(1944 - 1989)
was very proud of his polish and black ancestry.
part of his education took place at a benedictine monastery, where he began his "diplomatic relations" with greek, latin, french, english then japanese and later, russian. he never finished college. he worked as a teacher and in advertising, and taught judo. he translated joyce, beckett, mishima, jarry, john lennon, petronius, and others.
in youth a rigorous concretist published in invenção (ed. campos / pignatari / campos the world-famous grupo noigandres), both his mature attitude toward literature and his exquisite verbal invention can be partially characterized by the wholly untranslatable title of his first commercially published book of poems, caprichos e relaxos. the portuguese verb caprichar means to excel; the noun capricho means care, whim, caprice and capriccio; the adjective caprichoso means both meticulous and caprichous; the adjective relaxo means relaxed, slack and a discourse in rhyme(!)
he wrote perfect poems in many genres and several works of fluid, elegant, often breathtakingly risky prose. he was also an intelligent essayist. he has been called "the most complete writer of his generation"
his later poems increasingly concern themselves with death: ice, snow, winter: the full moon ("some moon, any moon") alone in the sky over auschwitz is narcissus's gorgon eye on the world through his own protean reflection of paulo leminski writing in portuguese that "writing portuguese is the same thing as being silent" on a featureless blanket of antarctic snow filled with words frozen into "such pallor they shriek" at paulo leminski addressing us through perhaps-himself as "you"
many younger brazilian poets revere him. others have tried to diminish his reputation. in his hometown (curitiba) he is becoming a cultural icon. i think the latter might have surprised him. he would probably remind us that the reverence is not for him, but for his work. as for the opposite of reverence, he's no longer around to defend himself with his deep irony and beautiful sad laughter
he was the fastest poem in the south, this village idiot, this "zen-anarchist" "bandit who knew latin," this erudite blackguard, rogue judoka, oxymoronic inhabitant of every artificial paradise (especially, and always, poetry), dead so young of liver failure, briareos hecatoncheiros heautontimoros, this 100-wide-eyed mutt from curitiba, paraná, mouth burnt by his own red anguish, that cleansing ember, this poet, this BRASILEIRO the gods adored
a translator's work is never definitive, and mine is no exception. i've done my best to keep the rhyme where it exists in the original, and have occasionally added rhyme and meter where they do not exist in the original. for now, i'm ignoring chronology. given his supreme technical dexterity, his love of popular and traditional culture, and his highly developed sense of humor, the challenge to the translator seems more than obvious
several people have contributed to my work in different, equally valuable ways, but these translations could not have come even close to their present state without the specific involvement of two brazilian Ganeshas: manoel ricardo de lima and rodrigo garcia lopes, both of whom looked closely at my work, cleared up difficulties, made a great many suggestions for improvement, and listened while i explained and agonized over (and generally altered) my myriad mistranslations. any remaining blunders are wholly my doing. i hope that their friendship and caring support will continue to aid and inspire me in this, meu trabalho tão querido
of course, i'm deeply grateful to elson fróes
i dedicate my work on these translations to the poet alice ruiz and her daughters aurea leminski and estrela ruiz leminski; to the poets and artists of curitiba, paraná (and by extension, all of brazil!) but mostly to the fabulous memory of PAULO LEMINSKI, one of the world's great writers