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Young poet explores Latin American identity

Maria Florencia Varela was born in Argentina and divided her time between her native country and the United States while growing up.

She recalls writing stories in Spanish about communist unicorns when she was a little kid; since high school she has written exclusively in English. At Binghamton, Varela discovered a passion for narrative poetry.

“It’s based in personal experience and then you take it to other levels,” she explained.
Varela, who has already been published in several literary journals, models her work on the poetry of Maria Mazziotti Gillan, director of Binghamton’s creative writing program. Alvin Vos, another English Department faculty member, has also been a mentor to her.

Varela, 20, is majoring in English with minors in French and international studies. She studied abroad in London last year and plans to pursue a master of fine arts in creative writing after graduation this spring.

A Hinman fellow, Varela is also co-president of Hinman Production Company. She got involved in the theater group as a freshman and has since directed two shows.

The dean’s list student is a member of the Phi Eta Sigma and Golden Key honor societies and has served as a teaching assistant for Watson 104, a class that focuses on technical communications.

These days, Varela’s working on a collection of 60-70 poems that will serve as her honors thesis.

“It’s work, but it’s passion,” she said. “I write a lot about what it means to be Latin American. I’m Latin American here, but I’m American when I’m in Argentina. I’m constantly lost in translation.”

Vos considers Varela one of the most promising student writers he has known in more than 30 years of teaching. “She has become a mature poet,” he said, “an undergraduate who now takes all her creative writing courses at the graduate level, alongside Ph.D. students.”

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Last Updated: 10/14/08