Monday, April 4, 2011

Gabriela Mistral

Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral (1889—1957) was the first Latin American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945). Her work is significantly influenced by her faith — with death and rebirth being important themes. She was an early encourager of the young, Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.

In 1909, the man she loved, Romelio Ureta, committed suicide — an event which significantly impacted her early poetry. Her second collection Desolación (1922), which brought her international attention, is primarily about Christian faith and death.

She lived outside of Chile for many years — including in Mexico, France, Italy and the United States — serving as a consul in several European, Latin American and US cities. American poet Langston Hughes translated several of her poems, which appeared shortly after her death.

Decalogue Of The Artist

I. You shall love beauty, which is the shadow of God
over the Universe.

II. There is no godless art. Although you love not the
Creator, you shall bear witness to Him creating His likeness.

III. You shall create beauty not to excite the senses
but to give sustenance to the soul.

IV. You shall never use beauty as a pretext for luxury
and vanity but as a spiritual devotion.

V. You shall not seek beauty at carnival or fair
or offer your work there, for beauty is virginal
and is not to be found at carnival or fair.

VI. Beauty shall rise from your heart in song,
and you shall be the first to be purified.

VII. The beauty you create shall be known
as compassion and shall console the hearts of men.

VIII. You shall bring forth your work as a mother
brings forth her child: out of the blood of your heart.

IX. Beauty shall not be an opiate that puts you
to sleep but a strong wine that fires you to action,
for if you fail to be a true man or a true woman,
you will fail to be an artist.

X. Each act of creation shall leave you humble,
for it is never as great as your dream and always
inferior to that most marvellous dream of God
which is Nature.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: