Portuguese and Brazilian Poetry

 monument-to-the-discoveries-lisbon

 Monument to the Discoveries, Lisbon, Portugal

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THE POETS

Eugénio de AndradeRuy BeloRosa Alice BrancoAstrid Cabral Ana Cristina Cesar Beatriz da Conceição Florbela Espanca Salgado Maranhão Luiza Neto Jorge Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen Judith Teixeira

The Translators

 Alexis LevitinChristina Baum Lesley Saunders

Previous Translations

THW4: December 6, 2016   THW3:  September 1, 2016  THW2: June 1, 2016

THW1: March 1, 2016

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 Eugénio de Andrade: Four Poems translated by Alexis Levitin 

eugenioph

MEMORY DAYS

You come and go in the memory of those days
in which love
surrounded the house with early morning light.
Sometimes news of you would come with the scent
of wisteria dripping from the wall,
at other times with the sound of summer close
beside the ancient gold of the sycamores.
You come and go. And when you return
it is your dog who is the first to know.
Hearing it bark, we always understood that
love as well had reached the house with you.

WINTER POEM

He came from far away, and no sooner had he come
then he left for even farther off:
just the right amount of time to make
of the sleeping waters of my  stumbling
heart
a murmur of morning syllables.

Like all people who share
their life with the light
he was very innocent, he brought from the place
where he was born
the ardor of the things of the sea.

I’ve known no purer joy
than the one that dwelled in the wet
stones of his eyes,
and dances still in the flames
in any part of the house.

Towards evening, the song
of the little bird and the wind were saying
the same thing: don’t let the conflagration
of the desert invade your heart.
Without your even noticing a thing.

IN THE SIMPLEST WAY

It is just the beginning. Only later does it ache,
and one gives it a name.
Sometimes one calls it passion. Which can
happen in the simplest way:
a few drops of rain on someone’s hair.
You reach out your hand, your fingers
burst into flames, out of the blue,
you draw back in fear. That hair,
its drops of water are the beginning,
just the beginning. Before
the end you will have to grab hold of the fire
and make of winter
a blazing season.

A SMALL QUAKE

There is a small quake in some place or other
as you say my name.
You lift me to the level of your mouth
slowly
so as not to strip my leaves.
I tremble as if I were
fifteen again and all the earth
were light.
Oh unutterable spring!

Eugénio de Andrade (1923-2005) was, after Fernando Pessoa, the best known Portuguese poet of the 20th century. He won all of Portugal’s literary awards, as well as the prestigious Prix Jean Malrieu from France. His work has appeared in well over twenty languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Polish, Norwegian, Greek, Japanese and Chinese. In 1988 he made a reading tour of the United States with his translator, Alexis Levitin. Eleven volumes of his work, including Forbidden Words: Selected Poetry of Eugénio de Andrade (New Directions, 2003),  all translated by Alexis Levitin, have been published in the USA.

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Ruy Belo: Two Poems translated by Alexis Levitin

ruybelof

MY AFTERNOON

I lay out the wind lay out the sun lay out the tree
I put in place the birds put children in place
I even have at my disposal the sea
perhaps with all of this I can shape the afternoon
an afternoon blue and calm where I can hide
But what about ideas doctrines problems?
If I haven’t even yet resolved the problem of my little finger nail
how can I claim to have resolved the smallest of problems?
And ideas, which only serve us to divide?
Ideas have limbs without limit
and it is hard to walk in the middle of a crowd
One could say (but it doesn’t leave me feeling quite content):
I am new. For this I have reason on my side
I let the songbirds sing the children play
time demands nothing the heart does not burn
Who am I? Just me and my afternoon
The children with their white voices
joyfully criss-cross the blue sky
birds pass by in skimming flight
from sa de miranda to jorge de sena
And that´s how time passes. It is I and the past
I was young. Reason is not on my side

THE MEASURE OF SPAIN

I have changed cities a few times
and my past is a long forgetting
Night arrives preceded by shadows
and it is always in vain that I repudiate the night
I’m going to die some day and I know little of life
Life is dangerous simple life
Life simple life is violent
But when springtime comes bare-headed
I feel invulnerable and I begin again
March is wonderful when it draws near
with its promise of a step towards total summer
I am fully of that time and those days are mine
I am nothing but summer exists
My heart sings
All this is the measure of Spain
oh life my life so very strange

Ruy de Moura Belo: ( 27 February 1933 – 8 August 1978) was a Portuguese poet and essayist. In the Portuguese-speaking countries he is considered one of the most famous existentialists of the twentieth century  He also worked as a translator. Born in the small community of São João da Ribeira, near Rio Maior, he qualified in law at the  Unuversity of Lisbon and went on to study canon law in Rome. In 1961, Ruy Belo published his first poetry book, Aquele Grande Rio Eufrates. On his return to Portugal he worked as Assistant Director of Department in the Ministry of Education, a function he later resigned for political reasons when he was going to be appointed as Director.

