Alfonsina Storni Introduction

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(Poetry Criticism)

Alfonsina Storni 1892–-1938

(Also wrote under the pseudonym Tao-Lao) Argentine poet, playwright, and essayist.

Storni is considered one of the most prominent Latin-American women poets of the twentieth century. Inspired by her own personal experiences, Storni courageously wrote about the struggles of the individual woman in modern urban society, advocating equality for women and bemoaning the inadequacies of romantic relationships in a male-dominated society. Her subject matter focuses on themes of love and death, while the formal development of her work during the course of her career changed from traditional rhyme and meter to experimental forms of free verse. Storni achieved prominence as a writer in the 1920s, winning two of Argentina's most distinguished literary awards, and joining an elite circle of Latin-American writers in Buenos Aires. A revival of critical interest in her work arose during the 1970s, celebrating her feminist perspective and her place as an important figure in Latin-American literature.

Biographical Information

Storni was born of Italian-Swiss parents May 29, 1892, in Sala Capriasca, in the Italian region of Switzerland. The family relocated to San Juan, Argentina, in 1896, where her father owned and operated a brewery. After the brewery failed in 1900, Storni's father, suffering from depression and alcoholism, opened a small café, where Storni waited tables while supplementing the family income by taking in work as a seamstress. When the café failed in 1904, Storni, at the age of twelve, obtained work in a factory, becoming the primary breadwinner in her family. Her father died in 1907, after which her mother remarried, leaving Storni free of those financial responsibilities. Now fourteen, she joined a traveling theater troupe, but decided after a year that she was not suited to the lifestyle of frequent travel. She enrolled in a teacher's training school, which she attended while supporting herself by working in a chorus line. After receiving her diploma in 1910, Storni began teaching in the town of Rasario. Her life took a sharp turn, however, after she fell in love with a married man, by whom she became pregnant. Refusing to compromise the man's reputation by revealing his identity, Storni moved to Buenos Aires in order to escape local scandal. Her son, Alejandro Alfonso, was born in April 1912. Storni's struggles to survive as a single mother led her through a series of odd jobs. Her feminist sensibilities, expressed through her poetry and essays, published in widely read women's magazines, were rooted in these experiences, which inspired a critical perspective on the role of women in her society. Storni's first short story was published in 1914, and her first book of poetry published in 1916. By 1920, she had gained a reputation as one of the foremost female poets in Latin America. In her lectures and teaching throughout Argentina, Storni promoted fellow female writers, especially Delmira Agustini and Juana de Ibarbourou, both of Uruguay. She also began to publish feminist essays arguing for women's rights, such as the right to vote. She became the first woman to join a prominent South American literary circle, “Anaconda,” through which she befriended the Uruguayan novelist Horacio Quiroga, and the Argentine author Leopoldo Lugones. In the early 1920s, Storni taught drama at a children's theater, for which she wrote and produced plays to be performed by and for children. A nervous breakdown in 1928 was followed by the diagnosis of breast cancer in 1935. A radical mastectomy did not improve her health, and she suffered from depression, as well as cancer, during the final years of her life. After two of her closest friends and fellow writers had killed themselves, Storni committed suicide, at the age of forty-six, by drowning herself in the Mar del Plata, Argentina, on October 25, 1938.

Major Works

Storni's poetry developed in terms of both formal and thematic concerns during the course of her...

(The entire section is 1,332 words.)