“Poetry is to flap without wings”
Do you want to know more about Brazilian literature? And what about Brazilian poets? This series is going to introduce some poets who were really important for Modern Brazilian Poetry and who were translated into other languages.
Manoel de Barros (1916-2014)
Manoel is a recent loss, and a particularly sad one for us Brazilians. Born in Cuiabá, close to the Pantanal wetlands, Manoel wrote poems which are simple and complex at the same time. His poems are rich in syntactic innovations. A true poem-weaver, Manoel focused on time and on simplicity, being able to see that poetry lies in the simplest of things, in the most common individuals and daily lives. He himself declared that “poetry is not supposed to be understood, it is supposed to be incorporated. Understanding it creates a wall. One ought to try to be a tree“.
A renowned modernist poet, Manoel was also praised and declared “the best Brazilian poet living” by no one less than Carlos Drummond de Andrade, another Giant in the Brazilian Dead Poets Society.
After undergoing a surgery, he was confined to a hospital bed until he died, in November of this year. What the poet regretted most in his last months was not being able to read or write anymore. That, for him, made life not necessary.
His poems were translated into German, French, Spanish and English. Idra Novey was responsible for translating one of his books, entitled “Birds for a demolition”, which features a collection of his poems. He published 18 poetry books, apart from children books and some autobiographical works.
Below you can read a translation, by Idra Novey, of his poem Mundo Pequeno:
My world is small, Lord.
There is a river and a few trees.
The back of our house faces the water.
Ants trim the edge of Grandmother’s rose beds.
In the backyard, there is a boy
and his wondrous tin cans.
His eye exaggerates the blue.
Everything from this place has a pact
Here if the horizon reddens a little,
the beetles think it’s a fire.
Where the river starts a fish,
river me a thing
River me a frog
River me a tree.
In the evenings, an old man plays his flute
to invert the sunsets.
Some more information:
BOMB Magazine: Five Poems by Manoel de Barros
Guernica Magazine: Two Poems by Manoel de Barros
Drunken Boat: Review of “Birds for a demolition”
Review of “Birds for a demolition”