Clara Isabel Alegría Vides, better known by her pen name, Claribel Alegría is an internationally famed poet, essayist, novelist, and journalist from Nicaragua. Alegria is considered by many to be a major voice for the writing and literary community of Central America and the US. Alegría began creating poems before she was even old enough to write them down on her own, often dictating writings to her mother. By seventeen, she had published her first series of poems in the Central American cultural supplement, Repertorio Americano. Following this publication, she attended finishing school in Louisiana, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Philosophy and Letters from George Washington University.
Following her childhood, spent in exile in El Salvador, she came to identify herself as Salvadoran for a time, although she did eventually return to her Nicaraguan homeland. Alegría has published numerous books of poetry throughout her career. Some of her more celebrated titles include:
- Casting Off
- Álbum Familiar
- Despierta, Mi Bien, Despierta
- They Won’t Take Me Alive: Salvadoran Women In Struggle For National Liberation
- Family Album
- Soltando Amarras
Alegria received a Cuban award for her I Survive poetry collection. She was also honored with the 2006 Neustadt International Prize for Literature. Daisy Zamora said on Claribel Alegria’s receipt of the 2006 Neustadt Prize, “[Laureate Claribel Alegría] has been an indefatigable advocate for human rights throughout her life, and her work has made an impact around the world because she has unfailingly spoken up for justice and liberty . . . becoming a voice for the voiceless and the dispossessed.” The prestige of this award cannot be stressed enough. Awarded twice each year and sponsored by the University of Oklahoma and its international literary publication, World Literature Today, the Neustadt International Prize for Literature is widely considered to be one of the most prestigious literary prizes. It is frequently compared to the Nobel Prize in Literature and is informally called the American Nobel.
Through the power of her voice and the skill of her pen, Alegria used her writing prowess to fight against injustice, oppression, and unchecked government brutality. She often urged women to break free from patriarchy and live lives of their own choosing.
Claribel Alegría also collaborated with her husband Darwin Flakoll. Together the pair created written works such as New Voices of Hispanic America, Ashes of Izalco, and They Won’t Take Me Alive. More than a poet, writer, and journalist, Alegría is committed to the cause of nonviolent resistance. She traveled to her native Nicaragua in 1985 to aid in its reconstruction. Claribel Alegria’s life, her poetry, and her accomplishments bear witness to the power of the pen to bring beauty to the world and to provoke change where needed. The causes she espouses and supports show the world that the voice of advocacy is as powerful as the pen of the writer. Women have a sterling example to follow in this prolific writer and her contributions to the world of literature and the world at large.