Considered one of the greatest Argentinian poets of the first half of the 20th century, Alfonsina Storni, along with Frida Kahlo and Virginia Woolf, was one of the most important feminist voices of her generation. Yet she is virtually unknown in the U.S. while a contemporary “rival,” Jorge Luis Borges is high on the Western academic list of canonized authors. We’ll work to remedy this. I’m joined by Hildegard Keller and Francisco Cortéz to discuss their upcoming multimedia performance Un viaje con Alfonsina (A journey with Alfonsina) at the Buskirk Chumley Theater on March 31st. We’ll discuss the ways in which Storni’s suicide became more celebrated than her work through the influence of a wildly popular song called “Alfonsina y el mar” performed most famously by Mercedes Sosa and covered incessantly ever since, by such famous singers as Placido Domingo and Shakira. This song created a myth and ignored the woman. Keller and Cortéz attempt to give Alfonsina back her voice and her life.
Un viaje con Alfonsina (Buskirk-Chumley Theater)
Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938)
Born in the Swiss Canton of Tessin, Alfonsina Storni immigrated to Argentina with her family when she was four years old. Then just as the tango was reaching its height of popularity in Buenos Aires, Storni moved to the capital, lived there as a single mother, published her first volumes of poetry, and struggled alongside anarchist and socialist women for gender equality. Storni was fearless, danced to her own drummer, and loved quirky humor.
I Am Going to Sleep
by Alfonsina Storni (tr. Hildegard Keller)
Teeth of flowers, hairnet of dew,
hands of herbs, you, perfect wet nurse,
prepare the earthly sheets for me
and the down quilt of weeded moss.
I am going to sleep, my nurse, put me to bed.
Set a lamp at my headboard;
a constellation whatsoever you like;
all are good: lower it a bit.
Leave me alone: you hear the buds breaking through …
a celestial foot rocks you from above
and a bird traces some rhythms for you
so you’ll forget . . . Thank you. Oh, one request:
if he telephones again
tell him not to keep trying for I have left.
Hildegard Elisabeth Keller
Professor of the Department of Germanic Studies at Indiana University, hispanist, performer, and filmmaker. She engages in multimedia approaches to literary performance. The combination of scholarly work (editions, critical essays, and monographs) with practice and performance that characterizes Keller’s work bridges the worlds of academia and the wider lay public. Since 2009, Keller has been researching the work and life of the Argentinean author Alfonsina Storni. She has written a biography of Storni – the first biography about Storni’s life and work outside of the Spanish-speaking realm (Distel im Wind, Zurich, May 2016). She also directed the documentary Whatever Comes Next (2014), a portrait about the painter Annemarie Mahler, a Bloomington resident since 1955.
Composer and Director of the Latin American Ensemble of the Jacobs School of Music (LAE).
Winner of the Jacob Druckman Orchestral Composition Award and the ASCAP Morton Gould Award, Francisco Cortés-Álvarez (b. 1983) holds a degree in composition from the National University in Mexico with Dr. Gabriel Ortiz, where he was awarded the Gabino Barreda Medal. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and director of the Latin American Music Center’s Latin American Ensemble.
Intro: “Alfonsina y el mar” performed by Mercedes Sosa. Music by Ariel Rámirez, text by Felix Luna.
Break One and Outro: “Alfonsina y el Mar” – Indiana University Latin American Popular Music Ensemble. Guido Sánchez Portugués, director; Yuridia Rodriguez, mezzo-soprano. Music by Ariel Rámirez, text by Felix Luna. Arrangement by Francisco Cortés-Álvarez.
Break Two: “Ahí Sigue,” music by Francisco Cortés-Álvarez.
Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Board Engineer: Jonathan Richardson
Executive Producer: Joe Crawford