Brazilian Poets in Translation

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As part of this fall’s Lusosphere portfolio, we’re publishing accompanying work online. This translation feature highlights the work of two Brazilian poets, Eliane Marques and Leonardo Tonus. Work appears in both the original Portuguese and in English.

 

“A body on the sand” by LEONARDO TONUS, translated by CAROLYNE WRIGHT

“Federal Intervention” by ELIANE MARQUES, translated by TIFFANY HIGGINS

 

Um corpo sobre a areia
Por Leonardo Tonus

Não há poesia no estupro.
Não há poesia no racismo.
No feminicídio não há poesia.
A faca que penetra o corpo de uma mulher. É faca.
Em seu caminho de lâmina. Em sua função de faca.

Não há poesia nos genocídios.
O tráfico humano de imigrantes na Líbia não é
licença poética.
Tampouco os naufrágios.

No refúgio não há epifanias.
Há silêncio.
Um silêncio oco.
O silêncio-soco dos que habitam
a espera
à espera
da pergunta que nunca virá.

A matéria se aborreceu? Virou matéria.
Na matéria substantiva dos ruídos do mundo
perdemos a voz.
Esquecemos a malícia das coisas.

Eu perdi a voz
ao sair.

Não houve abraços na chegada.
Ninguém esperava por mim.
Ninguém me acudiu ao me perder
pelas ruas de uma cidade
que ainda não era cidade.

Ela era um plano.
Um traçado de planos que entre si formavam ângulos,
paralelas e perpendiculares.
À cidade faltava-lhe perspectiva.
Faltava-lhe a profundidade de uma presença
na possibilidade de habitar um nome.
O meu nome.
Ou qualquer um.

Eu não sabia dizer o meu nome.
Eu não sabia dizer o meu nascimento.
Eu já não sabia dizer meu corpo.

Silêncio. Silêncio. Silêncio. Silêncio. Silêncio.

Eu conheci o silêncio.
Eu me esqueci do silêncio

ao virar o rosto
ao indigente que estendeu a mão
à mulher que implorou
para que a criança não morresse
sobre a areia.

Não há poesia no rosto de um indigente.
Não há poesia no corpo de uma criança afogada.
Não há poesia no silêncio de um corpo afogado.

Um corpo sobre a areia
que, entre meus dedos silenciosos,
escorrega
oco.

 

A Body on the Sand
By Leonardo Tonus, translated by Carolyne Wright

There is no poetry in rape.
There is no poetry in racism.
In feminicide there is no poetry.
The knife that penetrates the body of a woman. Is a knife.
On the path of its blade. In its function as a knife.

There is no poetry in genocide.
Human trafficking of immigrants in Libya is not
poetic license.
Nor were the shipwrecks.

In refuge there are no epiphanies.
There is silence.
A hollow silence.
The silence-punch of those who inhabit
waiting
waiting
for the question that will never come.

Was the matter tedious? It turned into matter.
In the substantive matter of the noises of the world
we lost our voice.
We forget the malice of things.

I lost my voice
on leaving.

There were no embraces on arrival.
No one was waiting for me.
No one came to my aid when I lost myself
down the streets of a city
which was not yet a city.

It was a plan.
A tracing of planes that between them
formed angles,
parallel and perpendicular.
The city lacked perspective.
It lacked the depth of a presence
in the possibility of inhabiting a name.
My name.
Or any name.

I did not know how to say my name.
I did not know how to say my birth.
I no longer knew how to say my body.

Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence. Silence.

I knew the silence.
I forgot about the silence

on turning to face
the indigent man who stretched out his hand
the woman who begged
so that the child would not die
upon the sand.

There is no poetry in the face of an indigent.
There is no poetry in the body of a drowned child.
There is no poetry in the silence of a drowned body.

A body on the sand
that, between my silent fingers,
slides away
hollow.

 

Intervenção federal
Por Eliane Marques

Não saia à noite
Fique em casa duro como estátua
Embora isso não lhe garanta nada
A casa poderá e será e continuará violada

Cuidado, todos os suspeitos somos pretos (como sempre)

Não há wakanda que nos tutele
Estamos todos abandonados como Killmonger

Não ande sem a carteira de identidade
Não ande sem o cartão do cpf
Não ande sem a carteira de trabalho
Não ande sem a certidão de nascimento
Não ande com produtos de limpeza
Não compre pinho sol nem de brincadeira
Não
Não ande

Talvez o seu próximo assassinado seja evitado
Com uma certidão de nascido morto
Por isso não fale não balbucie
Cale a boca do cachorro

Em caso de smartphones ou câmeras fotográficas
Carregue a nota fiscal e as suas instruções de uso
Carregue cenas de você os recebendo na loja
Dizem que o que os olhos não o coração não sente

 

Não carregue guarda-chuvas longos (nem de noite e nem de dia)
Podem sugerir um fuzil AR 15 ou uma metralhadora HK
Não utilize furadeiras
Podem ser confundidas com uma pistola e o disparo das suas balas
Não carregue bolsas
Podem sugerir que você carrega uma bomba

Não sente na frente da casa
Não sente nos fundos da casa
Não sente dentro da casa