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Rosa Alice Branco: Two Poems  translated by Alexis Levitin      

rosa-alice-branco-from-al   

A BLACK SHAWL IN EVERY FADO

Drops of the visible prowl the evening suddenly drained
grey. The street passes by in a woman clutching her shawl.
She has just stopped sighing for her love, I mean, for his
return. Now that only the shawl wraps her round she clings to the black fringes
of the night. Were it day—tomorrow, not yesterday or before when
berries dripped their dye of succulent heat— the hours will take on
shadowed fruit moving away from glowing sheets
in a local train, but it could be in a hot-shit Mercedes Benz:
in any case the end of love is indifferent to sequins
or diamonds, since only a shine in the eyes can speak the seasons
of our soul. He might have traded in the woman for a teenager without a shawl,
the flower for a tulip, but all he could do was die in a hospital
bed: after passing through so many beds just a simple sheet
covers him now. Only memory warms a bit one’s life, like
a cup of milk, come on, have something to drink at least. Who could
have imagined those torrid nights, his hands gliding over her
like a spongy wine sticking to the sides of a glass.
The woman forgets to quicken her steps, for now the body
knows that nothing is awaiting her, nor is her house her house. She avoids
all words of consolation. To walk the alleyway and find it leading to
itself, for all paths are a pestilential swamp
of her raw pain. Within a shawl that doesn’t warm the cold. For now,
thinks the guy on the balcony above, tossing his butt into the street. After
the storm has passed, he’ll have her for sure and he’s already drooling
that very night in which her pain has turned her impenetrable.

RANDOM NOTES ON ASPHALT

To fly along grazing the earth with the grooves of the ground
vibrating to the very guts, the blood pulsing
through one’s legs swept away, the feeling of the road
spreading through the body, inscribing on it the rhythm of the heart.
It isn’t just the music of the car on asphalt, it’s the entire body
shaken by the axis of the world in one’s waist, making the heart-beat
pound. When you down shift you power-up,
when you accelerate I settle on the moment
like a bird who has ended the winter
and everything incites it to the bursting forth of leaves.
A little jerk and body gives itself to seat.
Accomplices, we leap through gravity,
your knowledge, my initiation in velocity.
You lean toward me to be assured it’s not
too fast. I know it isn’t, but speed
from now on is read in the gleam of my eyes and only measured by
the arc of a smile, just as joy can be
a broken speedometer, or a cd cover
that has lost Chopin for a good cause. Music
(we know) is in the notes you draw forth from the pedals
between furious keys and a tenderness of senses,
the battery fully charged with random notes.

Rosa Alice Branco was born in Aveiro, Portugal, in 1950. She has published eleven volumes of poetry, including Cattle of the Lord, which won the prestigious 2009 Espiral Maior de Poesia Award and is appearing this winter from Milkweed Editions in the USA. Volumes of her poetry have appeared in Spain, Italy. France, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Corsica, Tunisia, Brazil, Venezuela, and Francophone Canada. Her work has been anthologized in numerous countries, including Russia, Latvia, Hungary, Macedonia, Germany, and The United States In the United States, her poetry has appeared in well over forty literary magazines, including Atlanta Review, The Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, New England Review, Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Words Without Borders.

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Astrid Cabral: Three Poems translated by Alexis Levitin

astrid-cabral

LAST QUESTIONS

On what distant aerial paths
could Grandmother now be wandering,
her body stripped of shadow,
light now like a cosmic bird.

What angels, cherubim, and archangels
are crossing paths with her incorporeal steps
through that anonymous space
that realm of expectation.

In clairvoyant eyes
free forever of physical
and metaphysical blindnesses
what stars may now be glittering.

In the vast hall of the universe
in which her being, immersed
in the eternal, spreads without return,
what waltzes and verses may be echoing.

What manna, divine loaves and cakes,
might she be making now, with hands of mist,
as my eyes swell with tears
and the girl’s mouth waters.

