Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Madwomen: Poems of Gabriela Mistral” as Want to Read:
Madwomen: Poems of Gabriela Mistral
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Madwomen: Poems of Gabriela Mistral

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  256 ratings  ·  42 reviews
A schoolteacher whose poetry catapulted her to early fame in her native Chile and an international diplomat whose boundary-defying sexuality still challenges scholars, Gabriela Mistral (1889–1957) is one of the most important and enigmatic figures in Latin American literature of the last century. The Locas mujeres poems collected here are among Mistral’s most complex and c ...more
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published April 15th 2008 by University of Chicago Press (first published April 1st 2008)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Madwomen, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Madwomen

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  256 ratings  ·  42 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Madwomen: Poems of Gabriela Mistral
Steven Godin
An astonishing collection of poems, written with the urgent voices of women who were indeed not barking mad, but just aggrieved, and witnesses to many kinds of war and violence amongst other things. From The Holocaust, to Greek Tragedies, and Buddhist Franciscan spirituality, Mistral deploys modernistic intensities with a dark lyrical beauty that encapsulates a devastating emotional clarity, whilst still being able to subject the reader to a bewilderment of complexities. Not really knowing much ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, chile
I am still under a spell of madwomen portrayed by Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957), a Chilean poet and Nobel prize laureate.

'Portrayed' doesn't give the author justice, because she actually is every woman she depicts with compassion and empathy. As Czesław Miłosz observed, 'The purpose of poetry is to remind us how difficult it is to remain just one person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible guests come in and out at will.'

Gabriela Mistral's 'guests' are the madwo
From impoverished beginnings, a humble rural schoolteacher rose, not without significant suffering and determination, to become the most respected and prominent woman writer of the Latin American world, the first of the region to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. Gabriela Mistral's life and story read like a myth spun from her self- addressing as "a daughter of my land", deeply identifying with her country and people; her powerful voice in defense of the under-privileged or social
Norah Una Sumner
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-star-read, 2020, poetry
But someday I will go
with no tears and no embraces,
a ship that sails by night
without the others following her,
or the red beacons eying her,
or her own shores hearing her...

Gabriela Mistral is a very interesting historical figure I wish I knew more about before. She was a great advocate for women's and children's rights & the first Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize in literature. She was also a teacher and a principal and often spoke and wrote about the position of women in educ
Madwomen: Poems of Gabriela Mistral

This is book was beautifully put together. Whoever worked on it did a great job. To be more specific:

1) There was an introduction with an interesting and informative biography. It detailed Mistral's childhood, education, early fame as a poet, the many times she moved, her career as an educator, political and diplomatic figure. It was written professionally - citing sources, etc. I also got the feeling I found out something about what Mistral's attitudes, views, and relationships were like. Mist
Feb 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Yet another random "I have no idea what the hell this is but it looks interesting" selection from my local library's "recent arrivals" section--who would have thought it was the new translation of a Nobel Prize-winning poet? (Not me, obviously). More than anything, I was reminded that at some point I need to spend some focused time with South American literature, because I really have nothing to contextualize this with. But still, this collection of monologues, presented in the wide-ranging voic ...more
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Found this book on the "new books" shelf in my library in Mexico, and I loved the poems, which I found to be both powerful and lyrical. Having a side-by-side Spanish/English edition was an added pleasure, as I'm slowly picking up a little Spanish, and it was fun to see the poems in the original as well as in translation. I think Mistral fully inhabits the Greek myths she tells from the point of view of Antigone, Clytemnestra, and Cassandra, but she also gives voice to women in love, women who ha ...more
Liliana Valenzuela
Oct 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
Available for the first time in English, these poems from the Locas mujeres section of Lagar, one of Gabriela Mistral’s final works, are a pleasure to read, both in the original Spanish and in this inspired English translation by Randall Couch. A beautiful, hard-bound edition by the University of Chicago Press, with poems facing each other and verses numbered in the English translation, this volume makes it easy for the bilingual reader to jump back and forth between the original poem and the tr ...more
Kriti Samidi
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I have heard of Mistral before but never really gave a thought about reading her work. A few weeks back, I came across Wislawa Szymborska and as I was researching a bit more about her, I came across Mistral again. I started reading about her in the Introductory chapters and was hooked onto her. It must have been quite hard for a woman then to stand her ground and do things she wanted to do despite the financial hurdles she faced. (Did you know she met a very young - teenage Pablo Neruda, introdu ...more
I grabbed Madwomen after being told of it for the first time, and thinking it sounded like just my thing. While it is a decent enough poetry collection, I find myself a little disappointed. This wasn't really for me.

