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The Fifth Star: María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira (Uruguay)

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n the night skies above the Southern Cone countries of Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, the smallest of the eighty-eight modern constellations is visible: La Cruz del Sur (The Southern Cross), also known as Crux. This kite-shaped asterism appears on the flags of several countries, including Brazil and Australia. It consists of four bright stars, forming a cross, and one smaller star inside the cross, an unnamed orange giant simply referred to as ε Cru.

In the literature of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in these same Southern Cone countries, four women are generally considered the “star” poetisas1 of the era, their work often included in anthologies of Latin American literature.

Yet there is a fifth “star,” generally overlooked, whose poetry is seldom included in those anthologies, due in part to her personal aversion to the process of publication during her lifetime, to her death at the relatively young age of forty-nine, to an exclusionary process of canon formation in Latin American modernismo (Waisman xxiii), and perhaps most importantly, to patriarchal judgment and erasure by her brother, Uruguayan philosopher Carlos Vaz Ferreira.

The purpose of this essay is threefold: (a) to encourage continued analysis and critical studies of the poet; (b) to encourage the translation of her work from Spanish into English and other languages; and (c) to introduce this important poet to those who have never heard of the woman whose poetic work — and defiance of the paternalistic attitudes of the day — prepared the way for the other four, compatriots Delmira Agustini and Juana de Ibarbourou, as well as two other contemporaries, Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral of Chile and the Swiss-born Argentine poet, Alfonsina Storni.

Her name is María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira.

Life and Times

María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira was born in Montevideo on July 13, 1875, a year of great political turmoil in Uruguay, to a wealthy and cultured family. Her father, Manuel Vaz Ferreira, was a Portuguese merchant originally from Valença do Minho, and her mother, Belén Ribeiro Freire, a Uruguayan of Portuguese and Spanish descent, was the daughter of an influential family in Uruguayan political and cultural circles. Manuel Vaz Ferreira died at the age of sixty on a business trip to Brazil, following which his only surviving son, Carlos, took on the role of family patriarch. Two other notable Uruguayan poets, Julio Herrera y Reissig and Florencio Sánchez, were also born in 1875. The Vaz Ferreiras were Roman Catholics, and the youngest child, María Eugenia, was baptized in November of that year, her full name being María Eugenia Sofía Vaz Ferreira Ribeiro Freire de Andrade y Navia Cienfuegos.

María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira was educated at home by private tutors, a typical education for daughters of the well-to-do of the time. An uncle, composer León Ribeiro, gave her piano lessons, and she quickly became proficient, particularly in the works of her favorites, Wagner and Chopin. She later went on to compose several musical compositions of her own. Another uncle, artist Julio Freire, taught her the rudiments of painting.

María Eugenia began writing poetry in her early teens, mainly handwritten occasional poems for family and friends, and by the age of eighteen, several poems had been published in magazines and newspapers in Uruguay and Argentina. She gave her first public reading in 1893, and by the time she turned twenty, her poems “Monólogo,” “La sirena,” and “A una golondrina” had already appeared in several anthologies.

Between 1899 and 1907 many of her poems were published in prestigious journals such as La Revista and La Nueva Atlántida, edited by the poet Julio Herrera y Reissig, and Rojo y Blanco, edited by Samuel Blixen, one of the most highly respected literature and theatre critics of the day. The first critical analysis of her work appeared in a series of essays by Alberto Nin Frías, published in the journal Vida Moderna in 1903, in which he compared Vaz Ferreira’s poetry to that of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (25). Nin Frías also wrote the introduction to Vaz Ferreira’s first collection, Fuego y Mármol, which was never published, due to the poet’s first major episode of depression. In 1905 eleven of her poems were included in Raúl Montero Bustamante’s anthology, El Parnaso Oriental, where, in his introduction, he compared Vaz Ferreira’s artistic personality to that of Zorrilla de San Martín and declared her “la primer poetisa de América y la más grande que ha tenido el país”2 (Moreira 29).

