|Paulo Leminski (photo Julio Covello)|
As I wrote about Leminski before--and here I'm going to be lazy and collage parts of my previous postings--he is mostly unknown in the United States, though he is acclaimed as one of the important 20th century poets in his native Brazil. (You can scan a thorough bibliographic timeline here.) A native of Curitiba, Paraná State, he was incredibly prodigious in his brief 45 years, producing "poetry, fiction, biographies, criticism, journalistic pieces, translations, children's literature, performance scores, song lyrics, and photographs" before suffering the effects of cirrhosis of the liver. As I also wrote, "He also found time to become a martial arts master!" He apparently did not sleep.
I also wrote:
A good deal of Leminski's best known poetry is brief and linguistically playful, almost defying translation; a poem like "Ali," which turns on the Portuguese word for "there" and homonyms formed through verb juxtaposition while also referring to and riffing off the name of his second wife, "Alice," loses most of its zip in English. He also like forms such as the hakai and Leminski's work also shows affinities with the Concrete work of his good friends Haroldo (1929-2003) andAugusto de Campos (1931-). One of the best sites for translations is Edson Froes's Kamiquase: p. leminski, which features translations by Michael Palmer, Chris Daniels, and others.
Here are several of those short, linguistically playful poems, all taken from Leminskianas: antologia variada, by Paulo Leminski, with the collaboration of Maria Esther Maciel; Célia Pedrosa y André Dick and with a prologue by Mario Cámara (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2005).
soprando esse bambu só tiro o que lhe deu o vento breathing in this bamboo I get only what the wind lets through
mês s/ fim vem de fora ou de dentro esse cheiro de jasmin?
month w/out end it is coming from outside or from within this scent of jasmine?
a hora do tigre um tigre que se entigre não é flor que se cheire não é tigre que se queira ser tigre dura a vida inteira The Hour of the Tiger a tiger which entigers is not a flower it has no odor is not a tiger that can be desired being tiger lasts an entire lifetime
And a slightly longer poem, about Leon and Natalia Trotsky:
El viejo León y Natalia en Coyoacán desta vez não vai ter neve como en Petrogrado aquele dia o céu vai estar limpo e o sol brilhando você dormindo e eu sonhando nem casacos nem cossacos como en Petrogrado aquele dia apenas você nu e eu como nasci eu dormido e você sonhando não vai mais ter multidões gritando como en Petrogrado aquele dia silêncio nós dois murmúrios azuis eu e você dormindo e sonhando nunca mais vais ter un dia como en Petrogrado aquele dia nada como un dia indo atrás de outro vindo você e eu sonhando e dormindo Old Leon and Natalia in Coyoacán this time there was going to be no snow as in Petrograd that day the sky would be clear and the sun shining you sleeping and I dreaming Neither overcoats nor Cossacks like in Petrograd that day only you and I just as I was born Me sleeping and you dreaming there would not be screaming multitudes as in Petrograd that day silence we two blue murmurs I and you asleep and dreaming there would never be a day like those in Petrograd that day nothing like a day departing behind another arriving you and I in dreams and sleeping
All poems copyright © the estate of Paulo Leminski Filho, from Leminskianas: antologia variada, by Paulo Leminski, with the collaboration of Maria Esther Maciel; Célia Pedrosa y André Dick and with a prologue by Mario Cámara (Buenos Aires: Ediciones Corregidor, 2005). All translations copyright © John Keene, 2015.