Two Poems from The Spring of Plagues


Translated from the Portuguese by HEATH WING


Translator’s Note:

Translating the poetry of Ana Carolina Assis can best be described as an ebb-and-flow process. By this I mean that her poetry seems to possess its own current, with waters that rise and recede from one line to the next. Tapping into this current is precisely what proved key to translating Ana’s poetry. Like many contemporary Brazilian poets, Ana largely favors the omission of punctuation, often creating ambiguity in how a line or stanza should flow. She also does not capitalize proper nouns. In English, I maintain the lack of capitalization, including in the titles of the poems. Additionally, the subject pronoun of verbs is not always identified and, at times, the path from subject to object is anything but direct. This certainly presented challenges. In translating Ana’s poetry, I found myself having to resist the urge to render everything with absolute clarity, and instead allow for a certain degree of ambiguity, hoping that, like in the original, this would lead to new pathways for how the poems can be read instead of hindering their reading.

If linguistic ambiguity is the primary challenge to translating Ana Carolina Assis, then one of the joys is certainly the local richness in her poetry. In her book The Spring of Plagues, published in 2019 by 7letras, numerous poems seek out meaning through references to folk beliefs and religion in Brazil. Such references include, for instance, the practice of salting slugs as a way to counteract disease, or the use of oxeye in Umbanda—a syncretic Afro-Brazilian religion. At times the search for meaning is inspired by something more idiosyncratic. Such is the case of her poem “a dead bird is not war,” in which the poetic voice, having come across a dead bird, attempts to understand it as a sort of sign. In short, Ana Carolina Assis’s strength as a young poet is her ability to extract meaning from everyday experiences; her attention to the intimate details of place, a moment even, opens avenues for unique insights and small wonders.


a dead bird is not war

and that is why you cannot
hang it like an
or shelter flesh
in shells

a dead bird is not war, i told you
and your feet groaned up the staircase
so many maggots already
gnawing its tiny body

yes, the sooty aigrette
about its tiny eyes
ink beetles
that quickly showed up
but already there i touch the starfruit
the sweetsop
and the market leftovers

i who never moved out of the house
am thankful for not falling from the nest


pássaro morto não é guerra

e por isso não se pode
suspendê-lo como um
ou proteger a carne
das carapaças

pássaro morto não é guerra, eu te dizia
e sues pés rangiam na escada
já são muitos vermes
roendo o corpinho

sim, a fuligem das penas
dos olhos minúsculos
tinta aos besouros
que pronto chegaram
mas já eram toco a carambola
a fruta-do-conde
e os restos da feira

eu que nunca troquei de casa
agradeço por não cair do nido


the birth of agriculture

i wish i could
prevent your death
and bury your body alive
in the puny damp
earth we tended
so that it kept on living
mandioca corn banana
would not sprout forth
but instead
acerola cherry blackberry pitanga hog plum
juice strong in sugar

where flies would lay
their tiny white children

to puncture the fruit’s skin
eat until winged
and you would spread
reborn a plague


o nascimento da agricultura

quisera eu ser visitada
impedir tua morte
enterrar teu corpo vivo
na ínfima terra
úmida que tratamos
pra que seguisse vivo
dele não sairiam
mandioca milho banana
acerola amora pitanga seriguela
suco que demora no açúcar

onde as moscas colocariam
seus filhinhos brancos

atravessar a pele da fruta
comer até voar
e você se espalharia
feito praga


Ana Carolina Assis is a poet and educator. She is from São Gonçalo, Brazil, and currently lives in Rio de Janeiro. She helped co-found The Experimental Office of Poetry (2011-2018). Her first book of poetry, a primavera das pragas (The Spring of Plagues), was published in 2019 by 7letras. She also has poetry published in a number of anthologies in Brazil, including Uma pausa na luta (A Pause in the Fight, Mórula Editorial, 2020) and As 29 poetas hoje (29 Female Poets Today, 2021, Companhia das letras). Her latest collection of poetry, titled carinhoso (Kindhearted), was published in 2021 by 7letras.

Heath Wing is currently an Assistant Professor of Spanish at North Dakota State University. He translates for contemporary Latin American writers and poets from Spanish and Portuguese. His translations have appeared in magazines and journals such as Fishousepoems, Brooklyn Rail, Asymptote, Waxwing, Hinchas de Poesía, International Poetry Review, and in the anthology Becoming Brazil: New Fiction, Poetry, and Memoir (MANOA).

Two Poems from The Spring of Plagues

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