In September of 1908, her one-act verse play, “La piedra filosofal”, was performed in Montevideo’s Teatro Solís, to appreciative, standing-room-only audiences. She had also composed the play’s musical score. Her second play, also written in verse, “Los Peregrinos” received the same enthusiastic response one year later, as did her third and final play, “Resurrexit: Idilio Medioeval” in 1913, a benefit performance for Montevideo’s poor children, and which received a long standing ovation on the night of its premiere. (Moreira 32).

In 1915, at the age of forty, the poet and playwright took on another role: that of Professor and Chair of Literature at the newly-formed Universidad de Mujeres3, under the progressive presidency of José Batlle y Ordóñez. According to Rosenbaum (51), Vaz Ferreira demanded she be given the position, stating that it was the least the country, which had heretofore “given her nothing,” could do for her. Whether or not that is the case, Vaz Ferreira took her position seriously and only reluctantly gave it up when she could no longer continue due to poor health. Blixen reports that, although she had strained relations with the Dean and several other professors, she was well-loved by her students, several of whom, including Esther de Cáceres and Susana Soca, went on to become poets of international renown (1-2).

In 1922 a selection of her poems was included in Claudio García’s Antología de poetisas americanas along with work by another fourteen Latin American women poets, including Gabriela Mistral, Juana de Ibarbourou and Alfonsina Storni.

A meticulous perfectionist when it came to writing poetry, Vaz Ferreira’s personal life was complex and contradictory, reflecting in many ways both the staid, decorous end-of-the-century period in which she was born and raised, and the daring, spirited literary movements which followed, Latin American modernismo and the Uruguayan “Generación del 900,” whose writings sought to shock the bourgeoisie, and to mock, criticize, and denounce the norms of the hypocritical society in which they lived. Contradictory sentiments such as fire and marble, flesh and statue, desire and reserve, idealism and disillusionment, and love and solitude are ever-present in Vaz Ferreira’s poetry (Martínez 89).

For instance, María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira was known for her profound spirituality and irreproachable character. Her family relationships were reserved and unaffectionate, especially with her mother, who wished to arrange a marriage between her daughter and a man she did not love. María Eugenia referred to her only sibling, her older brother Carlos, as “fraterno” rather than “hermano” (another brother had died in infancy).

At the same time, in the summer of 1914, during an air show organized by the National Aviation Centre, a fun-loving and daring María Eugenia became the first Uruguayan woman to board an airplane, flying over the Hippodrome in a military-type Dupperdussin piloted by the Englishman John Barron, who safely crash-landed later that day. A diehard practical joker with huge black velvety eyes, a rich contralto recitation voice and an infectious, hearty laugh, María Eugenia was known to disconcert friends and acquaintances by wearing two different shoes or torn dresses either buttoned incorrectly or held together with pins, in order to make a statement that clothes don’t make the man (or woman) (Blixen 3). Other critics were not as sympathetic. David William Foster, in his Handbook of Latin American Literature, categorizes Vaz Ferreira (whose name he misspells as “María Eugenio”) as a typical “disturbed” Modernist writer (542), while Argentine-born critic and historian Alberto Zum Felde writes disdainfully of her antics as prideful intellectual affectations, dubbing her an “alma maldita”4 (283).

However, it would seem that the smile on her lips was a façade to hide her inner sorrow. In a letter to Argentine poet and critic Pedro Miguel Obligado (undated as is all of her correspondence and poetry) she wrote:

Ahora tiene Vd. La clave de mi tristeza, del desconcierto de mi persona y mis cosas, y el porqué, siendo feliz en todo lo demás, he llegado a encontrar pésima la vida, hasta el punto de desear que se acabe. . . . Muchas veces, casi siempre tengo la risa en los labios y por dentro estoy desolada5 (Moreira 102).

In 1922, an unspecified kidney ailment from which Vaz Ferreira had been suffering for several years began to worsen. She reluctantly resigned her teaching position at the university, for the disease had not only affected her physically, being barely able to walk without a cane, but also affected her nervous system. Diagnosed with “acute neurasthenia,” Vaz Ferreira’s spiritual outlook on life became even darker than before, and both her mental and physical health rapidly deteriorated. She became increasingly introspective, withdrawing from society, and was often seen roaming the streets, parks and trolleys of Montevideo in a painful state of “oblivion and slovenliness” (Russell 80). She died following an unspecified “dangerous surgical intervention” (Moreira 40-41) on May 20, 1924 at the age of forty-nine.6

The notice of María Eugenia Vaz Fereira’s death was immediately followed by numerous newspaper and journal articles, paying extravagant homage to the great Uruguayan poetisa who had not lived to see a collection of her work in print.

