My writing came to me in a dream. I was 9 years old, and I understood writing was a way of "seeing" the seeing. But my real writing began in 1966. I suddenly saw a word in the air, as if it were a creature, entering into the visual space of my room. I could see it act, move, and dance. I began writing down what I saw, and my adivinanzas and palabrarmas were born, an atomic view of language, where words dissolve and transform, re-arming themselves into new meanings and shapes.

Later that year, I began my Diario Estúpido (Stupid Diary), a wild manuscript of unmediated female writing that became the source of my early poetry, which was censored in Chile for 40 years, and is only recently coming out (see: El Zen Surado, 2013)

My first book, saborami (or Sabor a Mí, l973), responded to the violence and censorship unleashed by the military coup in Chile.  At the time I also began creating a series of handmade books, one of a kind objects composed of basuritas, debris, or mementos of our vanishing world.

The original saborami and a set of 12 books for the Chilean resistance are now in the collection of the Tate Gallery in London (see: 12 Libros para la resistencia chilena)


Featured Works

Saborami (1973)
Sabor a Mí (2007)
Saborami (2011)
Siete Poemas (1979)
Precario / Precarious (1983)
Luxumei o El Traspié de la Doctrina (1983)
PALABRARmas (1984)
PALABRARmas / WURWAPPINschaw (1994)
Samara (1987)
La Wik'Una (1990)
Unravelling Words & the Weaving of Water (1992)
La realidad es una línea (1994)
Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread (1996)
Hilur (1997)
QUIPOem / The Precarious (1997)
cloud-net (1999)
El Templo (2001)
Instan (2002)
i tu (2004)
V (2009)
Beforehand (2011)
Chanccani Quipu (2011)
Soy Yos: Antología, 1966-2006 (2012)
Spit Temple: The Selected Oral Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (2012)
El Zen Surado (2013)


Anthologies Edited

The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos (1988)
Ül, Four Mapuche Poets (1998)
The Oxford Book of Latin America Poetry (2009)



Saborami (1973)

Saborami (1973)

Beau Geste Press, Devon, U.K.

152 pages, 8 x 6.5”
Bilingual edition of 250 copies
Translated by the author with Felipe Ehrenberg


Access the full text at Memoria Chilena


Published by Beau Geste Press, the main publisher of the Fluxus movement, saborami was assembled, designed, and printed by the author in the shops of the press in Cullompton, Devon. Printed in mimeograph and offset, the original edition contained letters, insects, plants, and pieces of cloth, so each book was different. It is regarded as the first book that came out after the military coup in Chile on September 11, 1973.


excerpts from Saborami:


"the anatomy of paper"

The strange thing is that the sheet
stood on its own
without an erect
beam backing it up.
This surprised me
in the same way
that your sex
has no bone
yet it is harder
than a knee
which has various bones,
five or six I believe.


"mother of pearl"

I started collecting tiny nacre shells
fragmented and turning to dust.
Gathering the bits of air
between them was tough.
I was able to fill two rooms
with shells
blue and dark green
without repeating
one form
one small piece
one air. 
All were sleeping
a white vagueness
dampened them. 

Sabor a Mí (2007)

Sabor a Mí (2007)

Ediciones Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago, Chile

160 pages, 10.5”  x 7.5"

Semi-facsimile edition with prologue in Spanish by Marcela Fuentealba 

Saborami (2011)

Saborami (2011)

ChainLinks, Oakland and Philadelphia

166 pages, 8” x 5.5"

Semi-facsimile edition with afterword by the author in English. This latest edition of saborami is now available for purchase at spdbooks.org

Siete Poemas (1979)

Siete Poemas (1979)

Centro Colombo Americano, Bogotá

Chapbook, in Spanish. 16 pages, 8 x 6  1/2"
Introduction by Harold Alvarado Tenorio

Following the censorship of Vicuña’s manuscript, "Gozos Naturales,” which had been presented to the Eduardo Cote Lamus Poetry Contest, one of the judges, Jaime Manrique Ardila, publicly declared that the prize had been denied Vicuña for her having written "a scandalous book.” The Centro Colombo Americano subsequently invited the author to perform her work, and the chapbook was published in honor of the occasion.


excerpts from Siete Poemas:


"Retrato Fisico"

Tengo el craneo en forma de avellana
y unas nalgas festivas a la orilla
de unos muslos cosquillosos de melón.
Tengo rodillas heliotropo
y tobillos de piedra pomez
cuello de abedul africano
porque aparte de los dientes
no tengo nada blanco
ni la esclerotida de color indefinible.
Tengo veinte dedos
y no estoy muy segura de poder conservarlos
siempre están a punto de caerse
aunque los quiero mucho.
Después me termino y lo demás
lo guardo a la orilla del mar.
No soy muy desvergonzada
a decir verdad
siempre que hay un hoyo
me caigo dentro
porque no soy precavida 
ni sospechosa.



