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Recorded by Marjorie Agosín on September 19, 2016.

About this poet

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)

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.

Marjorie Agosín, "Un mujer duerme en una isla / A Woman Sleeps on an Island," translated by Cola Franzen, from Sargasso. Copyright © 1993 by Marjorie Agosin. Translation copyright © 1993 by Cola Franzen. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of White Pine Press, www.whitepine.org.

Marjorie Agosín, "Un mujer duerme en una isla / A Woman Sleeps on an Island," translated by Cola Franzen, from Sargasso. Copyright © 1993 by Marjorie Agosin. Translation copyright © 1993 by Cola Franzen. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of White Pine Press, www.whitepine.org.

Marjorie Agosín

Marjorie Agosín is the author of numerous poetry collections, including At the Threshold of Memory: New & Selected Poems (White Pine Press, 2003) and Toward the Splendid City (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 1994), winner of the 1995 Latino Literature Prize. She lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

by this poet

poem
I

She knew how to seduce her destiny,
predict the time of flight
In 1939, dressed in garments
of night and happiness
at the threshold of a fearful
Hamburg Harbor
resolved to live,
she sailed 
to Southern seas.

In 1938, the windows
of her house of water and stone
resisted the extreme
horror of that night
of
poem

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

2
poem

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