The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Dear Aunt Chofi” is a long poem in free verse with thirteen stanzas containing more than ninety-five lines in the English version. The title clearly suggests a letter from a niece to her aunt and serves to underscore the monologic nature of the poem, which is a one-sided conversation between the niece and her deceased Aunt Sofía. The narrator, “I,” addresses herself to “you,” the aunt, thus making the reader an outside observer, an eavesdropper on a conversation in print. Chofi is a fond nickname for Sofía, which means “wisdom.” As she eulogizes her aunt, the narrator reviews the aunt’s life.

The first stanza takes Aunt Chofi from birth to widowhood. She was “A rebel from birth” who insisted on marrying the man she loved despite her family’s disapproval. The family’s judgment was better than Sofía’s, but that “purgatory” chapter of her life ended when her husband broke his neck in a drunken fall. “And I listened to you tell it,” says the narrator, who heard Aunt Chofi’s stories while witnessing her activities, described in the second stanza, as a baker, a creator of popular and religious images for ritualistic consumption at weddings and baptisms.

The third and fourth stanzas reveal that Chofi was an artist who smoked incessantly and painted vigorously, ignoring, or perhaps requiring, the chaos around her. As she painted, she was “Always talking, conversing” while her room became an ashtray for...

(The entire section is 533 words.)