9 oct. 2014


With essays by Edith Grossman, Sandra Cisneros, Indran Amirthanayagam and others. Interviews, new poetry, and more...
By Milagros Terán

I started writing poetry since I was 11, in my hometown of Leon, Nicaragua. My country is known for its love of poetry, and its poets, and that was transmitted to me both at home, and at school. We had a good library and I started learning poems by heart, poems that I would recite to family and friends, and at school shows.

My parents are both Nicaraguans, their parents and grandparents too so Spanish has been our tongue for many generations. But since I grew up in the 70s and English was already gaining a lot of ground in Nicaragua, I had to take English as a second language at school. I grew up with it, really, listening to songs by Cat Stevens, Elton John, ´and groups like Bread or Supertramp, where I would write the lyrics of the songs down, on paper, to recite them along later when our friends gathered to listen to them.

It was part of my academic upbringing, learning a second or third language. In Middle School we started with English, and by Junior and Senior year the Catholic nuns in my school had already introduced French. That, combined with the study of literary greats like Edgar Allan Poe, and Ezra Pound in translation gave me the curiosity to deepen my knowledge of it, of its culture and its people.

So it was a given that I had to go to the United States to polish what I had learned at school, and that’s how I went to Michigan during the winter break of my HS Sophomore year to spend time going to school with American girls to learn English, even though I was on vacation at home. My parents had decided early on that once I was finished with high school I would return to the USA, so I went to Boston to finish learning English, while I also kept away from the dangers of the uprising Nicaraguan revolution in 1979.

While Spanish is the language of my heart, I also have discovered that English is the language of my reason. Maybe because in poetry words are more precise and more definite, so you have to be very careful what you choose, also because Spanish is more musical and poetry is music to the ears. Perhaps because I have an ear for music, and poetry flows more naturally to me.

It seems to me that while I relish more writing prose in English than in Spanish, I also enjoy the challenge of poetry translation from Spanish to English where the real test is finding a word that not only conveys the same but that also has the same number of syllables to make up for the nice sound it has in its original version. So it is not only the meaning but the challenge of sound and music that affect the poem.

I have published four books of poetry and a work of fiction. ‘The Lights At My Temple’ Selected Poems, appeared last year, translated by Fiona Griffin.
MILAGROS TERAN. Winner of the National Poetry Prize Mariana Sansón, Nicaragua (2007). Recipient of the Delaware Humanities Forum Award (2005, 2006). Guest Poet at the US Library of Congress (1996, 2004 & 2006).
Poet, essayist, literary critic and translator. Born in León, Nicaragua, where she was first published at 17 years of age in La Prensa Literaria. She has a Diplôme de Français, (1987) Université de Québec à Chicoutimi, Canada. Université Laval, Quebec, Canada. Diploma in International Relations, (1989). Ministerio del Exterior/, ISRI Managua; BA in Languages and Literature from George Mason University, Virginia (1996), and an MA in Latin American Literature from the University of Maryland--College Park (1998).
Her publications include Las Luces en la Sien. Managua: Vanguardia, 1993 (poetry); Plaza de los Comunes. Managua: Anama, NORAD, 2001 (poetry); Sol Lascivo, ANIDE-HIVOS 2007 (poetry); “El Diario de una poeta" Revista Exégesis (Puerto Rico) (1994) short story, and Poemas de Una Niña, Managua: Fondo Editorial Libros para Niños 2010 (poetry), which is a collection of poems written when she was only 13 years of age. Two such poems were recently acquired by the Publishing House McGraw Hill in the United States, to appear in 5th grade text books.
Her new bilingual book, The Lights at My Temple (Managua: Leteo, 2013) is a selection of her first poetry collection, 1982-1992.
Her poems have been published and anthologized in Canada, the United States, México, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Spain, France, England, Italy, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
She has been translated and published in English, French, Italian and Portuguese.

9 abr. 2014

Beatrice Bugané Book Presentation in Brasilia, 3 April 2014

Photo: Querida María Milagros Terán, obrigada por ter apresentado o livro da Beatrice Bugané com palavras tão generosas. POET Milagros Teran, muchas gracias!!!!
Left: Seated, the writer Beatrice Bugané, her sister and myself, talking.

