Abbot Library will host salon on Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral

Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral. Photo by Cassandra Sprague

Abbot Public Library will celebrate National Poetry Month with a poetry salon discussing Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral on Tuesday, April 11. The salon will feature Claire Keyes, professor emerita at Salem State University.

Mistral became the first Latin American writer to receive the Nobel Prize in literature in 1945. According to a press release sent by Abbot Public Library, her poems are characterized by strong emotion and direct language with central themes of “love, deceit, sorrow, nature, travel, and love for children.”

“Mistral wrote poetry based upon her experience as a woman, and upon her lifetime interest in the lives of children and the downtrodden,” said Keyes. “She was recognized as the poet of a new dissonant feminine voice, who expressed the previously unheard feelings of mothers and lonely women.”

The press release said that in 1922, Mistral’s first major work, “Desolación” (Desolation), was published. She followed it two years later with “Ternura” (Tenderness), which features lullabies. In 1938, the Chilean poet published “Tala” (Felling), which contains “unusual imagery and free verse.”

According to the press release, Mistral chose her pseudonym by combining the names of Gabriele D’Annunzio and Frédéric Mistral, two poets she admired.

“She chose her name. In it she was pointing to personal ideals about her identity as a poet: wanting for herself the fiery spiritual strength of the archangel and the strong, earthly, and spiritual power of the wind,” said Keyes.

Mistral received the Nobel Prize nearly two decades before fellow Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who is frequently considered the country’s national poet, won in 1971.

“Latin American authors were relatively new to the international scene,” said Keyes. “For one of them to be recognized was a big deal.”

The press release also said that Mistral was a Chilean consul in Naples, Madrid, and Lisbon, and taught Spanish literature at Columbia University, Vassar College, Middlebury College, and the University of Puerto Rico.

The salon will take place at the Abbot Public Library’s program room and online through Zoom from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

“We are delighted to host a monthly Poetry Salon with Claire Keyes,” said Abbot Public Library Director Kimberly Grad. “We have been offering this as a hybrid program since September 2021 when we relaunched in-person events after the pandemic closure. It has been popular ever since, especially because it provides attendees a chance to explore a wide range of poets and to spend a significant amount of time in discussion. The hybrid option has allowed for patrons from as far away as California and Germany to join.”

The press release said that those attending via Zoom should register in advance at In-person attendance does not require registration.