Delmira Agustini image
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Born in October 24, 1886 / Died in July 6, 1914 / Uruguay / Spanish


Delmira Agustini was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, in 1886. At a young age she began to compose and publish poems in literary journals such as "La Alborada," where she wrote a society column under the modernista pen name "Joujou." Soon she attracted the attention of Latin America's preeminent intellectuals who, however, remarked her beauty and youth over her poetry. This mechanism of textualization, that is, the conversion of the female writer into a literary object, haunted Agustini throughout her career and continued even after her tragic death.

In 1907, Delmira Agustini published her first book of poems, El libro blanco (Frágil), which was very well received by the writers and critics of the time. Three years later, Agustini published Cantos de la mañana, which concluded with a selection of reviews on her first book. In these reviews critics continued to refer to Agustini using metaphors related to virginity and inspiration, an image that Agustini herself assumed and cultivated in accordance with the modernista rhetoric and the restricted roles imposed on the women of the age.

The myth of Delmira Agustini's duplicity was born in this atmosphere. On one hand, "la Nena" (the Baby), as she was called in the private sphere, responded to the restrictive societal constructs of the era that denied sexuality to their upper-class women. On the other hand, the writer began to formulate verses that intensified a powerful, sexual imagery. It was at this point that the authors' and critics' delicate epithets changed drastically. After publishing her second and third books, critics started addressing her in terms similar to those later used by Emir Rodríguez Monegal: "pithiness in heat," "sexually obsessed", and "fevered Leda." Needless to say, this approach was never used when critics addressed male writers. Another distorting direction that literary criticism took in response to Agustini was to erase or mask the sexual content of her writings.

In 1913, Delmira Agustini married Enrique Job Reyes, a man detached from the literary arena. The event was attended by some of the best renowned intellectuals of the time such as Carlos Vaz Ferreira, Juan Zorrilla de San Martín, and Manuel Ugarte. With Ugarte, Agustini had maintained an intense epistolary romance. After only a few weeks of marriage, Delmira asked for divorce. Earlier that year, Agustini had published her third poetic work, Los cálices vacíos, where she announces a new book to be publish under the title "Los astros del abismo." She never accomplished what she considered her most mature work because in July of 1914, Enrique Job Reyes killed her in one of their clandestine encounters. Ten years later Delmira Agustini's Complete Works were printed, which included a selection of her unpublished material under the name of "El rosario de Eros."

Modern research on Agustini has given special attention to Agustini's biography, frequently exploring the idiosyncrasy of the author's family, which certainly facilitated her publishing. Critics have often speculated on the dominant and protective personality of Agustini's mother while the poet's puritan father transcribed her erotic verses (Machado de Benvenuto, Silva). Alejandro Cáceres (VVAA) suggests that Delmira's parents had a clear project to devote themselves to their prodigious child. Silvia Molloy comments on the deliberate infantilism that Agustini used as a protective mask. Molloy also compares Agustini's revision of the myth of Leda and the swan with the voyeuristic and misogynist version of Rubén Darío and the modernistas. Other feminist approaches include the study by Gwen Kirkpatrick, who points out the experimental and subversive character of Delmira style. Tina Escaja analyzes Agustini's poems basing her approach on the author's subversion of patriarchal myths and the inscription of female imagery.

In 1993, the most complete and rigorous compilation to date of Agustini's poetry appeared, edited and introduced by Magdalena García Pinto. This volume confirms the eminence of the poet and contributes to her recent inclusion into the literary canon in which Delmira Agustini stands out as one of the most extraordinary voices of Latin American modern literature.

Original Entry by: Prof. Tina Escaja, University of Vermont,
Feminist Encyclopedia of Latin American Literature -

Biography taken from: