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Who was the Cuban Sweet  María Loynaz?
At that time, my knowledge of the author of Carta de amor al Rey Tuk-Ank-Amen was limited to a few details of her life, like her encounters with Juan Ramón Jiménez, Federico García Lorca and Gabriela Mistral, vague snatches of her trips half way around the world and reading of some of her poems, which fell into my hands fortuitously, all of which sparked my interest in the event.

Thus, with no less relief than excitement, I was at the Casa de las Americas, right on time, for the launch of Valoración Múltiple, a volume of criticism, opinion pieces and testimonies on her literary works, along with some texts of her own authorship and several letters she received from prestigious individuals.

I remember the poetess entering the hall that day - her fragile silhouette, her slow, majestic steps - followed by a standing ovation from the crowd gathered there; then the brief words of thanks she addressed to the crowd while, from my seat, I tried to locate in her face that mix of passion, serenity and reticence I thought I perceived in her poems.

Next, and with the same unflappable demeanor, the writer began to sign books copy by copy for those present, an image that I hold clearly in my memory of Dulce María Loynaz, already an elderly woman, doubled over the pages of each book, crafting a kind, as well as witty, phrase, the woman repeating the exercise she carried out throughout her life, looking for clarity and precision in words.

With her persistent efforts, Dulce María Loynaz enriched Cuban literature with a poetry full of emotion, simple and sincere, collected in titles such as Versos 1920-1938 (1938), Juegos de agua, Versos del agua y del amor (1947) and Poemas sin nombre (1953), among others.

And this unique poetry, a peculiarity of her writing, she transposed with equal efficiency to other genres she cultivated, such as the novel, Jardín (1951), considered by Gabriela Mistral as the best review of the language, and Un verano en Tenerife (1958), a text that combines the characteristics of a story, a travel book and a chronicle, and Fe de vida (1995), in which she evokes chapters from her memories, all of which brought appreciation from the reading public, as the writer witnessed during the aforementioned day's Havana event.

It can be supposed that, although tired by the day's activity, the poetess would have enthusiastically returned home for a reception at the two-story house on 19th and E, in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado where she lived for the last 50 years of her life until her death in1997, and which is now home to the Dulce María Loynaz Cultural Center. Here, preserved as museum areas, are some of the rooms of the former owner, exactly as she stipulated and kept them.

Once inside the residence, crossing the then unkept gardens, she would have smiled at the racket created by her many dogs. At the threshold, she would have paused to contemplate the bronze eagle, perched on a cliff over the waters of a fountain, the image of which was reflected in a mirror in the background, the eagle that influenced her decision to purchase the house shortly after marrying her second husband, the journalist and social chronicler of the era, Pablo Alvarez de Cañas.

Domestic tranquility, an environment that lent itself to creation, reigned in every corner of the dwelling. In the dining room the regal Japanese-style furnishings, somewhat faded by time. In the golden living room, Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture that went well with fans from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, proudly collected by the writer. The colonial hall, with its carved sofa and chairs, a grand piano and an oil painting of the Holy Trinity, was the venue for meetings of the Cuban Academy of Language, headed by Loynaz from 1981 on.

The calmness of the house reached the upper floor as well, to the chamber occupied by the library, which she generously donated to Pinar del Rio; to the bedroom furnished in French style with Sévres porcelains on the walls; and the chapel where the poetess practiced her religious faith, a theme already present in the first texts of her youth, such as the poems that would later make up the collection Diez sonetos a Cristo.

Her initiation into the world of letters, however, really began in the house at Amistad and San Rafael Streets, in what is now Central Havana, the home she remembered as infused with the colonial environment, huge mirrors, Chinese porcelain and coffers. Although Dulce Maria was not born there, but on Prado in 1902, it was there where she spent her childhood with her siblings, Enrique, Carlos Manuel and Flor, all blessed with the ability to express their feelings and experiences in verse.

Once when the family found itself in a period of mourning, preventing the Loynaz siblings from unpacking their musical instruments for the little orchestra with which they entertained themselves, it occurred to the adolescents to have a poetry contest. The winner was Dulce María and the poems were published in the newspaper La Nación, on the authority of her rejoicing father, Enrique Loynaz del Castillo, General of the Liberation Army and author of the lyrics and music of the independence struggle's Himno Invasor.

That would be the beginning of her devotion to writing, which she always did by hand, in pencil, until her failing sight obliged her to use a pen. Multifaceted, she also tried essay writing and journalism, reaching the point in the 1950's of publishing a weekly series of articles in the Excelsior and El País.

For the body of her work, Dulce María Loynaz received the 1987 National Prize for Literature and the Cervantes Prize in 1992, awards that have inspired young readers to avidly seek out her books and older ones to re-read them, both seduced by the power of words, or perhaps, as in my case, by the desire to untangle the rare amalgam of passion, serenity and reticence that comes to life on every page she wrote.


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