The translation appears to be well done and well thought out, but there still seems to be something lost in translation. Regardless, many of the poems do still stand out as being something special. The Farm Woman was perhaps my favourite. I found her Greek mythology inspired poems t
Jul 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
These poems are absolutely incredible, and if the review was in regards to the Locas Mujeres poems alone, I would give it a million stars. The only reason I only gave it 4 stars is because some of the translations are not necessarily the most accurate, but this only became an issue for me because I was writing a deep analysis paper on the poetry for a class, and the translations were an issue. For casual readings the translations are extremely sufficient for getting the point of all the poetry a ...more
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Before the threshold and before the path,
I wait and wait for one who walks straight
and advances truer than water or fire.

He comes because of me, he comes for me,
not for shelter, nor for bread and wine,
but because of the fact that I’m his food
and I’m the cup that he lifts and drains.
Apr 15, 2017 rated it liked it
I went into this book knowing nothing about Gabriela Mistral and having read hardly any poetry in translation before, and the things I enjoyed most about it were getting to know the poet through the biographical section at the beginning and the poems themselves and getting an in depth look into the translation process. I loved having the poems side by side and being able to compare the translation to the original (as best I could with my somewhat limited Spanish language skills). I'm a language ...more
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
Before Gabriela Mistral's Madwomen, I hadn't read a full collection of poetry in some time. I started this at bedtime, planning on reading a poem here and there, and instead I devoured it in two sittings. From the mask on the cover, to the poems it contains about the women of Greek tragedy—including my fav subjects Clytemnestra, Electra, and Antigone—this is a very ME book. These are some of my favorite poems I've ever read.

Madwomen is vibrant, full of blood and dust and fire. Mistral's language
Madwomen Between the concept of the collection, that this is the bilingual edition, and that it has a short biography of the author, it's kind of a one stop shop for this great poet. Showcasing women who are at the edges of their ability to cope and in a variety of situations, this collection is also surprisingly relatable.
Gabriela Mistral is one of the Nobel Laureates for Literature and given the premise of challenging myself to Read Nobel Women, how can I not choose this one for her? It also h
Sep 16, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
I read a fair amount of poetry but don't know how to read Gabriela Mistral. She's called a feminist poet but acclaimed for her ability to write "like a man". She's the first Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature but she wrote much of her poetry while self-exiled in the United States and Europe. I understand the inclination to expose in her poetry biographical parallels. Like Cassandra (subject of one of the poems included here) she decried European fascism before the extent of ...more
Sean Curley
Nov 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
The "locas mujeres" poems, the final notable works by the first Latin American winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (as well as the fourth woman, and second non-white person), all deal with women in varying states of psychological distress, as might be discerned from the title. I came to this book as part of my long-term reading project to cover works by every Nobel Laureate. In the course of that, I've typically found that foreign poets are the most challenging writers, on average, since poe ...more
Sherry Chandler
All women are mad in extreme circumstances and this collection shows us women at extremes. Because I am ignorant of both South American culture and the Spanish language, I feel I was not able to read these poems well. Where I could connect best was with poems where I was familiar with the back story: Martha and Mary, Electra, Antigone, Clytemnestra, Cassandra. Where I did get it, I was moved by the depth of the insight, the power of the language, even in translation.

