Meireles, Cecília (1901–1964)

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Meireles, Cecília (1901–1964)

Brazilian poet, writer and teacher . Name variations: Cecilia Meireles; Cecília Beneviles Meireles. Born in 1901 in Rio de Janeiro; died on November 9, 1964, in Rio de Janeiro; married Fernando Correia Dias (a painter), in 1921 (died 1935 or 1936); married Heitor Grillo; children: (first marriage) three daughters.

Selected writings:

Espectros (1919); Nunca Mais … e Poema dos Poemas (1923); Balada Para El-Rei (1924); Viagém (1939); Vaga Música (1942); Mar Absoluto (1945); Retrato Natural (1949); Amor em Leonoreta (1951); Doze Noturnos de Holanda e o Aeronauta (1952); Romanceiro da Inconfidência (1953); Pequeno Oratória de Santa Clara (1955); Pistóia, Cemitério Militar Brasileiro (1955); Canções (1956); Giroflê, Giroflá (1956); Solombar (1956); Romance de Santa Cecília (1957); A Rosa (1957); Obra Poética (1958); Metal Rosicler (1960); Poemas Escritos Na Índia (1961); Quadrante 1 e Quadrante 2 (1962–63); Antologia Poética (1963).

Born in Brazil in 1901, Cecília Meireles was orphaned early in life and brought up by her grandmother, a woman of Portuguese descent who had lived in the Azores. Meireles trained to become a teacher but quickly branched out into journalism, contributing to the magazines Arvore Nova and Terra do Sol from 1919 to 1927, and to the spiritualist periodical Festa in 1927. She was active throughout her career not only in teaching and journalism but also in educational reform and library work; as an advocate for the construction of libraries for children, she was instrumental in founding the first children's library in Brazil in 1934. Not long after that her husband, who had been severely depressed, committed suicide, leaving her to raise their three daughters. (She later remarried.) Meireles was a professor at a number of universities, including the University of Texas and the Federal University in Rio de Janeiro. She was considered an expert on Brazilian folklore, and later in life served as a Brazilian cultural attaché.

Partly due to these wide-ranging interests she considered herself somewhat of an outsider in the Brazilian literary scene, but Meireles is nonetheless considered the country's greatest Portuguese-language woman poet. Her first book, Espectros (Ghosts), was published in 1919, and displayed a "disciplined formalism" influenced by the Parnassians, French poets who rejected the excesses of Romanticism. She has been praised for her "perfect command of the poetic form," and won a number of important literary prizes; among her most popular works were Viagém (Voyage, 1939), which was awarded that year's Poetry Prize from the Brazilian Academy of Letters, and Mar Absoluto (Absolute Sea, 1942). Romanceiro da Inconfidência (Poet of the Inconfidence), published in 1953, focused on the push for independence led by the Brazilian hero Joaquim José da Silva Xavier. Her later poems are described in Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry as "full of tactile metaphors and verbal sensuality" while "address[ing] a state of vivid internal 'exile,' an ideal transcendental solitude." By the time of her death in 1964 her work had already achieved the renown it maintains.


Buck, Claire, ed. The Bloomsbury Guide to Women's Literature. NY: Prentice Hall General Reference, 1992.

Tapscott, Stephen, ed. Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan

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Meireles, Cecília (1901–1964)

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