Manoel de Barros: Biography and Poems | Brazilian Poetry

Manoel de Barros Brazilian Poet


Manoel Wenceslau Leite de Barros (December 19, 1916 – November 13, 2014) was a Brazilian poet. He won many awards for his work, including twice the Prêmio Jabuti (the "Tortoise Prize"), the most important literary award in Brazil. Barros was born in Cuiabá, and is regarded by critics as one of the great names of contemporary Brazilian poetry, and by many authors he has been considered the greatest living poet from Brazil. The poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade recognized Manoel de Barros as the Brazil's greatest poet.

Theology of Junk

Things thrown out as junk are treasures to me;
my favorites are cans.
Cans make poor words for people but they are concrete.
If you throw away a can, considering it junk: a beggar,
cook, or poet can pick it up and use it.
For that reason, I think cans are more satisfying, for
example, than ideas.
Because ideas, being objects conceived in the mind,
are abstract.
And if you throw away an abstract object as junk,
no one wants to pick it up.
For that reason, I think cans are more satisfying.
We take a can, fill it with sand and leave, and
push through the streets a custom-made sand-truck.
An idea, being an abstract object conceived by the mind,
cannot be filled with sand.
For this reason, I think the can is more satisfying.
Ideas are the lights of the mind - we know that.
There are brilliant ideas - we know that too.
But ideas also invented the atomic bomb, the atomic
bomb, the bomb.
Now I would like that words would illuminate
that what we call junk would illuminate.

Translated by Rosaliene Bacchus

Day One

Yesterday it rained in the future.
Water soaked my embarrassments.
My sleepwear.
My set of dishes.
I sail on the flood’s rise to the image of a cork.
My canoe is light as a stamp.
These waters have no other edge.
From here I only glimpse the border of the sky.
(Might a vulture have his eye on me?)
I am lined up with the cup of the leaves.
Fish eat caranda fruits in the stands of palm trees.

Translated by Idra Novey

The Illness

I never lived far from my country.
However I suffer from farness.
In my childhood my mother had the illness.
She was the one who gave it to me.
Later my father went to work at a place
that gave this illness to people.
It was a place without a name or neighbors.
People said it was the nail on the toe at the end of the world.
We grew up without any other houses nearby.
A place that offered only birds, trees, a river and its fish.
There were unbridled horses in the scrub grass,
their backs covered with butterflies.
The rest was only distance.
Distance was an empty thing we carried in the eye,
what my father called exile.

Translated by Idra Novey