translated by Carolyn Forché
Fourteen volcanos rise
in my remembered country
in my mythical country.
Fourteen volcanos of foliage and stone
where strange clouds hold back
the screech of a homeless bird.
Who said that my
Claribel Alegría was born to Nicaraguan and Salvadoran parents in Estelí, Nicaragua, on May 12, 1924. She grew up in the Santa Ana area of western El Salvador, and in 1943 she moved to the United States. In 1948 she received a B.A. in Philosophy and Letters from George Washington University. Throughout her life, Alegría has emphasized her commitment to nonviolent resistance, even during her close association with the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN), the people's movement that took control of the Nicaraguan government in 1979 and overthrew dictator Anastasio Somoza Debayle. In 1985, Alegría returned to Nicaragua to aid in the country's reconstruction.
Alegría's ideological and literary tendencies are a reflection of a literary current that gained momentum in Central America during the 1950s and 1960s known as "la generacion comprometida" (the committed generation). Claribel Alegría has published numerous books of poetry, including Casting Off (Curbstone Press, 2003); Sorrow (1999), which focuses on the death of her companion and translator, Darwin Flakoll; Umbrales (Thresholds, 1996); Fuga de Canto Grande (Fugues, 1992); and La mujer del río/Woman of the River (1989), a bilingual edition. She is also a writer of novels and children's stories. Alegría won the Cuban-sponsored Casa de las Américas prize in 1978 for Sobrevivo (I Survive). She resided in Managua, Nicaragua until her death on January 25, 2018.