Friday, January 29, 2010

Peurto Ric* (for Puerto Ric*)

Muna Lee was born on January 29, 1895, in Raymond, Mississippi, and died in 1965 in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. Wikipedia disambiguates her from an Olympic gold-medallist with the same name by calling her the "first wife of Puerto Rico's first elected governor, Luis Muñoz Marín"—and indeed she was, although they were freshly divorced at the time of his election. But Lee was so much more than that. In the 2004 book A Pan-American Life, editor Jonathan Cohen tells us: "Muna Lee's name no longer rings a bell with readers of American poetry. Her once-celebrated work as a lyric poet who embraced both North and South America has been forgotten for decades, and remains ignored by scholars..." William Faulkner, in a letter to Lee dated June 29, 1954, writes: "Can there be more than one Muna Lee? More than the one whose verse I have known since a long time?" The answer would seem to be a resounding yes. According to Cohen, Muna Lee was a poet, an author, a teacher, a translator, a "cultural affairs specialist" with the State Dept., and a fervent feminist, who possessed a "lifelong vision of ... what she called Pan-American character, a multicultural American ethos composed of 'aboriginal copper, carbon of Ethiopia, Latin dream, and stark Anglo-Saxon reality.'" We found six cases of Peurto Ric* in OhioLINK this morning, along with 29 in WorldCat.

(Portrait of Lee on the cover of Equal Rights, Sept. 20, 1930, from the State University of New York at Stony Brook's Muna Lee web page.)

Carol Reid

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