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Janis Mattox: Listen

About the Poet

(Cecilia Meireles)

The sense of loss that permeates the poetry of Cecília Meireles (1901-1964) probably had its deepest roots in the fact that by the time she was three years old both parents, her two brothers, and her only sister were dead. She was left in the care of her maternal grandmother, an Azorean, whose songs and stories of her native Sao Miguel instilled in her a sensitivity for her Portuguese heritage and tradition. In 1934, the tragic death of her husband, painter Fernando Correia Dias, whose bouts with depression led him to suicide, left her alone to raise their three young daughters.

Meireles’ lyrical and highly personal poetry, often simple in form yet containing complex symbolism and imagery, combines an economy and elegance of language with a wide cultural sensibility. She traced the spiritual roots of her verse to the lyrics of Ancient Greece, to the cultures of the Orient, the Middle Ages, the English romantics and French and German symbolists. A common theme in her verse is the spiritual and emotional relationship with the forces of nature. As the early mystics lost themselves in God, Meireles’ quest was for secret and solitary love in the mirror of nature: “I searched for my shape among the designs left by the waves, to feel, in the night, the perfume of my own duration.” (VIAGEM)

In 1965, the year following her death, the most distinguished of all literary prizes in Brazil, the Premio Machado de Assis, was conferred upon her complete works by the Brazilian Academy of Letters. In his memorial tribute, the great Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade said: “Within a sublime verse, in an infinite journey beyond the mystery of religions and dreams, Cecília Meireles spent her life. This extraodinary woman was an an instrument, and in reality very well-tuned to reveal to us the most impermanent and perfect music. And this music, today, floats through the air forever.”