The Other Island of the Songs
Author, María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira
Translated by William F. Blair with Pablo Rodríguez Balbontín
Iowa City, September 2016
Following the posthumous publication of her first book of poetry, La isla de los cánticos, in 1925, María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s poetry lay fallow, inaccessible to the literary world. After the death of her brother, Carlos Vaz Ferreira, Emilio Oribe, who was familiar with and admired María Eugenia’s poetry, approached her family and was granted access to their manuscripts. He selected works that were previously unpublished in book form and, using unspecified yet personally important criteria, assembled what would become her next book of poetry, La isla de los cánticos, published in 1959. The works translated in The Other Island of the Songs, a bilingual edition, most probably span María Eugenia’s neo-romantic and modernist periods. As such they represent an innovative, imagistic, and profound poetic world of unrequited love, melancholy, and solitude. The design of The Other Island is an homage to the original edition, which is relatively rare and almost exclusively protected by collectors and search libraries.
About the Author:
María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, born in Montevideo in 1875, was the vanguard for women poets in Uruguay in the early twentieth century. Critics have variously categorized her work as Parnassian, Symbolist, Romantic, and Modernist, implying that she wrote across literary styles. Her poetry addresses themes of longing, hetero- and homoerotic love, solitude, and alienation. Vaz Ferreira is perhaps most closely identified with modernismo, wherein her work can be read as shared human experience and an assertive expression of female consciousness. In addition to poetry she wrote three dramas in verse and composed musical scores. She became a professor of literature and Secretary of the University for Women in Montevideo. Afflicted with episodic depression and chronic illness, she died at age 49. Although her literary work is truly outstanding, to date few poems have been available in translation. The Island of the Songs is the first full-length translation of her book La isla de los cánticos, published posthumously in 1925.
About the Translators:
William Blair is formerly a hand and microsurgeon who, during his academic career, published over 200 research papers, book chapters, and abstracts, including the textbook Techniques in Hand Surgery. He holds an MFA in Comparative Literature – Literary Translation from the University of Iowa and has participated in the International Writing Program’s Translation Workshop. He has translated María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira’s work extensively. Co-translated and published works include two books of poetry by Vaz Ferreira, Lichen by the Uruguayan poet Luis Bravo, and Great Vilas by the Spanish poet and novelist Manuel Vilas. Pending book publications include a hybrid text and a novel, both authored by Vilas. Translated poetry is pending in various journals, including Literal, Exchanges, and Presence: A Journal of Catholic Poetry. Blair founded Song Bridge Press in 2013 to promote Spanish language literature in translation, and to nurture emerging writers, poets, and translators.
Pablo Balbontín is a native of Sevilla, Spain, and enjoys a deep appreciation for Spanish language poetry. He is a graduate of the University of Sevilla, where he earned undergraduate degrees in Philosophy and Literary Theory, and a graduate degree in Screen Writing. He is presently an MA candidate in Spanish Literature at the University of Iowa, where he is investigating the interrelationships among literature, gaming, and the media in the context of digitalization. His interests include sharing Spanish culture and literature through translation; he has co-translated and published four books of poetry by María Eugenia Vaz Ferreira, Luis Bravo, and Manuel Vilas.