Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Translations: Poetry: Francisco Alvim

Francisco Alvim (Photo: Bel Pedroso)
Recently I was reading poet Francisco Alvim's (b. Araxá, Brazil, 1938-) Poemas (1968-2000) (São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2004), a volume that showcases this deceptively straightforward, playful, gifted writer at his best, and thought that I would post a few of his poems, both in the original Portuguese and in English, to give J's Theater readers a sense of his work.

Also known as Chico Alvim, he began publishing in the late 1960s, and in the early 70s published the work of several fellow poets (Cacaso, Roberto Schwarz, Geraldo Carneiro, João Carlos Padua), some whom would, with other poets such as Ana Cristina César, come to be known as the Poetas marginais (Marginal Poets). Alvim, like a number of Brazil's important writers, has worked as a diplomat, and continues to write and publish his work.

You can find some of it, in translation by Sérgio Bessa, in Bomb's Brazil issue (Volume 102, Winter 2008), which also featured Bessa's interview with Alvim. From that conversation:

Alvim: What I found in Eliot and Pound was a voice coming from a new, crushed subjectivity, which had already emerged, splendidly and movingly, in Baudelaire. My feeling is that, in our time, this subjectivity became manifest in poetry in two ways: via material things, of the thing-thing and the word-thing, and via man. “Via” here is meant as channel, as in voice, or speech, and of course writing. Via man, it became pluralistic and fragmented, because today man is a being without individuality, and the world, a reality imploded into a thousand fragments. Thus the shrapnel of voice, voice which is also, above all, a desperate attempt—inexorably failed—to hear itself and the other’s voice.

And now, several poems, one of which, "En la calle," is originally in Spanish:


Nocturnal body
with your vicious moons
you wake unholy desire
you murder time
you hover
over my destiny
your dark circles beneath the eyes
your veins
you my body
my poor pathetic body
that you use to blot out the sun
you bring dark cravings
that lead you to the corrupt
to death—
mirror in which I see myself:
dereliction's obscure vessel


Corpo noturno
com tuas luas viciosas
acordas o desejo impuro
apunhalas o tiempo
o entendimento
sobre meu destino
tuas olheiras e veias
Tu meu corpo
meu pobre corpo soturno
que apagas o sol
trazes o escuro desejo
que te conduz ao corrupto
e à morte –
espelho em que me vejo:
jarro obscuro do abandono




This water is a desert

The world, a fantasy

The sea, its eyes wide open
devouring blue

Which is the real poetry



Esta água é um deserto

O mundo, uma fantasia

O mar, de olhos abertos
engolindo-se azul

Qual o real da poesia



Marching bands
perform the national symphony
at the foot of the strident banner
The Ministers drill down
In the blue boutonnière
the spirit of the public flickers


Bandas marciais
executam a sinfonia da pátria
ao pé do lábaro estridente
Os Ministérios verrumam
Na boutonnière do azul
cintila o espírito público



the ass
the finger


el culo
el dedo



Where the law creates no obstacles
I lay down labyrinths


Onde a lei não cria obstáculos
coloco labirintos

Copyright © Francisco Alvim, from Poemas (1968-2000), São Paulo: Cosac & Naify, 2004.

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