Perderíamos más de la mitad
de nuestra unión
si dejo de ser
tu amigo

No tenía salida,
me sentía gentil

¿Quieres hacerme
ver el cielo?

Tócame ese espacio
entre los muslos
sin otras intenciones
casi sin querer.


Precario / Precarious (1983)

Precario / Precarious (1983)

Tanam Press, New York
80 pages, 20.5” x 5.5"
Bilingual edition, 50 copies (cloth), 1,000 (paper) 
Translated by Anne Twitty.

This book gathers six metaphors in space: multi-dimensional poems or site-specific performance installations created by the artist between 1966 and 1981 in Chile and Colombia. The poem / essay “Entering” introduces the poetics of the "precarious."


excerpt from Precario / Precarious:




Precarious is what is obtained by prayer. Uncertain, exposed to hazards, insecure. From the Latin "precarious", from "precis", prayer.


I thought that perhaps all this was only a way of remembering.
To record in the sense of touching the strings of emotion:
To record comes from cor, the core of the heart.


Listening with the fingers, a sensory memory came first;
the scattered bones, the sticks and feathers were sacred objects I had to put in order.


To follow their will was to rediscover a way of thinking; Listening to the elements I travelled down pathways of the mind that led me to an ancient silence waiting to be heard.


To think was to follow the music, the feeling of the elements.


This is the way a communion with the sky and the sea began, the necessity to respond to their desires with a work that would be prayer, a joy to the elements.


Joy itself is the prayer.


In the act of offering I recalled an essential poetic form:


If at the beginning of time poetry was an act of communion, a form of entering into a shared vision, now it is a space that can be entered, a spatial metaphor.


It was natural for poetry to complete itself in space:
If the poem is temporal, an oral temple,
the palace or form is a spatial temple.


Both temples are entryways to the sacred space of metaphor.


Precarious is what is obtained by prayer.


"The quipu which records nothing," an empty string was my first precarious object.


I was praying making a quipu, offering up the desire for memory.


Desire is the offering, the body is only a metaphor.


New York, 1983



Luxumei o El Traspié de la Doctrina (1983)

Luxumei o El Traspié de la Doctrina (1983)

Los Libros del Fakir #33, Editorial Oasis, Ciudad de México
Chapbook, 32 pages,  22” x 5.5"
Español, 400 ejemplares.


Access the full text at Memoria Chilena


This chapbook gathers fifteen poems from "Gozos Naturales," the manuscript which had been suppressed in Bogotá a few years before. The poems were written in Santiago during the 1960s, and their publication in Chile had also been blocked.


excerpts from Luxumei o El Traspié de la Doctrina:



Necesito decir
que mi atavío natural
son las flores
aunque me vestiré
de un modo increíble
con plumas
dientes de loco
y manojos de cabellera
de Taiwan y Luxumei.

Cada vez que estornudo
se llena el cielo de chispas
hago acrobacias
y piruetas endemoniadas.

Cada noche
me sale una espalda adyacente.
Soy de cuatro patas
Las ramas
me saldrán por la piel.

Estoy obligada a ser
un ángel con la pelvis
en llamas.


"Madre e Hija"

La madre es tan amistosa como las hijas,
se prostituye con facilidad, tiene veinte años
en cada seno y sin embargo sus pezones
se levantan ágiles como caballos de carrera.
Tiene las nalgas hundidas y su máxima
aspiración es negar la existencia
de toda humedad, de lo entreabierto que hay
quitar esos mundos de la tierra, para que
sus hijas sean planas muñecas.

En la noche, fantasmas de piel
se toman la casa y cuanto estaba borrado
comienza a existir.
Extraviada, la madre se abalanza
sobre sus hijas y las viola sucesivamente.
Desde pequeñas no han conocido otro
tratamiento, y hoy, alcanzada la pubertad
tienen el aire de dominar el mundo
con una simulada timidez.

PALABRARmas (1984)

PALABRARmas (1984)

El Imaginero, Buenos Aires, l984
Letterpress edition in Spanish. 96 pages, 7  1/2 x  5  1/2"


Access the full text at Memoria Chilena


"Palabrarmas" is a neologism created by the author, meaning "to work words as one works the land is to work more; to think of what the work does is to arm yourself with the vision of words. And more: words are weapons, perhaps the only acceptable weapons." The type was set by hand by the master printer Don Domingo Taladriz. The visual poems were designed by César Paternosto. 


excerpts from PALABRARmas:


     la i da













PALABRARmas / WURWAPPINschaw (1994)

PALABRARmas / WURWAPPINschaw (1994)

Morning Star Publications, Folio 5/2, Edinburgh, Scotland l994.