TO KNOW ONESELF

One undresses before a mirror
and dares to confront oneself.
But there’s no way to really
see oneself, the soul in its armor,
one’s back unreachable.
We remain opaque, translucent
only on a radiograph.
And yet an eagerness remains
to see ourselves distinctly
in the dimension of the real.
But no matter how hard we gaze,
it’s always a total eclipse.

RECIPE

He never went down to the roots,
but always clung to the branches.
That’s why he’s smiling
and his body lives a dance.
He brought his recipe along with him:
solid earth’s a shackle,
soft air a lullaby.

Astrid Cabral is a leading poet and environmentalist from the Amazonian region of Brazil. She is the translator of Thoreau’s Walden into Portuguese. Recent collections of her poetry include The Anteroom, Gazing Through Water, Cage and Word in the Spotlight. Her poems have appeared in Pleiades, Runes, Sirena, Amazonian Literary Review, Bitter Oleander, Catamaran, Cincinnati Review, Confrontation, Dirty Goat, Evansville Review, Per Contra, Poetry East, Poets at Work, and Osiris. Cage, Amazonian animal poems translated by Alexis Levitin, appeared from Host Publications in July, 2008.

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Ana Cristina Cesar: Poem translated by Christina Baum

ana

 TRAVELLING

Late at night I tidy up the house.
I put away all the leftover paper.
I check if the padlocks are secure.
I never said another word to you.
On top of the hills of Petrópolis,
with a pointed hat and a watering can,
Elizabeth confirmed, “The art of losing
isn’t hard to master.”
I rip up the leftover paper.
“Your eyes sin, but your body
doesn’t,” said the precise, simultaneous translator,
and his hands trembled. “It’s dangerous,”
laughed Carolina, the expert in Kodak paper.
The camera swooping over the ground.
The voiceover in the mountains, the unextinguished
tamed fire of passion, the voice
of my eyes’ mirror,
declining all journeys,
and the shrill voice of speed,
I drank a little of all three
without noticing
like someone seeking a thread.
I never said another word
to you, I repeat, loud and clear,
late at night,
while I lose track
without luxury
thirst
prickling
the comments I heard on an endless day:
no longer resembling the dazzling light of this same endless day.

Ana Cristina Cesar, or Ana C., as she is better known, was born in 1952 in Rio de Janeiro. She was part of the Poesia Marginal (‘marginal poetry’”) movement, a group of poets who used mimeograph machines to self-publish their works, risking prison or worse to distribute their writings under the strict censorship imposed by Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1970s. In addition to poetry, Ana C. worked as a translator and literature critic, translating works by authors such as Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Katherine Mansfield into Portuguese. She committed suicide in 1983. In July 2016 FLIP, the largest literary festival in Latin America, paid tribute to her work.

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Beatriz da Conceição: Poem translated by Lesley Saunders

beatriz-conceicao

MY BODY
A Fado poem

My body
is a ship without shelter
a welter of waves on a dead sea
without you

Your body
is only a wilderness
without the touch of my caresses
on you

Your eyes
remember you once adored me
they are shores I do not see
in you

 Beatriz da Conceição (born 21 August 1939 in Porto – 26 November 2015 in Lisbon) was a Portuguese fado singer. Her discography includes performances with Antonio Rocha for Paul Van Nevel with the Huelgas Ensemble. She died at age 76 on 26 November 2015.

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Florbela Espanca: Poem translated by Lesley Saunders

florbela-espanca-poemas

 LOVE!

I want to love, to waste myself in love,
to love just for the sake of love: here,
there, this man, that man, A N Other,
the whole world! And to love none!

Recollect, forget, I couldn’t give a fig,
hold tight, let go, is it right, is it wrong?
whoever says she can love a single lover
her whole life long is nothing but a fibber!

Spring comes into every life
and must surely blossom into song,
our god-given voice is to sing with!

So if one day I’ll be dust, ashes, nothingness
then let my dead of night be a sunrise,
my wasteland be the place I find my self …

Florbela Espanca (8 December 1894 – 8 December 1930) was known for her erotic and feminist writing. In 1913 she dropped out of school and married Alberto Moutinho, a longtime friend and classmate. Subsequently, she attended the University of Lisbon, where she was one of only seven female students. Unfortunately, her studies were disrupted by miscarriages and poor mental health. After another miscarriage and another failed marriage, she published Livro de Sóror Saudade in 1923. She died at her own hand on 8 December 1930, her 36th birthday.