Publications

As early as 1903, Vaz Ferreira, who, according to her brother, was repulsed by “ciertos aspectos de la publicidad” (certain aspects of publication) (Verani 163) such as having her book appear in shop windows, had selected fifty-one poems for the collection entitled Fuego y Mármol. The book was never published. In 1924, her health failing, she finally chose forty poems for La isla de los cánticos.

However, Vaz Ferreira died in May of that year, and it fell to her brother to assemble the final manuscript. Verani writes that this task proved extremely difficult for Carlos Vaz Ferreira, due to the existence of different versions of the poems, often having to rely on what he called educated guesses. Before his sister died, Carlos Vaz Ferreira had convinced her to add to the collection one more poem, “Único poema,“ a poem she had previously excluded because, she told him, “Nadie la entendió”7 (154). La isla de los cánticos, a collection of forty-one poems, was published posthumously in 1925.

In his introductory note to La isla de los cánticos, Carlos Vaz Ferreira states, “Si en otro estado de espíritu o en posesión de datos nuevos pudiera más adelante perfeccionar este trabajo, lo intentaré para otras ediciones; y también resolveré si debo publicar otras poesías.” 8

Carlos Vaz Ferreira either had no change of heart and/or received no new information, or perhaps he simply opposed the publication of his sister’s poetry, for no further editions of La isla de los cánticos, nor for that matter any of her other poems, were ever published during his lifetime.

It wasn’t until 1959, the year following Carlos Vaz Ferreira’s death, that the Uruguayan poet, essayist, and philosopher Emilio Oribe was able to retrieve Vaz Ferreira’s unpublished life work, including drafts, revisions and letters. In that year he published La otra isla de los cánticos, consisting of seventy-one poems not included in María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s first book. The beauty, craftsmanship, and genius of Vaz Ferreira’s poetry was finally coming to light.

Yet another twenty-seven years would pass before Hugo J. Verani would publish, in 1986, an annotated edition of her collected works, preceded by a lengthy introduction. This edition includes 87 poems that had not previously appeared in either of the first two books. He had tracked down some of the poems in late nineteenth-century and very early twentieth-century Rioplatense newspapers, as well as some poetic fragments and poems she had written for family and friends.

Verani states in his introduction to Vaz Ferreira’s Poesías Completas:

María Eugenia fue, en rigor, la primera mujer uruguaya con voz lírica inconfundible, la primera mujer hispánica moderna que poetize las ansias de su sexo y planteó el amor como tema literario, rebeldía (social, sexual) que muy pronto desembocará en el lirismo sensual y confessional de Delmira y Juana de Ibarbourou. Con ellas se inicia la participación active de la mujer en la vida literaria del Uruguay, en una época de severa rigidez que imponía a la mujer sumisión y dependencia total e intolerable. 9(9)

Delmira Agustini, a very close personal friend of María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, was appalled at the suppression of María Eugenia’s work and, as early as 1903, in her newspaper column “Legión etérea,” blamed unnamed “ignorant and malicious persons” for holding back the publication of María Eugenia’s manuscript because they disapproved of the subject matter of her poems (James 57).

Russell believes this atmosphere of suppression may have led directly to Vaz Ferreira’s mental breakdowns, and asks, ¿ . . . quién o quiénes fueron infligiéndole la cotidiana derrota de las decepciones?”10 (83). Parra del Riego also alludes to her “jail-like” surroundings as “. . . hinchados de viento y de hielo, de maldad e ironía,”11 none of which prevented her from writing poetry that sang like Heine’s nightingale (8).

It is interesting to note that Carlos Vaz Ferreira was already lecturing extensively on “compensatory feminism” (as opposed to egalitarian feminism) (Schutte 208) as far back as 1918, his philosophy which posited that the apex of femininity was maternity, and that women tended “naturally” to marriage. He expected that, “given a choice, most women would choose marriage and maternity over any other occupation. Therefore there was no reason to deny them an opportunity for education” (Lavrin 39).