Artist Book edition of 300 copies, composed of 2 booklets: The PALABRARmas (16 pages) and "Las palabras desean hablar" ("a letter to the publisher") (12 pages). Both booklets are 6 x 6".
Translated into Gaelic by Edwin Morgan. Book design by Alec Finlay.

PALABRARmas is a way of seeing words where each opens up to reveal its many meanings. It began in Santiago in 1966 and continues to unfold in many iterations. In the letter to the publisher, it says: "The art is in the seeing (or the hearing), in seeing the hearing and vice versa, in letting them speak of the ancient future they carry within."

 detail from  PALABRARmas / WURWAPPINschaw  (1994)

detail from PALABRARmas / WURWAPPINschaw (1994)

Samara (1987)

Samara (1987)

Ediciones Embalaje, Museo Rayo
Roldanillo, Colombia 1987
Book design by Omar Rayo
Limited Edition, Spanish
22 pages,  8 1/2  x 8 1/2"

A set of short poems written in New York, Santiago and Buenos Aires. It opens with a note by the author: “Poetry is a supreme afinity with the language of the world. Language in the sense of secret breath, breathing in and out. The heartbeat of the world is a language of perception.” 


excerpts from Samara:



La sed
la vida



La herida
es un  ojo,
la mirada.

La Wik'Una (1990)

La Wik'Una (1990)

Francisco Zegers Editor

Santiago, Chile, 1990
Trade edition, Spanish
116 pages, 8 x 5 1/2 "


Access the full text at Memoria Chilena


This was the first book the author published in Chile. Anticipating the way it would be ignored, it included a note to the publisher, Francisco Zegers: “I dreamt we were talking on the floor, you said, ‘who will understand?’ and I said: ‘probably no one, that's how I know it is core material of the Americas.’” The poems were written in the 1980s over the course of several trips between New York, Peru, and Buenos Aires. They deal with the Andean poetic universe where water, thread, and language are intertwined.


excerpts from La Wik'Una:


“La luz es el primer animal visible de lo invisible”
--Lezama Lima



A dónde van
los suaves innúmeros?

Apiñándose en haz?

La luz
los desea

Y los sale
a buscar

y pluma

y piedrá

Piel de semilla
petróleo en el mar

Brusco lo brusco

Huequito ancestral

Supina membrana


Rayos radiando

Lúcido entrar

El mismo brillo
sabe pensar

Todo es



Su lomo


Ojo pulsar

tu alianza

Poro prismal

es el iris

Arco visual

la fuente

el brillar


"Ba Surame"


en mí

Ven a


Sur ame

Unravelling Words & the Weaving of Water (1992)

Unravelling Words & the Weaving of Water (1992)

Graywolf Press, St Paul, Minnesota, 1992
Bilingual Edition, 162 pages,  9 x 5 1/2"
Translated by Eliot Weinberger and Suzanne Jill Levine
Edited and Introduced by Eliot Weinberger.

For this edition, Eliot Weinberger selected poems from three earlier books: Precarious, Palabrarmas, and La Wik'uña. He further expanded his selection by including "Five Notebooks for Exit Art," a group of handmade books the artist exhibited at her 1990 "Precarious" show at Exit Art Gallery in New York. 


excerpts from Unravelling Words & the Weaving of Water:


"Gold is your spinning"

is your thread
of prayer

of forever
threading eyelet

Your house built
from the same

Weave on

Thunder & lightning
embroidered as you go

and twisting

Till the gold

A fresh

The unquiet thoughts
of the quiet weaving girl

Marks & signs

Here & there

The thread & strings

& gold

before each stitch

Not to let it drop

A grid of empty space

A fabric of holes

The world
is a loose stitch

I’ve lost
the thread

but I rag on

It’s a code
and a count

an account
of the people

Tying it all

towards it all

Streams & strings

The stars
the river weaves

translated by Eliot Weinberger & Suzanne Jill Levine


"UNUY QUITA" (The Water Sequence)

Thread of water, thread of life, 
people say wik’uñas are born
where the springs are born.


and its thirst
are one

. . . . . 


Curving soundulating
magmatic stream

Pacha Pacarina
flashflood sphere

You are one


Zig zag meander

Who filled you with filth?

Chicha gone 
around the bend

Playing splashing

Your sack
my span
One thirst!

. . . . . 

Mist is the semen of the mountains
where streams are born

Mist is the semen of the forest
where coolness is born

. . . . . 