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Salgado Maranhão: Four Poems from Opera of Nos translated by Alexis Levitin

salgado-photo-1-daniel-mordzinski

LOST CITY

If the mountain could cry out (and
surely it cries out), like the voracious
living, it would howl a prayer
of mirrors
xxxxxxxxxxin punta huaca del Inca;
it would howl silence
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxdistracting
centuries above the ruins.

In any case, what’s there is
a bunch of ghosts
unable to sleep.

And the reticence of legends
revealing nothing:

not to the shamans and their
wandering gods; not
to the learned sniffing at stones.

THE DAUGHTER OF ATLAS

From where will Plato’s
dream emerge,
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx on this atlas without Atlantis?

From what night of memory
or blood, what century?

History lies asleep
upon this ground of dung,
blinded by insanity and archetypes.

The rest’s a tale,
traversing seas,
searching for a face.

AL-BATRA

Beneath the camel’s hooves,
leafing through the sands,
the desert was a book of salt.
And the distant saga
of spices, myrrh
and silk left
its signature on the rocky crags.

There, beasts of burden and men
wove their tapestries and days
without return: among
kingdoms, gods, and tortured deaths.

There, upon blood and luxury—and
ancestral night hiding
conspiracies they believed eternal:
like wind, stone, the end.

TRAVELER

I walk the land
where this tongue has kept intact
its tatters; its
giddiness of lilies
and of sermons.

I drift about,
among campfires and thawing ice,
in this flight hawked up from the abyss
and sanctity.

I am the traveler who bears
a mythic land
and a liturgy of flame.

I´ve dreamed a village
of vineyards
xxxxxxxxxxxxx(or was it a ship
torn from the grasp of pirates?)

and all I have is this sun
burning my tongue;

and all I have is this inflammable thirst
mixed with the blood
of a beast.

I am contaminated by cross roads
and what will come.

Salgado Maranhão: Two Poems from Whorled Words translated by Alexis Levitin

THE WORD

what is in the word
is in the flesh
in the wolf’s ferocity,
In the afternoon’s breath.

what was in the wine
is in the vein tonight
a tangle of wool
insect and web wrapped tight.

it is laughter that
the river waters make,
in the abyss that dazzles
narcissus and his lake.

they shape the reticences
of dawn and all its ruins,
they dance on ancient runes and mud,
fire and powder,
fortune and blood.

LI PO & COMPANY

once in a while
poetry
xxxxxxxxcomes slinking by
to be possessed.

later on
xxxxxxxxxxshe slips away
disappears
as if her home were
on the far
xxxxxxxxxxxside
of the moon.

Salgado Maranhão has won the prestigious Prêmio Jabuti, the Brazilian Academy of Letters Poetry Award, the Brazilian PEN Club Poetry Prize, and the Brazilian Writers Union Poetry Prize. His most recent books are Opera of Nos and Avessos Avulsos. In addition to eleven books of poetry, he has written song lyrics and made recordings with some of Brazil’s leading jazz and pop musicians.  His work has appeared in numerous magazines in the USA, including Bitter Oleander, BOMB, Cream City Review, Dirty Goat, Florida Review, Massachusetts Review, and Spoon River Poetry Review. His two books in English are: Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012) and Tiger Fur (White Pine Press, 2015).

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 Luiza Neto Jorge: Poem by Lesley Saunders

luiza

 MAGNOLIA

Glorification of the minimal
and the magnificent lightning
of a cosmic event
revive me to recreate
my own radiance.

A diminutive crib holds me
where the word slides
into materiality – into metaphor –
as needed, fleet and light every time,
where it resounds and glides.

Magnolia,
the sound that evolves within it
when it is said aloud
is a glorious perfume
gone missing in the storm,

a minimal reality magnificently
shedding its little bolts of lightning
over me.

Luiza Neto Jorge ( 10 May 1939 – 23 February 1989) was poet and translator. She studied in the Faculty of Letters at Lisbon University, where she founded the Grupo de Teatro de Letras. However, on abandoning her studies, she moved to Paris, where she stayed for eight years. Now considered the leading figure of the movement known as Poesia 61, her first collection was  Noite Vertebrada (1960). Subsequently, alongside more of her own poetry, she published a vast range of translations in different genres from French, Spanish and German. She died in Lisbon of pulmonary disease in 1989.

