Poems by Claribel Alegría
Claribel Alegría has been a formidable champion for Central
America, continuing the region’s tradition of revolutionary poetry.
Born in Nicaragua to Salvadoran parents forced into exile during her infancy
for their human rights work, and herself exiled from El Salvador for her
powerful poetic dissent, Alegría has unflaggingly spoken for justice
and liberty in each of 40 books of poetry, testimony, fiction, and nonfiction.
In the poems, her talent, courage, and commitment to freedom emerge most
strongly. “Alegría mixes ‘a panorama of iguanas,/
chickens,/ strips of meat’ with the horrors of rape and revolution,” writes The
San Francisco Chronicle, “couching her story of ‘my
etcetera country’ with the unsettling imagery and clarity only
a poet could bring to the page.”
In 1978, Alegría was honored with the prestigious Casa de las Americas
prize for her collection of poems Sobrevivo (“I survive”).
Her work was featured in Bill Moyers’ PBS series, “The Language of
Life,” and she has been translated into more than ten languages, into English
most notably by the North American poet Carolyn Forché and by her late
husband, U.S.-born Darwin Flakoll. Alegria’s most recent volume of poems, Saudade (“Sorrow”),
is an exquisite record of her grief after Flakoll’s death.
Absence is, paradoxically, one of the strongest presences in Alegria’s
work. Her poetry bears witness to the successive waves of loss experienced personally
and nationally, to the absence of loved ones, of historical recognition, of cultural
identity. Her willingness to plumb even the most unbearable of emotions – and
her deep commitment and hard-won hope in the future – make recognitions
of the failings of the present into manuals for recovery.