It will all end

The round spring
its own silence
the sylvan key
will end

It will all end!

Where will the fog go?
The life-giving mist?
Where it will go?

Cool, fresh

The earth’s sustenance
the tear filled brancxhes

Our hearts extinguished
the fog is gone!

. . . . . 

Foggy little fog

Foggy little fog

Fibrous little fog
Foggy centipede

fertility dancing

We must take care of her flames!
Take care of hner smoothness!

How beautiful!
How beautiful!

She said and awoke

thus she brought all this
back in view

Thus she raised it
shining in its criss cross

Sacred little fire!

Offering of grain!

translated by Eliot Weinberger & Suzanne Jill Levine

La realidad es una línea (1994)

La realidad es una línea (1994)

Kanaal Art Foundation, Kortrijk, Belgium
Artist Book. 500 copies, one folded/unfolding sheet and a thread. 10 x 3".

Published on the occasion of "Hilumbres Allqa" a one-woman exhibition by the artist at the Kanaal Art Foundation in Kortrijk. The phrase plays with the idea of line and reality, or reality as a repeated line. This show and publication were created in preparation for the INside the VISIBLE exhibition curated by Catherine de Zegher.

 detail from  La realidad es una línea  (1994)

detail from La realidad es una línea (1994)

 detail from  La realidad es una línea  (1994)

detail from La realidad es una línea (1994)

Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread (1996)

Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread (1996)

Morning Star Publications,
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
22 pages, 8.5 x 8.5"
Bilingual edition of 300 copies.
Translated by Rosa Alcalá.


Download the full text

Edited and designed by Alec Finlay with the author, Word & Thread was published on the occasion of Cecilia Vicuña's exhibition "Precario" at Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, October 26, 1996 - January 5, 1997.


excerpt from Word & Thread:


"Word & Thread"

Word is thread and the thread is language.

Non-linear body.

A line associated to other lines.

A word once written risks becoming linear,
but word and thread exist on another dimensional plane.

Vibratory forms in space and in time.

Acts of union and separation.

The word is silence and sound.
The thread, fullness and emptiness.


The weaver sees her fiber as the poet sees her word.

The thread feels the hand, as the word feels the tongue.

Structures of feeling in the double sense
of sensing and signifying,
the word and the thread feel our passing.


In the Andes, the language itself, Quechua, is a cord of twisted straw,
two people making love, different fibers united.

To weave a design is pallay, to raise the fibers, to pick them up.

To read in Latin is legere, to pick up.

The weaver is both weaving and writing a text
that the community can read.

An ancient textile is an alphabet of knots, colors and directions
that we can no longer read.

Ponchos, llijllas, aksus, winchas, chuspas and chumpis are beings
that feel
           and every being that feels walks covered in signs.

    "The body given entirely to the function of signifying."
                René Daumal

The word and the thread are the heart of the community.

In order to dream, the diviner sleeps on fabric made of wik'uña.


translated by Rosa Alcalá

 detail from  Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread  (1996)

detail from Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread (1996)

 detail from  Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread  (1996)

detail from Palabra e Hilo / Word & Thread (1996)

cloud-net (1999)

cloud-net (1999)

Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center / Diverseworks Artspace / Art in General, New York, Houston, Buffalo 1999
108 pages, 10 x 8", 1,000 copies

This book catalog was published on the occasion of the exhibition "Cloud-Net," a travelling site-specific installation that opened at Hallwalls in Buffalo, NY, on September 26, 1998, then continued at Diverseworks Artspace in Houston, and that closed at Art in General in New York, on June 26, 1999. Designed by the author, the book contains art & poetry by Vicuña and essays by Laura Hoptman, Surpik Angelini, and David Levi Strauss. 


excerpts from cloud-net:


"Head net"

The unborn

is humid


in a shell

the thinking of thought 


the fall and re



"The Poet’s Table" (Buffalo)

Loose threads/hebrillas
the poet’s blood
three llamas
dave’s pencil
alambre aplastado
signo de conchas
gorro e’ ducha
wool satellite
three mounds
eléctrico  2
poncho de alambre
palo chueco y rulemán
wool  wall
puerco espín
paper clip
pavement script

September 1998
Translated by Rosa Alcalá

Hilur (1997)

Hilur (1997)

Tlön Editions, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
Box containing a scroll 9 x 2.5 x 2.5", 
35 copies

The title "Hilur" is a neologism combining the Spanish “hilo,” or “thread,” with the English “lure.” The scroll consists of text hand-written by the artist in russet ink on Chinese writing paper with interleaving tissue. The edition was produced on the occasion of the artists's installation, "K'isa," at the University Art Gallery at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (October 27 through December 12, 1997).