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Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen: Four Poems translated by Christina Baum

sophie

I WILL RETURN

I will return to the poem as to my country to my home
As to the distant childhood I thoughtlessly lost
To stubbornly seek the substance of all things
And passionately shout under a thousand bright lights

WITH FURY AND RAGE

With fury and rage I accuse the demagogue
And his capitalism of words

For he should know that the word is sacred
That from far far away a people once brought it
And upon it rested their trusting soul

From far far away from the beginning
Man discovered himself through words
And named the stone the flower the water
And everything emerged because he said so

With fury and rage I accuse the demagogue
Who puffs himself up with words
And out of words makes power and games
And turns words into currency
As he did to wheat and the earth

REVOLUTION

As a clean house
As a swept floor
As an open door

As a fresh start
As a new phase
Without vice or stain

As the voice of the sea
A people’s inner world

As a blank page
Whence the poem emerges

As the architecture
Of the man who erects
His dwelling

INSCRIPTION

When I die I will return to seek
The moments I did not live by the sea

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Sophia de Mello Breyner: Two Poems translated by Lesley Saunders

I LISTEN

I listen but cannot tell
if what I hear is silence
or god

I listen without knowing if I’m hearing
the roar of desert places
or the rapt attention
that from the utter edges of the cosmos
looks on me and through me

I know only this, that I go as one
who is watched, loved, understood,
and that is why I imbue every deed
with heedfulness and ceremony

LUSITANIA

Those who advance against the sea
and sink into it like a sharpened blade,
the black beaks of their boats survive
on scraps of bread and moonlight.

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen was born in 1919 in Viana do Castelo in the north of Portugal. Brought up in a wealthy Catholic family, she remained true to her faith until her death. She strongly opposed the repressive right-wing Salazar regime and after the 1974 Carnation Revolution, she was elected as a member of parliament for the Socialist Party. Sophia, as she is known by her Portuguese readers, is one of Portugal’s most acclaimed poets and the first woman to be awarded the Camões Prize. She also wrote children’s books and translated plays and poetry into Portuguese. She died in 2004 in Lisbon.

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Judith Teixeira: Poem translated by Lesley Saunders

judith-teixeira

MY SCARLET QUILT

Perfumes fell me,
fling me like a lush
on the crushed satins
of my scarlet quilt!

In the throes of ecstasy
in the grip of my greed
I rip the slovenly silk
that enfolds me!

I seize the counterpane
with incontinent hands
I feel the veins swelling
in my wanton flesh!

My body is wringing
with desire, ravishing
the satin with love-bites,
dishevelled, covetous.

Judith Teixeira (25 January 1880 –1959) was a Portuguese writer who published three collections of poetry and a book of stories alongside various other works. In 1925 she launched the review, Europa, which only survived for three issues; while copies of her book Decadência (1923) were seized and burned by the Civil Government of Lisbon in a campaign lead by the conservative League of Students against ‘decadent artists and the poets of Sodom’.

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The Translators

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Alexis Levitin’s forty books of translation include Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugenio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words, both from New Directions. Recent books include Salgado Maranhão’s Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012), Eugenio de Andrade’s The Art of Patience (Red Dragonfly Press, 2013), Ana Minga’s Tobacco Dogs (The Bitter Oleander Press, 2013), Santiago Vizcaino’s Destruction in the Afternoon (Diálogos Books, 2015), Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen’s Exemplary Tales (Tagus Press, 2015) and Rosa Alice Branco’s Cattle of the Lord (Milkweed Editions, 2016). He is also the editor of Brazil: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (Whereabouts Press, 2010).

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Christina Baum is a Brazilian-British literary translator. She translates from Portuguese, Spanish and French into English and Portuguese. She has translated several books into Portuguese, including Pulse by Julian Barnes, Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala and We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. From 2012 to 2013, she attended the 6-month Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. She is currently studying for a BA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck. She lives in London.

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Lesley Saunders is the award-winning author of several books and pamphlets of poetry, most recently The Walls Have Angels (Mulfran Press 2014). As well as holding honorary academic posts, she works as a reviewer, editor, mentor and workshop leader , and has recently embarked on some translations of Portuguese women’s poetry. Lesley was awarded first prize in the Stephen Spender competition 2016 for her version of ‘Poema’ (‘Poem’) by Maria Teresa Horta – which was subsequently featured as Guardian Poem of the Week. For further information see: www.lesleysaunders.org.uk

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