It well may be Carlos Vaz Ferreira resented, or even feared, his sister’s rebellious, defiant, idiosyncratic, independent and capricious nature, her refusal to accept a marriage of convenience to one of his friends, and above all, the sensual nature of her poetry, and thus attempted to “erase” her extensive poetic legacy through both passive and active means. Had the full extent of María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s genius become known to the world, it may not only have eclipsed his own reputation, but may also have contradicted, and indeed demolished, his theory that women were biologically and intellectually disadvantaged in relation to men. This “erasure” lasted from 1924 until 1959.

As María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s collected works were not available to the general public until after Carlos Vaz Ferreira’s death in 1958, there was no possibility of a valid critical assessment of her poetic oeuvre. As a result, in 1945, when the Hispanic Institute in New York published Sidonia Carmen Rosenbaum’s Modern Women Poets of Spanish America, Vaz Ferreira, though included in the chapter on forerunners of Latin American modernismo and referred to as a poet of poetic depth who “. . . undoubtedly heralded this new epoch of full literary freedom for women in Latin America” (49), was dubbed a “strange” and “difficult” contemporary of lesser importance than Agustini, Mistral, Storni, and Ibarbourou, not meriting special study.

In 2007, eighty-three years after María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s death, The Modern Language Association of America published An Anthology of Spanish American modernismo in English translation, with Spanish text. It includes a chapter on Vaz Ferreira as well as three of her poems, “Rendición”/”Surrender,” “Yo sola”/”I Alone,” and “Los desterrados”/”The Exiles,” the first known English translations of María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira. Though the translations leave much to be desired and do not represent her best work, at least an effort has been made to introduce Vaz Ferreira’s poetry to the English-speaking world.

The Lyrical World of María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira

María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira did not date her poems, either in draft or final form, nor did she date any of her correspondence or musical compositions. This fact has made it difficult for critics and scholars to establish a chronological order for her oeuvre and indeed to publish a definitive version of some of her poems. Emilio Oribe, who knew Vaz Ferreira personally and who wrote the foreword to La otra isla de los cánticos, believes the poet deliberately did not date her writings, thus “freeing them” from all attempts at allusion, association, correlation, or other types of reference (7).

María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s thirty years’ (1894 – 1924) worth of poetic output are generally divided into three main periods: the years prior to 1900 (poems of a romantic, melancholic nature, such as “Primavera,” published in local newspapers); the period 1900 to approximately 1914 (“modernista” poems of absolute aesthetic idealism, such as “Heroica”); and finally from 1915 until her death in 1924 (metaphysical poems of deep personal expression and formal purity, such as “La estrella misteriosa”) (Zum Felde 283 - 289; Moreira 44 – 46; Verani 13).

If Oribe’s position is to be adopted, a non-chronological approach based on a series of major themes provides a better global picture of Vaz Ferreira’s lyrical world. In his essay “María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira: del naufragio vital al anhelo de trascendencia,” Arturo Sergio Visca, while validating chronological order as a useful tool in the study of a poet’s creative progress, analyzes Vaz Ferreira’s poems as parts of an interrelated whole, with poems from all periods of her writing career overlapping within each thematic category. He determines a series of poems by theme or existential content, arranges the poems within each series (or sub-series), and finally determines whether any correlations exist (4).

According to Visca’s schema, María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s poetry can be divided into four main themes: love poems — comprising nearly 50% of her work — a theme further sub-divided into (a) tender, unconditional love poems; (b) contradictory love poems of attraction and rejection; (c) love poems of total rejection; and (d) frustration at the incapacity to love. Some of the poems in this category include “O milagroso amor,” “Yo sola,” “El novio ausente,” “Holocausto,” “Invicta,” “Berceuse,” and “Heroica.”

The second series consists of desolate poems of anguish, despair and solitude. The soul is likened to a shipwrecked castaway, floating on the sea without a compass or destination, with imminent drowning a distinct possibility (9). “Hacia la noche,” “Voz del retorno,” “El ataúd flotante,” and “El regreso” are prime examples of poems in this series.

The third series are “dark night of the soul”-type poems of transition, where the pulsating anguish of the previous series begins to give way to serenity. Poems of this nature include “Sólo tú,” “Único poema,” and “Enmudecer.”

The fourth and final series are poems where, as in “Ave celeste,” “Oda a la belleza,” and “Resurrección,” though a sense of alienation still exists, the poet accepts her metaphysical solitude, sensing a guiding light or star that will lead to transcendence.

“La estrella misteriosa” (“The Mysterious Star”), a sonnet, is another poem that falls into this fourth category. It is a poem of spiritual harmony and pure beauty. A close reading follows:

La estrella misteriosa

Yo no sé dónde está, pero su luz me llama,
¡oh misteriosa estrella de un inmutable sino!…
Me nombra con el eco de un silencio divino
y el luminar oculto de una invisible llama.
Si alguna vez acaso me aparto del camino,
con una fuerza ignota de nuevo me reclama:
gloria, quimera, fénix, fantástico oriflama
o un imposible amor extraño y peregrino…

Y sigo eternamente por la desierta vía
tras la fatal estrella cuya atracción me guía,
¡mas nunca, nunca, nunca a revelarse llega!
Pero su luz me llama, su silencio me nombra,
mientras mis torpes brazos rastrean en la sombra
con la desolación de una esperanza ciega…

(by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, La isla de los cánticos, page 67)

The Mysterious Star

I know not where it is, but it beckons me,
oh mysterious star of changeless destiny! . . .
Its hidden blaze and secret, unseen flame
in holy silent echo calls my name.
And if at times I leave the beaten track,
with an unknown force it always pulls me back:
chimera, phoenix, oriflamme and glory,
or love, beyond reach, strange and transitory . . .

I walk forever down an empty street
behind the fatal star that guides my feet
but never, never, never shows its light!
And yet its light calls out, its silence charms;
it summons me, while in the dark, my arms
in blind, despairing hope drag through the night.

(translated by Catherine Chandler)

Analysis of “La estrella misteriosa”

An interesting aspect of Latin American modernismo is that, although the movement was a struggle against social and literary convention, modernistas often used the strictest of forms, with “chiseled rhymes and impeccable rhythms” (Waisman xvi), exotic landscapes, highly stylized tonalities and symbolism to express their existential angst. Vaz Ferreira’s “La estrella misteriosa” illustrates this paradox.

The poem is a sonnet composed of two stanzas, an octet and a sestet. Each line contains fourteen syllables (the Spanish alejandrino) in perfect consonantal rhyme. The rhyme scheme is: ABBABAAB and CCDEED. It is interesting to note that Vaz Ferreira uses the word “llama” as the identical rhyme in both lines 1 and 4, the first instance as a verb (calls me) and the second as a noun (flame).

True to the sonnet’s classical structure, the lyrical persona raises or poses a question in the octet. The sonnet turns as expected at line 9, and the sestet, becoming much more personal, attempts to answer the question or problem raised in the octet.

Despite the plethora of poetic devices in “La estrella misteriosa,” which include alliteration, apostrophe, assonance, asyndeton, consonance, extended metaphor, personification, repetition, redundancy, inversion, oxymoron, ellipsis, and synesthesia, the poem reads as a natural human expression. In his essay on the various aspects of Vaz Ferreira’s poetic style, Mejías Alonso concludes:

“No hay nada que sobresalga por extravagante, antes al contrario, todo está pensado para que el lector se recree ante la sencilla belleza del texto sin necesidad de descifrar complicadas metáforas o símbolos oscuros” (148).12

The title “La estrella misteriosa” suggests that the poem is about a mysterious star, a star somehow related to the life of the narrator (N), the lyrical “I.” In line 2 the poet is very clear as to the symbolism of the star: it is her destiny.

The star is all-important and ever-present to N., as the verbs used throughout the poem attest (beckon, call, pull, guide, charm and summon). It is such a mysterious star that, though she wants and needs to see, touch and understand it, she cannot because the “star” is “mysterious,” that is, unknowable, except perhaps by divine revelation, mysterious because it is an enigma, with its oxymoronic hidden blaze, unseen flame, and silent echo.

