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It's hard to believe that the books of Blanca Varela (1926-2009), considered one of Peru’s greatest poets, as well as the first woman to win the Federico García Lorca International Poetry Prize, have not been translated into English until now.
Originally published in Spanish in 1978, this new publication of Rough Song, translated by Carlos Lara, heralds the long overdue introduction of a major Latin American poet to English-language readers. Born into a family known for advancing art in Latin America, Varela lived briefly in Paris in the late '40s and '50s where she quickly became friends with Andre Breton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Henri Michaux, Simone de Beauvoir, Alberto Giacometti, and in particular, Octavio Paz, who called Varela "the most secret, timid and natural of them all."
Returning to Lima in the '60s, she established herself as one of Peru's key literary intelligentsia. The poems in Rough Song, these "flowers for the ear," range wildly in form, from two lines to seven pages long, and each presents a world of intense precision in language, fully conscious of reality and its metaphysical limits—“yes / the dark matter / animated by your hand / it’s me." Varela’s deceptively simple poems hold a mysteriously delicate weight far beyond their length. A formidable voice in Latin American literature, Blanca Varela is destined to inspire awe and summon new readers for years to come.