 detail from  Hilur  (1997)

detail from Hilur (1997)

 detail from  Hilur  (1997)

detail from Hilur (1997)

QUIPOem / The Precarious (1997)

QUIPOem / The Precarious (1997)

Wesleyan University Press
Edited by M. Catherine de Zegher
252 pages, 7 x 9.5"

This book, designed by the artist with Catherine de Zegher and Luc Derycke, consists of two books in one: one side contains essays by various authors, Lucy Lippard among them. Read in reverse, the other half of the book is "an autobiography in debris" written by the artist and translated by Esther Allen.


excerpt from QUIPOem:



is dust

el polvo

the sí

in passion

To parti si pate


to partake

of suffering.

    Passion, from the Latin patire, to suffer.

translated by Esther Allen

El Templo (2001)

El Templo (2001)

Situations, New York
32 pages, 8 1/2 x 5 1/2", 300 copies
Bilingual edition
Translated by Rosa Alcalá
Art by Manél Lledos.

A series of brief poems and two-color reproductions of Lledos' works
created specially for these poems.


excerpts from El Templo:



    The wound
    is an eye,
    its gaze



    is breath,
    and day,
    in its shell
    in the heart’s


Inner variant

“Bring them to time," little Nemo says,
                                 time, from tem, to cut.

Bring them to temple, 
                 a space set aside for con templation
                                           I say. 

El templo es el tiempo.

Dawn and daybreak
                         a cut thread.

            “the moon who is our mother...
            she made days into living beings”

                        --Sayatasha’s Night Chant

                        translated by Rosa Alcalá

 interior from  El Templo  (2001)

interior from El Templo (2001)

Instan (2002)

Instan (2002)

Kelsey St. Press, Berkeley
88 pages, 9 x 6"


Listen to the poems performed for the album, Instan


In this book a single poem, "alba saliva," is presented in three different forms: as line drawings of words exploding in space, as poem in short verses, and as a reflection on its own creative process. Written in a poetic language based on the cognates (the common roots) of Spanish and English with sparkles of Quechua, it represents the journey inside the word "instan."

 detail from  Instan  (2002)

detail from Instan (2002)

 detail from  Instan  (2002)

detail from Instan (2002)

 detail from  Instan  (2002)

detail from Instan (2002)

i tu (2004)

i tu (2004)

Tsé-Tsé, Buenos Aires, 2004
Nuevo Offset printing 5 1/2 x 8", 300 copies


Access the full text at Memoria Chilena


A Spanish version of Instan, with new ink drawings, textual variations and additions.


excerpt from i tu:


f á b u l a s   d e l   c o m i e n z o   y   r e s t o s   d e l   o r i g e n

alba del habla,
                             amanecer del estar,
                             palíndrome del tiempo
                alquimia          del            nombre
                       el              instan

"El alma es co- autora del instante"
 Humberto Giannini.

El continuum del tiempo es cortar. 


La lengua nos oye, el silencio es su mar. 


El instante es el ser del estar?
El or del “origen,” 
             su con templación,
                                                                 “the coming out of the stars?”

El tiempo despierta al interior del hablar.

Despertar, “to awake” o “awak,” ‘el que teje?”

El Buda, oyó el tocar de una cuerda y se iluminó:  
muy tirante se corta, muy suelta no canta.

Una lengua ve en la otra el interior del estar.

El poema se desvanece en el vórtice entre las dos.

"El Arte no está en el objeto, ni en el ojo del que lo ve, si no en el encuentro de los dos. 
El encuentro es el néctar, la ambrosia de los dioses."
                            Hedda Sterne

Un no-lugar para el encuentro, la palabra se esfuma
y queda la conexión un continuo desplazamiento, 
una trans formación. 

V (2009)

V (2009)

tRpode editores, Lima, Perú
Limited edition, 500 copies
Spanish, 132 pages 6 x 9 1/2"

Edited by Renato Gómez, the book gathers a selection of poems from all previous books, plus uncollected poems.


excerpt from V:




Vulva geometrizada
toda semilla
es una nave especial


Encaje de palo, quisca, cirio Cereus, 
lucero y antorcha del camino.

Belloto del norte.

Retortón de Copiapó.

Estrella sin nombre, Calycera.

Patahua, ventruda y  trivalva,
árbol de lirios, Crinodendron.

Coquito e’ tres poros, flor unisexual, 
palma de tronco liso, estrangulado, 
Jubaea Chilensis.

            Y estos voquicitos tejedores? 

Coile, voqui, cogüil,  flor  al revés,
masculina en racimo,  femenina solitaria.

