Poetry. Latinx Studies. Translated by Lisa Allen Ortiz and Sara Daniele Rivera. THE BLINDING STAR collects selected new translations of poems by the Peruvian poet Blanca Varela and includes two of her most experimental works in their entirety: The Book of Clay and Animal Concert. Although Varela has been categorized as a surrealist, this collection reframes her work as existentially feminist. There is nothing arbitrary in Varela's serrated language and carnal obsessions. She is telling the story of a woman's liminal being—her body as both a vessel of expectations and a vast unmapped interior. Octavio Paz described Varela's work as "Both the wound and the knife," and this collection emphasizes the duality of her poetry. These poems journey inward through dark gardens to expose the wound of grief and outward again with sharp clarity. Blanca Varela is a singular artist, furiously searching for fragments of brightness in the merciless landscape of her own mind.
Blanca Varela (1926-2009) was born in Lima, Peru, into a family of artists and writers. She studied at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, where she met Sebastián Salazar Bondy, Javier Sologuren, Francisco Bendezú, and Jorge Eduardo Eielson, with whom she would define a Peruvian poetry movement called "la Generación del 50." It was there that she also met her future husband, the painter Fernando de Szyszlo. Octavio Paz wrote the prologue to her first book, Ese puerto existe (1959), for which he also helped find a publisher in Mexico. Varela and de Szyszlo lived at various points in Florence, Italy, and Washington D.C., where she worked as a translator before returning to Peru in 1962. Her work has been translated into English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Russian, among other languages. She won the Octavio Paz Prize for Poetry in 2001 and was the first woman to win the Federico Garcia Lorca City of Granada International Poetry Prize in 2006. Varela was honored in 2007 with Spain's Queen Sofia Prize for Ibero-American Poetry.