chapter  7
14 Pages

Marjorie Agosín’s poetics of memory: Human rights, feminism, and literary forms


Jewish Chilean writer, activist, and scholar Marjorie Agosín reclaims the primacy of poetic discourse as a powerful tool for remembering, accountability, and social justice. Her numerous and varied publications-as of 2009 over twenty poetry collections, five autobiographical works, three books of short fiction, ten volumes of scholarly work and personal essays, and eighteen edited anthologies-not only show a commitment to literature and human rights, but also a constant reflection about the merging of the two. She conceives her poetry as a “poetry of witness” (Agosín 1998a: 13), and defines her writings as “maps of memory” (Agosín 2006: ix). However, she is not restricted to literary writing. Although her emphasis on creativity and imagination comes from her being primarily a poet, her understanding of the merging of literature and human rights also informs her work as an editor-by promoting women writers and Latin American literature in the U.S., her activism-by collaborating with the relatives of the disappeared in Chile and Argentina, and her dedication to collecting arpilleras-the tapestries made by the relatives of the disappeared in Chile. Working as a multifaceted intellectual who has been displaced in the U.S., Agosín has become a spokesperson for those who suffered the violation of human rights in Chile and Latin America. In this sense, her poetry of witness is part of what I will call an overall poetics of memory that enlightens her writings, her work as an intellectual, and even her life as a whole.