In the last two lines of the octet, N. tries in vain to define the star (thus the ellipsis), with an asyndetic list of four grandiose possibilities in line 7, followed by an entire line (line 8) wondering whether it is, in fact, a type of unattainable love.

While the octet is a rational exposé of the problem, the sestet is pure emotion. Vaz Ferreira expresses a deep and not uncommon feeling of metaphysical alienation in lines 9 through 14. Here the desolate, deserted street becomes a metaphor for life. Powerless to do otherwise, N. must follow her star, her destiny, to its final destination, death.

Note the use of the adjective “fatal” applied to the star. It can mean deadly or be taken in the philosophic sense of fatalism, the doctrine that all events are subject to fate or inevitable predetermination. Vaz Ferreira is a master of ambiguity, and she leaves it to the reader to decide on how to understand the word. However, after thirteen lines of darkness, a glimmer of hope, though blind and desolate, appears in line 14, perhaps a small step in the direction of acceptance of, and submission to, fate.

Conclusion

In La pluma como espada,13Caballé and Prado include María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira in the small group of courageous poetisas of the late 19th and early 20th centuries who chose to rebel openly against women’s life of physical and psychological servitude to men, refusing to hide behind the self-censuring image of the “ángel del hogar” or the “violeta” 14other women writers of the time were using to mitigate the trivialization, irony, criticism, condemnation, and mockery of their male counterparts. María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira was a poetisa who took up the pen as a sword in order to fight peaceably for her autonomy (12).

Just before she died in 1924, María Eugenia had at last collected the poems she wished to include in La isla de los cánticos, published posthumously. It is no coincidence that she chose “Enmudecer”15 as the final poem in the book. “Enmudecer” is Vaz Ferreira’s renunciation of — as opposed to resignation to — an insensitive world where “wandering souls” such as hers (Antuña 323) can never find happiness.

Towards the end of the poem, she writes:

Quien no sabe estar alegre
rime a si mismo su mal.
Por eso enfundo mi flauta,
la del ambiguo cantar . . .

Translated:

Whoever cannot be happy
is herself a rhyme for pain.
And so I put away my flute,
the one with the ambiguous tone.

Ambiguous yet surgically precise to the very end, Vaz Ferreira uses the noun “cantar”, which in Spanish means both song and poem. More important, however, she uses the verb “enfundar” to describe the putting away of her flute, her music, her voice, her pen, her poetry, for the word “enfundar” is also the Spanish term for the sheathing of a sword.

María Eugenia died in a mental institution, and so it would be left to other poetisas to take up their pens as swords against the ancient and erroneous worldview borne out by the 15th century English proverb, “A maid should be seen but not heard.” May the poetry of María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, suppressed for so many years, at last be both seen and heard beyond the borders of Latin America.

Works Cited

Antuña, José H. “Una gran poetisa de América : María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira” Litterae: Paris: Imprimerie Artistique A. Fabre, 1926, (97-125). Print.

Blixen, Hyalmar. María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira. n.pag. N.p. n.d. Web. 2011.

Caballé, Anna and María Prado. La pluma como espada. Barcelona: Random House Mondadori, S.A., 2004. Print.

De Nigris, Paola. ”Análisis de ‘La estrella misteriosa’ de María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira” Web. 12 Aug. 2009.

Foster, William. Handbook of Latin American Literature. New York: Garland, 1987. Print.

James, William. Dependence, Independence, and Death: Toward a Psychobiography of Delmira Agustini. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. Print.

Lavrin, Asunción. Women, Feminism and Social Change in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, 1890 – 1940. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1995. Print.

Martínez, Antonio H. Untitled Review. Hispania 71.1 (March 1988): 88-89. Web.

Moreira, Rubinstein. Aproximación a María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira. Montevideo : Editorial Montesexto, 1976. Print.

Mejías Alonso, Almudena. “El estilo en la poesía de María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira” Anales de Literatura Hispanoamericana. Vol. 9. Madrid: Universidad Complutense, 1980, (135-148). Print.

Nin Frías, Alberto. “Ensayo sobre las poesías de María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira” Nuevos Ensayos de Crítica Literaria y Filosófica. Montevideo: Imprenta de Dornaleche y Reyes, s.f., 1905, (1-31). Print.

