Birds for a Demolition

Manoel de Barros, trans. from the Portuguese by Idra Novey, Carnegie Mellon Univ., $16.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-0-88748-523-7
The marshy, rural wetlands of western Brazil have been de Barros's stomping grounds throughout his more than nine–decade life, and they constitute the presiding spirit of this collection of poems from 1960 to 2009, selected and translated by Novey. The poems are powered by strange transformations that seem natural, inevitable. De Barros's is a world in which speakers "exhibit the traits of the fruit fly," or "have a doctorate in ants," or in which "an old man plays his flute/ to invert the sunsets" and "cigarettes, out of love, get lost in the trees." The act of writing is seamlessly integrated into the physicality, eroticism, and magic of his surreal and decadent ecosystem. Comparing the poet "in a coitus with letters" to the slug who "screws the stone," he continues: "A poet is a creature who licks words and gets delirious." Still, de Barros isn't a romanticizer: pain, poverty, and "grounds besieged by abandon" make their necessary appearance. In the end, his ambition seems to be to give voice to the intimacies of his particular, meticulously studied world: "To be like things that have no mouth!/ Communication by infusion/ by rite/ by incrustation.... To be creatures, children,/ dry leaves." (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 12/20/2010
Release date: 05/01/2010
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