Female Poet – Cecilia Meireles

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Sometimes, you come across people or things that just touch your heart and soul. Recently I learned about the poet, Cecilia Meireles. What an interesting women, and I’m very glad to have found out about her. I’ve always enjoy poetry, it’s not something I read often, but when I do pick up a book of poems, I tend to read almost all of it. Poems put  my thinking into a different world. Poetry writers, when they are good ones, can make your emotions fly very high into the sky, or take you down as low as the darkness will allow. Poetry is often very personal and very telling, and can be as beautiful as a sun rise, or as sad as a death.

But I want to talk about writer and poet, Cecilia Meireles. She was born on November 7, 1901, in Rio de Janeiro. She was a Brazilian writer and educator and taught at several Brazilian universities. She also organized the first children’s library in Brazil. She married the Portuguese painter, Fernando Correia Dias, in 1922, who suffered from deep depression and later committed suicide in 1936, which not only broken her heart, but also forced her to expand her activities as teacher and journalist, and to educate her 3 daughters on her own.
In 1939 she won the Olavo Bilac poetry prize for her book ‘Viagens’, one of her major works, which proved to be her high point as poet.
She married again in 1940 to Heitor Vinícius da Silveira Grilo, a professor in agronomy engineering. In that same year, she became a professor and taught at diverse universities, including the University of Texas where she was a visiting teacher of Brazilian literature. But her travels and desires to learn and teach others didn’t stop here.

In 1953, in Goa, India she participated in a symposium on Gandhi’s work. There attained the title of Doctor Honoris Causa from the University of India. India became a major influence on her poetry, and she taught herself Hindu and Sanskrit. Even though many of her works included lyrics in free verse, she never abandoned the traditional forms and French symbolism. She was affected by many literary movements, yet her poetry remained very personal, considered by many as spontaneous lyricism.

Her poetry has been translated into Spanish, Italian, German, English, French, Hindu, Urdu and Hungarian among others. She died of cancer in Rio de Janeiro, on November 9, 1964.

Here are a few samples of her poetry:

Portrait

I did not have this face I have today,
So calm, so sad, so thin,
Nor these empty eyes,
Nor these bitter lips.

I did not have these weak hands,
So inert, so cold and dead;
I did not have this heart
That doesn’t show itself.

I was not aware of this change,
So simple, so certain, so easy:
-In which mirror has my face been lost?

Motive

I sing because the moment exists
and my life is complete.
I am not happy nor sad;
I am a poet.
Brother of the ephemeral
I do not feel joy nor agony.
I cross nights and days
in the wind.
Whether I break down or build up,
whether I stay or disperse,
-I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t know if I stay
or walk away.
I do know that I sing. And the song is everything.
It has the eternal blood of a rhythmic wing.
One day I know I will be mute:
-nothing more

The Rosters Will Crow

The roosters will crow when we die,
And a soft breeze, with delicate hands,
Will touch the fringes, the silken
Shrouds.

And the sleep of night will cloud
The clear windows.

And the crickets, far off, will saw silences:
Stalks of crystal, cold long solitudes,
And the enormous perfume of trees.

Ah, what sweet moon will look upon our calm face,
Even yet more calm than her great mirror
Of silver.

What thick freshness upon  our hair,
As free as the fields at sunrise.

From the mist of dawn,
One last star
Will ascend: pale.

What immense peace, without human voice,
Without the lip of wolfish faces,
Without hatred, without love, without anything!

Like dark lost prophets,
Only the dogs will talk through the valleys.
Strong questions. Vast pauses.

We shall lie in death
In that soft contour
Of a shell in the water.

In 1965, the year following her death, the most distinguished of all literary prizes in Brazil, the Premio Machado de Assis, was conferred upon her complete works by the Brazilian Academy of Letters. In his memorial tribute, the great Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade said: “Within a sublime verse, in an infinite journey beyond the mystery of religions and dreams, Cecília Meireles spent her life. This extraodinary woman was an an instrument, and in reality very well-tuned to reveal to us the most impermanent and perfect.
I couldn’t agree more.
Peace.

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