Você não tem casa nem janelas
E as Dora Milaje estão ocupadas
– Buscam o corpo de seus filhos mortos

Bom, parece trágico e exagerado
Mas também não teremos covas e nem carpideiras que nos chorem

 

Federal Intervention
By Eliane Marques, translated by Tiffany Higgins*

Don’t go out at night
Stay in your house hard as a statue
although this we guarantee you nothing
The house can and will continue to be violated

Careful, all the suspects are us blacks (like always)

There is no wakanda that protects us
We are all abandoned like killmonger

Don’t walk out without your identity card
Don’t walk out without your CPF card
Don’t walk out without your work ID
Don’t walk out without proof of your birthdate
Don’t walk around with cleaning products
Don’t buy Pinesol not even as a joke
Don’t
Don’t walk

Maybe your next murder will be avoided
With proof of your birthdeathdate
Don’t speak don’t babble
Silence your dog’s mouth

With smartphones and cameras
Carry the receipt and instructions with you at all times
Carry scenes of you being handed the items in the store
It’s said that what the eyes don’t the heart doesn’t feel

Don’t carry large umbrellas (neither at night nor during the day)
They might seem to be an AR-15 rifle or an HK submachine gun
Don’t use drills
They can be confused with a pistol and the bullets being fired
Don’t carry bags
They can suggest that you’re carrying a bomb

Don’t sit in front of the house
Don’t sit in the backyard of the house
Don’t sit inside the house

You have neither a house nor windows
And the Dora Milaje are busy
Search for the bodies of their dead children

Sure, it seems tragic and exaggerated
But we won’t have graves or even paid mourners to cry for us

 

*Translator’s note:

In February 2018, Brazil’s federal government decreed a federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro, restricting the autonomy of the state under the pretext of the necessity of controlling public safety. Yet organizations that monitor the state’s use of violence in poor communities (especially favelas) say that in practice the intervention gives the Brazilian state authorization to murder Black people, especially Black youth. While in 2019 US police killed 999 people total, in Rio de Janeiro alone in 2019, police killed 1,423 Black people, more than 3 in 4 of the total number of persons murdered in the state.

 

Tiffany Higgins is a poet, translator, and journalist writing on Brazil and the environment, and a 2021 Fulbright scholar to Brazil’s Amazon. Her writing appears in Granta, Guernica, Mongabay, Poetry, and elsewhere. She was the 2020 Annie Clark Tanner Fellow in Environmental Humanities at the University of Utah. She is the author of The Apparition at Fort Bragg (2016), And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet (2009), and translator from Portuguese of Alice Sant’Anna’s Tail of the Whale (2016).

Eliane Marques is a poet, essayist, editor, and director of the Poetry School in Santa Catarina and the Orísun Oro project, whose mission is disseminating to the world the poetic works of Black women from Latin America and Africa. Her books are Relicário and e se alguém o pano, which won the 2016 Açorianos Prize for best poetry book. She is co-author of Arado de palavras and Blasfêmeas: mulheres de palavra. She translated from Spanish into Portuguese O Trágico em Psicanálise by Marcela Villavella and Pregón de Marimorena by Virginia Brindis de Salas. Her new poetry collection O poço das Marianas is forthcoming this fall. A specialist in economics, politics, and human rights with a Master’s in public law, she works as an external auditor for the Rio Grande do Sul state auditor’s office.

Leonardo Tonus recently launched his first book of poetry, Agora vai ser assim (Nós, 2018), which explores the experience of being an expatriate both geographically and culturally. He completed all his degrees at the Sorbonne, and ever since then has been a professor at the Sorbonne – Paris IV, teaching and writing in the areas of contemporary Brazilian literature, literary theory and comparative literature. He is founder of Brazilian Literary Spring / Printemps Littéraire Brésilien / Primavera Literária Brasileira, a project that seeks to present the work of Brazilian literary artists—as well as promote interest in and expand the training of students of Letters enrolled in Portuguese courses—through an annual series of readings, discussions and round tables at educational institutions in Europe and North America. The 2019 session of Brazilian Literary Spring featured Leonardo Tonus and other Brazilian writers and poets at universities in Canada and the U.S. For the final stop on the tour at the University of Washington in Seattle in April 2019, Carolyne Wright translated a number of poems by Leonardo Tonus.

Carolyne Wright’s most recent books are This Dream the World: New & Selected Poems (Lost Horse Press, 2017); and the bilingual Trazas de mapa, trazas de sangre / Map Traces, Blood Traces (2017), by Chilean poet Eugenia Toledo, which was a Finalist for the 2018 Washington State Book Award in Poetry, and for the 2018 PEN Los Angeles Award in Translation. Wright spent a year in Chile on a Fulbright Study Grant, and also traveled throughout Brazil. As a graduate student in Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Washington the following year, Wright studied poetry for one quarter with the renowned American poet Elizabeth Bishop, who had lived for 15 years in Brazil. In 2018, Wright held a residency fellowship at the Instituto Sacatar on the island of Itaparica in Bahia, where she met Alex Simões and soon thereafter began translating his work. https://carolynewright.wordpress.com

 

Brazilian Poets in Translation

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