Presentation of Beatrice Bugané’s The Cottage and its Lady

by Milagros Terán.  Casa Thomas Jefferson, Lago Sul, Brasilia.     April 3, 2014

Very few times in these literary events one has the pleasure of presenting someone we know. Most of the time you talk about the work, and you hardly know the person. So tonight it is really my privilege to talk a little bit about the Opera Prima of a 17 year old girl, The Cottage and its Lady. A work of fiction of 136 pages that takes place in North America, I would assume, since the story is set in the summer month of August, and it is written in English.

I was taken aback by the fact that this very first writer´s work is centered on and old woman. Beatrice didn´t choose to center the story in her own world, among teenagers and school, which is the norm for a writer this young because, you know, the first rule of a true writer, especially for your first work, is to write about what you know, but in this case we have a young woman writing about old age (although these days, 72 is hardly a time for decrepitude. We would hope that this will arrive after our 80’s if not later.)

This fact is what kept me going after the first six pages: I was curious to know how she was going to develop this story. At the very beginning she uses the verb To Deduce, and she aptly deduces what it is like to be old, and what it is like to have all of the time for one´s self at that age. The confidence to express feelings through the use of an internal monologue is what made me realize that this is a girl who is an avid reader, who knows her subject matter and develops it with a flow so natural and free, that -my friends- this takes confidence and courage. Through the story we learn of this old lady, her daily life and thoughts. But then, finally, on page 86 she gives us clues to this boldness, when she says:

it reminds me vaguely of my fascination with a squirrel I once saw swiftly running along a tree trunk. I do not remember where I have seen it. Perhaps I never did, and I read it in a book instead”.

That knowledge of writing and of books is what also makes her use ‘intertextuality’ …which is the complex interrelationship between a text and other texts taken as basic to the creation or interpretation of the text. But, of course, this is an exceptional girl. Not only because she is a very good student, who speaks 3 languages very well, but because she has lived in different countries, different continents, and has experienced first-hand globalization and intertextuality herself. A girl whose mother tongue is Portuguese, but who has chosen to write her very first piece in English.

We get to know many things about the book, but we don´t know the name of the lady, we only know that she lives alone in a pale yellow cottage, with a nice porch, surrounded by sunflowers. We know that she has a very strict routine, something like the beloved children´s character Poppleton, who had library days, grocery shopping days, friends’ visits days, etc. We also know that the heroin in the story sometimes deliberately chooses not to see, and she manages just that by not putting her reading glasses on.

Another thing that blew me away is her ability for description. Five times in the story she mentions a very special painting. It is a painting that hangs in her living room. Page 25. Listen to this:

I still am not sure what it was meant to depict, in the eyes of its artist, but I have created a story for it myself. The painting is white and black, but I imagine the ocean that is its background to be clear as day and pure as boiled water. There is a man in the painting, but I cannot see his features, as only his back has been revealed to the viewer. His upper body is lined with chiseled muscle, but his arms are outstretched above his head. He wears shorts that I imagine to be soaked. The surface of his skin glitters beneath the sun. Resting upon the back of his neck, balanced between the nooks of both arms, is a swordfish. It is large and magnificent and dangerous and captured. I cannot see the man´s features, but I imagine them to be reflecting little more than triumph.

The painting always reminds me of one of my favorite readings, the Old Man and the Sea. It is one of the select few I am still able to remember well enough to claim as one of my most liked. But if I were given the opportunity to hang a more accurate illustration of this particular grand work of Hemingway upon my wall instead, I would not take it. It would depict a great story that has only grown on me over the years, but it would not be quite the same. The painting that I see now on the wall may be less accurate, but I believe it to hold truth. A stronger truth, if truths can be compared.

The story has a carefully knitted plot, suspense, and a punch line, it also covers a long internal monologue, that reminds me of the coming of age story of the Nicaraguan writer Rosario Aguilar, who at the age of 22, newlywed, published her very first novel about a girl who was a patient in a mental facility. A very bold subject matter too, very defiant, and scary, just like Beatrice´s. Rosario became a very successful and well known novelist, and has been translated to many languages. So as we celebrate this self-published novella, I really hope that she follows Rosario´s same road, and becomes a great novelist for us to cherish her work, but also to honor herself, her great country and her family.