Lúcumo aimara, Pouteria splendens,
pariente lejano del kakijaponés.

        Todos los cuerpos irradian luz
        la fibra de una planta

        el pensar de una hoja

La legumbre se retuerce

Algarrobo europeo y algarrobo chileno  
Rungue y Quilapilún.
Enfermedad del huingán,
“excrecencias rosadas”.

Rosa mosqueta, de Europa o la India, 
andina por ganas.

Retamo e’ los loros,  gusto de tricahue, 
será el puna-mamell
de las alturas,  Lippia juncea?

Beforehand (2011)

Beforehand (2011)

Belladona, New York
Chaplet # 131
edition of 126 copies, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"
English, 8 pages

A hand written visual poem, thread and pencil attached.
Designed by the author.

 detail from  Beforehand  (2011)

detail from Beforehand (2011)

Chanccani Quipu (2011)

Chanccani Quipu (2011)

Granary Books, New York, 2011
Knotted cords & bamboo, 18 1/2 x 18 1/2 x 4"
Edition size 32
English, translated by Jerome Rothenberg


Chanccani Quipu was produced and published by Granary Books in an edition of 32 copies each made entirely by hand. The poem was "printed" on unspun wool using stencils made by the poet who also knotted the threads. The quipu is tied or bound to a bamboo spine from which it hangs to about 48 inches when installed. The work is housed in a hand-stenciled box made by Susan Mills. Silicon Gallery Fine Art Prints in Philadelphia printed the drawing and the pamphlet in full-color. Cecilia Vicuña and Jerome Rothenberg signed the edition of 32 numbered copies.

 detail from  Chanccani Quipu  (2011)

detail from Chanccani Quipu (2011)

 detail from  Chanccani Quipu  (2011)

detail from Chanccani Quipu (2011)

Soy Yos: Antología, 1966-2006 (2012)

Soy Yos: Antología, 1966-2006 (2012)

LOM Ediciones, Santiago, Chile
Trade edition, 6 1/2 x 8 1/2
Spanish, 154 pages.

Selections by the author, with Naín Nómez from 9 books, including uncollected poems.


excerpts from Soy Yos:




de las estrellas

y umbral

soy tú



. . . . .



Habla Gerónima Sequeida:

        es dejar de pedir,

            “larguelén la rienda al llanto

 que no es delirio
 eso que dicen desandar
                                       el cuerpo se va
                                       y el espíritu se despide

                    No es que dios sea malo
                             es que la gente está muy moderna”.

(Baile de empellejados y toquío por dentradura.)

Spit Temple: The Selected Oral Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (2012)

Spit Temple: The Selected Oral Performances of Cecilia Vicuña (2012)

Ugly Duckling Presse, New York
Edited and translated by Rosa Alcalá

A selection of oral performances transcribed by Rosa Alcalá, with commentaries by poets in the audience, including Rodrigo Toscano, Edwin Torres, Dennis Tedlock, Jena Osman, Linda Duke, Maria Damon, Kenneth Sherwood, Juliana Spahr, and Nada Gordon. It includes an introductory essay by Alcalá, and an autobiographical narrative written specially for this edition by the author.

See also The Poetics of Performance a conversation between Cecilia Vicuña and Rosa Alcalá.

See also I Am Just A Little Drawing at NYU, King Juan Carlos Center, NY

See also Ink & Blood As One at NYU, King Juan Carlos Center, NY

See also An Animal Response to Poetry at Ugly Duckling Press, NY


Muhammed Ali
Transcription of an oral performance.
Excerpt from SPIT TEMPLE

Last night I was a little sick

and they were watching Ali
they were watching,  I said
did you notice that? hmmm
They. Who was that?
All my Meees
All my Cecilias    
you know
bed    watching Ali
Do you remember Ali?
The little dancing feet?
Do you remember him?
I remember we were in Santiago watching him
all of us gathered
hundreds of people
gathered just to watch
one little TV set
this was the original
We was there
watching    Ali
the little dancing feet
The unboxing boxer
The unhitting hitter
The undoer doing
My GO----D
And when he said
IIIII am pret-ty,
we felt
WE were pretty
When he said I am black
we felt we are black
It was a shock
to come to the U.S. 
and realize that we were not black
after all                                         [audience laughter]

I wonder who narrowed it down               [audience laughter]

We were him
that’s for sure

And now I wanted to tell you this story
that’s around the internet
I’ve no idea whether this is true or not
this is what the web does:
it undoes the web
doesn’t it?

A message came
it says Guaicapuro Cuauhtemoc
had been speaking to the European
on February the 8th, 

He said
who ask
us to pay you
our debt
YOU are asking
to pay YOU our debt
in reality
millions and millions and millions and
of gooold and silver
as a friendly gesture  of the Americas
towards the development of Europe

this was our “Marshalltesuma plan”                        [audience laughter]
plan for the reconstruction
of the barbaric Europe
Poor them

But it failed—look                             [audience laughter]

In its irrational
they are still at it.
Europe always wants more
they need
more from us
But time has come for Eur Eur
I can’t even say it—
Eu You You You Your
To return
to us
To return to us
the gold and silver
we so
We ask you
to now sign
a letter of inn-tent

as a way to discipline YOU.


(Poem composed in English, transcribed by Rosa Alcalá)

Note: Years after this performance took place, I learnt that the letter "Guaicapuro Cuauhtémoc cobra la deuda a Europa." was written by Luis Brito García, a Venezuelan journalist. It is an anonymous, fictional work that went viral on the Internet, blurring the line between fact and fiction until it reached me. 

El No Manifiesto de la Tribu No*

El No Manifiesto de la Tribu No*

El no-movimiento de Charlie Parker, ésto somos nosotros en la noche desprendida y tibia del Sur. Mientras la vida perdure en nuestras experiencias solitarias y sin embargo unidas, nada nos preocupa.

No manifestamos ningún deseo o característica, no hacemos un manifiesto para no quedar encasillados, y no tenemos miedo a encasillarnos, eso sería tan difícil como que mañana seamos el grupo paracaidista más osado de la Polinesia.

Perturbamos el orden con nuestra inmovilidad exacerbada.

Además el no-movimiento es un movimiento de Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Nicolás de Cusa y Martinez de Pasqually. de Rambaud y Filoxenes. Más que nada Breton y Hölderlin.
En realidad no nos transformamos en manifestantes para que la experiencia no sea preponderantemente exterior. Socavamos la realidad interiormente, por eso somos subversivos y amorosos.
Además somos tan pequeños y desconocidos que la libertad es nuestro delirio.
Las campañas de la tribu no son altamente secretas y sus únicos resultados visibles para los que no-viven el no-movimiento son nuestras obras estúpidas.

Esperamos convertir a la soledad en el nuevo ídolo mundial.

No decimos nada.  Después de hablar siglos de Ello, permanece igualmente secreto. Nuestro intento macabro es dejar desnudos a los humanos, sin ideas preconcebidas, sin atamientos vestiduras.
No se asusten. Nuestras obras tardarán años en aparecer.  No estamos jugando, el interior de las semillas es suave.
Ello se conoce únicamente viviéndolo.  Sea lo que fuere Ello.
Ello está todavía por descubrirse.



Cecilia Vicuña
Santiago de Chile, 1967
*Published in the book
SPIT TEMPLE by Cecilia Vicuña
Ugly Duckling Presse, New York

El Zen Surado (2013)

El Zen Surado (2013)

Catalonia, Chile 2013
192 pages, Spanish only, 6 x 9 "


The first publication in Chile of the author's erotic poems written in Santiago between 1966 and 1971. This edition reconstructs a manuscript censored in Chile in 1971, after the author had signed a contract for its publication with Ediciones Universitarias de Valparaíso, Universidad Católica. With an introductory essay by Juliet Lynd.

"La historia de El Zen Surado comienza con la historia de un manuscrito desaparecido en Chile en 1973. En 1972, una joven Cecilia Vicuña firmó un contrato con Ediciones Universitarias para publicar 3000 ejemplares de un poemario titulado Sabor a mí. Pero después de firmar se fue a Londres y el libro nunca salió, la última huella fue borrada por la ola de violencia que estalló con el golpe de Estado. La voz poética de estos poemas tempranos es franca y honesta, vacilando entre desgarradoramente seria, briosamente juguetona y astutamente burlona. Los cien poemas captan las múltiples dimensiones de una poeta totalmente confiada en la transformación radical de la sociedad y un futuro sin sexismo, sin racismo, sin desigualdad y con justicia —y placer— para todos."

--Juliet Lynd

The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos (1988)

The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos (1988)

Edited by Cecilia Vicuña and Magda Bogin, translated by Magda Bogin, with an introduction by Cecilia Vicuña, l988.

A mystic and a feminist, Rosario Catellanos opened the way for other Mexican women to become writers. Her poetry has been compared to Sylvia Plath's in its emotional intensity and to the work of Saint John of the Cross in its mystical lyricism. 




Ül, Four Mapuche Poets (1998)

Ül, Four Mapuche Poets (1998)

A trilingual anthology edited by Cecilia Vicuña, translated by John Bierhorst, Latin American Review Press, 1998. 

A collection of work by contemporary Chilean poets Elicura Chihuailaf, Leonel Lienlaf, Jaime Luis Huenún, and Graciela Huinao. Written in the poets' native Mapudungun and Spanish, and appearing with English translations, these extraordinary poems celebrate the rich indigenous heritage of Chile and provide rare insight into a culture that remains largely unknown. This collection includes a useful introduction by editor Cecilia Vicuña, with extensive notes, as well as a glossary. It is co-published with the Americas Society as one of two unprecedented anthologies appearing in trilingual format.


A video of Graciela Huinao reading. 


A video of Leonel Lienlaf reading. 


A video of Elicura Chihuailaf reading. 


The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (2009)

The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry (2009)

The first anthology to present a full range of multilingual poetries from Latin America, covering over 500 years of a poetic tradition as varied, robust, and vividly imaginative as any in the world.

Editors Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livon-Grosman present a fresh and expansive selection of Latin American poetry, from the indigenous responses to the European conquest, through early feminist poetry of the 19th century, the early 20th century “Modernismo” and “Vanguardia” movements, later revolutionary and liberation poetry of the 1960s, right up to the experimental, visual and oral poetries being written and performed today. Here readers will find several types of poetry typically overlooked in major anthologies, such as works written or chanted in their native languages, the vibrant mestizo (mixed) creations derived from the rich matrix of spoken languages in Latin America, and even the mysterious verses written in made-up languages. In addition to the giants of Latin American poetry, such as Céesar Vallejo, Vicente Huidobro, Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Haroldo and Augusto de Campos, and Gabriela Mistral, the editors have included a selection of vital but lesser known poets such as Pablo do Rohka, Blanca Varela, and Cecilia Meireles, as well as previously untranslated works by Simón Rodríguez, Barolomé Hidalgo, Oliverio Girondo, Rosa Araneda, and many others. In all, the anthology presents more than 120 poets, many in new translations – by poets such as Jerome Rothenberg, W.S. Merwin, and Forrest Gander –specially commissioned for this anthology, and each accompanied by a biographical note. The book features both English and original language versions of the poems, a full bibliography, and introductions by the editors.


Painted Ideas, an exhibition of the visual and spatial poetries included in the anthology.  


Video of the exhibition.





About to Happen, 2017

About to Happen, 2017

Siglio Press

Paperback+french-fold dust jacket
160 pages
color illustrations throughout
7.875 x 7.875

Beginning and ending at the edge of the ocean at the sacred mouth of the Aconcagua River, About to Happen serves as a lament as well as love letter to the sea. In this artist’s book, Chilean-born artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña weaves personal and ancestral memory while summoning the collective power to confront the economic disparities and environmental crises of the 21st century.

Collecting the detritus that washes up on shore, Vicuña assembles out of the refuse tiny precarios and basuritas—little sculptures held together with nothing more than string and wire, which she sometimes makes as offerings to be reclaimed by the sea. These acts of creation and erasure mirror the ways in which her work inhabits and enlivens the liminal spaces between the remembered and forgotten, the revered and the discarded, the material and the dematerialized.

About to Happen, which accompanies an exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center, traces a decades-long practice that has refused categorical distinctions and thrived within the confluences of conceptual art, land art, feminist art, performance and poetry. Vicuña’s nuanced visual poetics—operating fluidly between concept and craft, text and textile—transforms the discarded into the elemental, paying acute attention to the displaced, the marginalized and the forgotten.

Additional resources

About to Happen

Read Thread - The Story of the Red Thread (2017)

Read Thread - The Story of the Red Thread (2017)

Sternberg Press

148 pages, softcover
16.5 x 23.5 cm,  14 b/w and 67 color ill.

Appearing on the occasion of Vicuña’s installation in Athens for documenta 14, Read Thread tells the story of the sanguine thread in Vicuña’s work. A tension arises in the asymmetry of Andean weaving and the artist’s quipus—large-scale immersive installations of thread, wool, and yarn that reference the pre-Columbian language of knotting, a type of weaving-as-writing. Vicuña’s translation of the quipu into a spatial and performative poetics conveys the tension of ecological disaster and reparation as well as a bodily sense of the cosmic scale of landscape, history, and time. 

Alongside documentation of Vicuña’s quipus, this publication includes hybrid compositions—poetic texts and narratives—written by the artist especially for this project, often relating the works to their political and historical context. Essays by documenta 14 curator Dieter Roelstraete and art historian José de Nordenflycht Concha complete the book.

Texts by José de Nordenflycht Concha, Dieter Roelstraete, Cecilia Vicuña

Design by Felipe Mujica and Johanna Unzueta

Additional resources

Read Thread - The Story of the Red Thread