Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral


Translated by Ursula K. Le Guin
Introduction by V.B. Price
University of New Mexico Press.
August 2003.
ISBN: 0-8263-2818-0
A hundred and sixty-three of Mistral’s poems, in Spanish and English.


This is the first presentation in English and Spanish of a really substantial selection of the poetry of Mistral — the first Latin American, and the only Latin American woman, to receive the Nobel Prize.

All five of Mistral’s books — Desolacion, Ternura, Tala, Lagar, and Poema de Chile — are fully represented, with an introductory note and a biographical sketch for each.

This translation was a labor of love for many years. There is no other voice in poetry like Mistral’s, from the miraculous clarity of her rounds and lullabyes, to the fiery rage of her love poems, to the dark complexity and visionary power of her late work. I hope this book may begin to restore this amazing poet to the recognition she deserves. Most of all I hope it comes to the hands of readers who will love her.

— Ursula K. Le Guin


Canción de la Muerte

La vieja Empadronadora,

la mañosa Muerte,

cuando vaya de camino,

mi niño no encuentre.

La que huele a los nacidos

y husmea su leche,

encuentre sales y harinas,

mi leche no encuentre.

La Contra-Madre del Mundo,

la Convida-gentes,

por las playas y las rutas

no halle al inocente.

El nombre de su bautismo

--la flor con que crece —

lo olvide la memoriosa,

lo pierda, la Muerte.

De vientos, de sal y arenas

se vuelve demente,

y trueque, la desvariada,

el Oeste, y el Este.

Niño y madre los confunda

los mismo que peces,

y en el día y en la hora

a mí sola encuentre.

Song of Death

Old Woman Census-taker,

Death the Trickster,

when you're going along,

don't you meet my baby.

Sniffing at newborns,

smelling for the milk,

find salt, find cornmeal,

don't find my milk.

Anti-Mother of the world,

People-Collector —

on the beaches and byways,

don't meet that child.

The name he was baptized,

that flower he grows with,

forget it, Rememberer.

Lose it, Death.

Let wind and salt and sand

drive you crazy, mix you up

so you can't tell

East from West,

or mother from child,

like fish in the sea.

And on the day, at the hour,

find only me.


Dame la Mano

Dame la mano y danzaremos;

dame la mano y me amarás.

Como una sola flor seremos,

como una flor, y nada más...

El mismo verso cantaremos,

al mismo paso bailarás.

Como una espiga ondularemos,

como una espiga, y nada más.

Te llama Rosa y yo Esperanza:

pero tu nombre olvidarás,

porque seremos una danza

en la colina, y nada más...

Give Me Your Hand

Give me your hand and give me your love,

give me your hand and dance with me.

A single flower, and nothing more,

a single flower is all we'll be.

Keeping time in the dance together,

you'll be singing the song with me.

Grass in the wind, and nothing more,

grass in the wind is all we'll be.

I'm called Hope and you're called Rose:

but losing our names we'll both go free,

a dance on the hills, and nothing more,

a dance on the hills is all we'll be.


Canto que Amabas

Yo canto lo que tú amabas, vida mía,

por si te acercas y escuchas, vida mía,

por si te acuerdas del mundo que viviste,

al aterdecer yo canto, sombra mía.

Yo no quiero enmudecer, vida mía.

¿Cómo sin mi grito fiel me hallarías?

¿Cuál señal, cuál me declara, vida mía?

Soy la misma que fue tuya, vida mía.

Ni lenta ni trascordada ni perdida.

Acude al anochecer, vida mía,

ven recordando un canto, vida mía,

si la canción reconoces de aprendida

y si mi nombre recuerdas todavía.

Te espero sin plazo y sin tiempo.

No temas noche, nebline ni aguacero.

Acude con sendero o sin sendero.

Llámame adonde tú eres, alma mía,

y marcha recto hacia mí, compañero.

What You Loved

Life of my life, what you loved I sing.

If you're near, if you're listening,

think of me now in the evening:

shadow in shadows, hear me sing.

Life of my life, I can't be still.

What is a story we never tell?

How can you find me unless I call?

Life of my life, I haven't changed,

not turned aside and not estranged.

Come to me as the shadows grow long,

come, life of my life, if you know the song

you used to know, if you know my name.

I and the song are still the same.

Beyond time or place I keep the faith.

Follow a path or follow no path,

never fearing the night, the wind,

call to me, come to me, now at the end,

walk with me, life of my life, my friend.

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A Note about Gabriela Mistral

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Link to UNM Press order form

Order Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral from University of New Mexico Press

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Copyright © 2003 by Ursula K. Le Guin
Updated Tuesday, 18-Jun-2019 10:14:37 EDT