My translation process for this work was informed by the theoretical works of Haroldo de Campos, the late Brazilian poet, translator, and critic who emphasized that the structural elements of a poem are as important as–and sometimes more important than–its semantic aspects. Here, I have tried to maintain the metric structures, compressing them when possible, but still maintaining rhythm and other aspects.
– Alessandro Palermo Funari
Ferréz (b. 1975, São Paulo) is a figure of considerable cultural importance in his native Brazil, acting as the focal point of a literary movement, “literatura marginal,” which promotes the culture of marginalized sectors of Brazilian society. He began writing at the age of 12, accumulating poetry, short stories, and chronicles. Ferréz also takes part in the hip-hop movement and is the founder of a clothing brand manufactured in his neighborhood, as well as a composer with a number of CDs on the market. In his books, Ferréz lends his voice to the residents of the suburbs of the Brazilian megalopolis, drawing from his own experiences of living in one of the biggest favelas of São Paulo.
Caio Meira’s 2003 poetry collection Things the First Dog on the Street Can Tell You is a stylistically daring blend of science, philosophy, and pop culture. Meira–a writer, editor, critic, and translator from French into Portuguese–is most interested in the state of “between-ness.” His poetry wrestles with limits, both mental and physical, and explores the uncertain, shifting boundaries of modern life.
The collection is divided into three sections: “Epidermatic” (Epidermática), “Other Lives, the Same” (Outras vidas, a mesma), and “Venereals” (Venéreas). “Epidermatic”–referring to that which acts only upon the outer surface of the skin–is a characteristically wry title for a series of poems that delve into the speaker’s inner thoughts and bodily processes. “Other Lives, the Same” moves the reader into more domestic territory, dealing with daily life in present-day Rio de Janeiro, where the speaker contemplates all the other paths he might have chosen. The poems in the last section, “Venereals,” are told in the persona of three complex female artists who serve as the speaker’s muses: Emily Dickinson, Marilyn Monroe, and Billie Holiday. The title is a play on the word’s connection to the goddess Venus, who embodies both love and sexuality, in all their beauty and grotesqueness.
Brazilian critic Leonardo Fróes notes that Meira’s work is unique among Brazilian poetry not only for its intensity but for its stylistic control. Not a single period is used in the first section. The general lack of punctuation, and the use of commas instead of periods when there are sentence breaks, skillfully mirrors the porousness of the speaker’s world. Nothing seems to start or end; instead, we are privy to a stream of consciousness told only in the “space between breaths.” In the cinematic prose poems of “Other Lives, the Same,” the reader is bombarded by commas, periods, and question marks. Venereals employs long lines, standard capitalization, but no periods. Over and over again, Meira reintroduces the world to us, making it familiar, only to render it strange as soon as we’ve gotten comfortable.
Dislocation and doubleness, echoing Arthur Rimbaud’s famous statement, “I am an other,” are recurring themes in Meira’s work. The poetic “I” roams uninhibitedly between genders, inner and outer worlds, and the mundane and existential issues of twenty-first-century life. In fact, this “I” can only exist in a state of perpetual formation: a perfect reflection of Brazil’s, and of the world’s, rapidly changing realities.
Brazilian writer Adriana Lisboa’s honors include the José Saramago Award, the Japan Foundation Fellowship, a fellowship from the Brazilian National Library, and the Newcomer of the Year Award from the Brazilian section of IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People). She has published ten books, including novels, children’s books, and a collection of short stories and prose poetry. Her fourth book, Caligrafias, collects her short stories written between 1996 and 2004, including those featured here. Lisboa holds a BA in Music from Rio de Janeiro Federal State University (UniRio), an MA in Brazilian Literature, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rio de Janeiro State University (Uerj). Born in Rio de Janeiro, she now lives in Colorado.
Moacyr Scliar was born in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1937. He is a member of the Brazilian Academy of Letters and the author of more than 60 books published in 18 countries, many of which have won awards or been adapted for the movies, stage, or television. He also writes for newspapers around the world. His books include O centauro no jardim (1980; published in English as The Centaur in the Garden, 2003), Max e os felinos (1981; published in English as Max and the Cats, 2003), A mulher que escreveu a Bíblia (winner of the Prêmio Jabuti, 2000), and Saturno nos trópicos (2003). A majestade do Xingu (1997) received the Prêmio José Lins do Rego from the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
The excerpt featured here begins at page 35 of the novel.
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