voice for younger women poets. Nearly all list the amazing women poets such as Idea Vilariño, Ida Vitale and Amanda Berengeur who formed part of the Generation of ’45, an Uruguayan literary movement whose influence helped bring Latin American literature to world prominence.
Nearly everyone, as well, cites the wonderful poets from the following generation, Circe Maia and Marosa di Giorgio. Then each poet has her own a rich list of other poets, older to younger. I love mentioning the names of these here—and wish it was easy for you to go read work by all of them. But if only 3% of the world’s literature is translated into English, a much, much smaller percentage of Latin American women poets, including Uruguayan poets, has been translated. But if are also curious about the women these poets list as their influences, here is a short “suggested reading” list:
Ida Vitale: Garden of Silica, translated by Katherine M. Hedeen and Victor Rodriguez Nuñez (Salt Publishing, 2010).
Amanda Berenguer: there is a new anthology with multiple translators including Kristen Dykstra due out from Ugly Duckling Presse soon.
Circe Maia: The Invisible Bridge/ El puente invisible: Selected Poems of Circe Maia, translated by Jesse Lee Kercheval (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015).
Susana Soca: Touching the Light of Day: Seven Uruguayan Poets (Veliz Books, 2016). Soca and others translated into English by the Uruguayan poet Laura Chalar.
Marosa di Giorgio: Diadem: Selected Poems, translated by Adam Giannelli (BOA, 2012) and The History of Violets, translated by Jeannine Marie Pitas (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010).
And if you would like to read more work by the poets here:
Melisa Machado: Her most recent El canto rojo (“The Red Song”), translated by Seth Michelson who is also her translator here, is forthcoming from Action Books.
Laura Cesarco Eglin: Cesarco Eglin’s poems appear in América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets (University of New Mexico Press, 2016) and her Calling Water by Its Name, translated by Scott Spanbauer was published by Mouthfeel Press in 2016.
Virginia Lucas: Lucas’s poems appear in Earth, Water and Sky: A Bilingual Anthology of Environmental Poetry (Diálogos Books, 2016). Her book, Amé. RICA. TU VALOR DE CAMBIO/Ah.Me. RICH. Ah: YOUR EXCHANGE VALUE, also translated by Jen Hofer, is forthcoming from Litmus Press.
Karen Wild Díaz: Her first book Anti-Ferule was translated by Ron Paul Salutsky, her translator here, and published by Toad Press.
Eloísa Avoletta: The poems here, translated by fellow Uruguayan poet Laura Cesarco Eglin, are Avoletta’s first to appear in English. She is part of a wonderful project in Uruguay, run by the poets, to teach poetry workshops in high schools, to arrange readings for the young poets, and to publish their work in a yearly online anthology, En el camino de los perros: Antología virtual de poetas ultrajóvenes uruguayos. You can read more of Avoletta’s work in Spanish, and the other ultrajóvenes [very young] poets here.
Jesse Lee Kercheval is a 2016 NEA in Translation Fellow and is the author of fourteen books including the poetry collection Cinema Muto, winner of a Crab Orchard Open Selection Award; The Alice Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Fiction Book Prize; the memoir Space, winner of the Alex Award from the American Library Association. She is also a translator, specializing in Uruguayan poetry. Her translations include The Invisible Bridge: Selected Poems of Circe Maia and Fable of an Inconsolable Man by Javier Etchevarren. She is also the editor of the anthology América invertida: An Anthology of Emerging Uruguayan Poets. She is currently the Zona Gale Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she directs the Program in Creative Writing.