Parra del Riego, Juan. Antología de Poetisas Sudamericanas. Ed. Claudio Garcia. Montevideo: Claudio Garcia, 1923. Print.

Rosenbaum, Sidonia Carmen. Modern Women Poets of Spanish America. New York: Cocce Press for the Hispanic Institute, 1945. Print.

Russell, Dora Isella. “María Eugenia y Delmira: Sesenta y Setenta años después” Almanaque del Banco de Seguros del Estado, Montevideo: Barreiro y Ramos, 1983, (80-84). Print.

Schutte, Ofelia. Cultural Identity and Social Liberation in Latin American Thought. Albany: State U of New York P, 1993. Print.

Waisman, Sergio. An anthology of Spanish American modernismo: in English translation, with Spanish text. Trans. and Ed. Kelly Washbourne. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2007. Print.

Vaz Ferreira, María Eugenia. La isla de los cánticos. Montevideo: Casa A. Barreiro y Ramos S.A., 1925. Print.

---. La otra isla de los cánticos. Emilio Oribe, Ed. Montevideo: Impresora uruguaya S.A., 1959. Print.

Verani, Hugo J., Ed. María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira: Poesías completas. Montevideo: Ediciones de la Plaza, 1986. Print.

Visca, Arturo Sergio. “María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira: del naufragio vital al anhelo de trascendencia.” La mirada crítica y otros ensayos. Montevideo: Academia Nacional de Letras, 1979, (88-110). Print.

Zum Felde, Alberto. “María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira” Proceso intelectual del Uruguay, Montevideo: Ed. del Nuevo Mundo, 1967, (281-295). Print.

1 Translation: Poetesses, or women poets

2 Translation: America’s number one poetess and the greatest this country has ever known

3 Translation: Women’s University

4 Translation: wicked soul

5 Translation: Now you know the reason for my sadness, for the confusion of my person and my things, and why, being happy in everything else, I’ve come to think of life as horrible, almost to the point of wishing it would end. . . . Many times, almost always, I have a smile on my lips, while inside I am desolate.

6 Translation: I have been unable to ascertain the nature of the operation that contributed to her death. I have been sworn to secrecy regarding various rumors.

7 Translation: No one understood it

8 Translation: Should I be in a different state of mind or in possession of new information that might enable me, at some future time, to improve upon this work, I will try to do so in subsequent editions, and I will also decide whether or not I should publish [her] other poems.

9 Translation: Strictly speaking, María Eugenia was the first Uruguayan woman with an unmistakable lyrical voice, the first modern Hispanic woman to write poetry about women’s deep concerns, and who first established love as a literary theme, a defiance (social, sexual) that would soon result in the sensual and confessional lyricism of Delmira [Agustini] and Juana de Ibarbourou. With these three [women poets] begins the active participation of women in Uruguay’s literary life, in an age when women were subjected to the severe inflexibility of total and intolerable submission.

10 Translation: . . . who was, or who were, inflicting on her the daily setbacks and disappointments?

11 Translation: full of air and ice, of evil and irony

12 Translation: There is nothing excessive or extravagant; on the contrary, everything is well thought out so that the reader may enjoy the simple beauty of the text, without having to decipher complicated metaphors or obscure symbols.

13 Translation: The Pen as a Sword

14 Translation: Perfect little wife/shrinking violet

15 Dictionary translations of “enmudecer” include: to silence; enmudecerse: to be silent; to remain silent, say nothing; to become dumb; to lose one’s voice


































POET DATA
María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira
Years: 1875-1924
Birthplace: Uruguay
Language(s): Spanish
Forms: lyric poetry and metaphysical poetry: sonnet; ballad, redondilla, silva, cuarteto, couplet; dramatic works; musical pieces
Subjects: life, death, time, the soul, destiny, love, art, beauty, feminine sexuality, the role of women in society, passion, grief, hope, regret, loss, the pain of solitude, disillusionment, alienation
Firsts: Professor and Chair in Literature at the (then) newly-created Universidad de Mujeres (Women's University) in Montevideo, Uruguay (1915 – 1922)
Entry By: Catherine Chandler
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