Writing Saudade: Navigating Home, Homeland, and Sexuality in the Work of Gabriela Mistral and Elizabeth Bishop
Keywords:Gabriela Mistral, Elizabeth Bishop, Gender, Sexuality, Queer Theory, Translation
For poets Elizabeth Bishop and Gabriela Mistral, the potential of Portuguese saudade was an answer to anguish they experienced as exiles and other forms of loss. Drawing upon their poetry, correspondence, and translations of Lusophone literature, this paper examines how, by engaging with this foreign concept, both queer women poets living in exile engaged with their own senses of isolation, alienation, and unhomeliness. Describing the potential of saudade in an endnote to the section titled “Saudade” in Tala, her third volume of poetry first published in 1938, Mistral states “I firmly believe […] in a future of borrowing language to language in Latin America. At least, in the case of certain words, definitive profit from the genius of the other, unshakable expressions within their range of ‘true’ words” (2003 p. 244). Both of these poets turned to this word as they were reconciling the heteronormative forces displacing them within their homelands. Ultimately, Bishop and Mistral mobilize the notion to address the traumas of displacement, loss, and sexual difference as they explore the “truth” and nuance of the word through their writings.
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