More here:

Gabriela Mistral was discovered when I was traveling in Chile. The first Latin American Nobel Prize winner. This edition is bilingual with the original Spanish side by side with the translation in English.
Dec 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I had the privilege of copyediting this set of translated poems by Mistral, one of the great 20th-century Latin American poets, & it's truly wonderful; the translator, Randall Couch, is a poet himself & it shows. ...more
May 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nobel-laureates
The first half of this short poetry collection is so bad that it was hard to muddle through. The second half was quite good, particularly the three about Greek women of legend.
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoy this poet. Here words are so powerful.
I am not sure that I enjoyed the forward and commentary as much as the edition by Ursla Le Guin.
I finished Madwomen last night and still have this lump in my throat... maybe because I can really related to the pain, the bitterness of life and the bravery of Mistral. I am in owe. This book is perfect. The brief biography in the beginning gave me better sense of the poet and that helped me understand and appreciate her interpretation a lot more. Her poems are mainly portrayed womanhood, children, education, religion, life, love and betrayal as it was the reflection from her own life.
Oct 14, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: put-down, 2017
I was really looking forward to reading this one off my Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2017 list to check-off "collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love." I wanted to read this one so bad, because it was a bilingual edition! So what I did was read it once in English, read it out loud to get the flow in the Spanish and then compared the English and Spanish to expand my own Spanish vocabulary. Even doing this, I didn't fully "get" the point of probably 80% of the verse. Which ...more
I think I will always be ambivalent towards poetry, so I don’t dare reviewing it because honestly I have no clue how.

So let’s talk instead about this edition an what I liked and what not.

The book includes a short bio about the author, explanations about her style and some background for a couple of the poems and a lot about the translator’s approach. I thought that was really nice.

BUT the formatting of the Kindle edition is horrendous in the poems portion of the book; mixing the Spanish and the
Matt Miles
Jul 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The poems in this collection demonstrate how emotionally raw formal poetry can be. The Women aren’t “Mad”, but merely grieving and bemoaning the insanity of the cruelties surrounding them. They try to make sense of their surroundings while they wander, suffer loss, and are abandoned. Familiar mythological and Biblical figures are repurposed through a feminine perspective to examine these realities. In a world filled with such miseries, the sanest among us appear mad. This is powerful, unforgetta ...more
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-harder-2017
The layout of this bilingual edition is a little confusing in the kindle edition. I assume in the physical book the left side page is one language and the right side page is the other, but on the kindle, this means you get a few verses in Spanish, then English, then Spanish again, etc. It makes it a little disjointed to read sometimes. I did enjoy the poems.
Al Capwned
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, chilean
Poetry is impossible to be translated without losing anything of the original text. This work by Gabriela Mistral made me wishing I knew spanish better in order to fully read and appreciate it in the original language.
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best, poetry
A stunning, life changing book of poetry. As I’m not excellent at Spanish, I needed the English translation. This is a book to savor, and treasure.

“...and before the dawn, I’ll have found again
the King of Men on the eternal flight.
Agamemnon, I’m coming, I come flying.”
May 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pioneer of Latin American poetry... well deserving of the Nobel Prize.
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Die, My Love
  • Lessons on Expulsion
  • The Tradition
  • The Fruit of My Woman
  • Captured by the Alien Warrior (Warriors of Agron #6)
  • The Library at Night
  • The Crying Book
  • Oculus: Poems
  • Ordinary Beast
  • Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream
  • Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats
  • Letters From Medea
  • For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
  • Sleeping With the Dictionary
  • A Doll for Throwing: Poems
  • Barbie Chang
  • The Verging Cities
  • Duobės danguje
See similar books…
Lucila de María del Perpetuo Socorro Godoy Alcayaga (pseudonym: Gabriela Mistral), a Chilean poet, educator, diplomat, and feminist, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945 "for her lyric poetry which, inspired by powerful emotions, has made her name a symbol of the idealistic aspirations of the entire Latin American world." Some central themes in her poems are nature, betrayal, love, a ...more

Related Articles

  Historian Alexis Coe's new book, You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington, arrived in U.S. bookstores in February. Coe...
140 likes · 30 comments
“I am Cassandra—she who, without asking,
understood it all and still came to her fate,
I, Cassandra, full of visions,
who sees her own death without turning away,
and hears in the night the day that follows.”
“Because she—you hear her—she's calling,
and is always going to call, and it's better
both of us die by the dagger without anyone
seeing us, Orestes, and die a fit death.”
More quotes…