2010 Title » Poetry in Translation
Birds for a Demolition
Birds for a Demolition brings the vivid, surreal poetry of one of Brazil's most celebrated living poets into English for the first time.
Manoel De Barros
Manoel De Barros, author of more than twenty collections of poetry, was born in the wetlands region of Brazil known as the Pantanal in 1916. He has received Brazil's highest awards for poetry multiple times: the Jabuti Prize in both 1990 and 2002, the Nestle Poetry Prize in 1997 and 2006, and the Ministry of Culture's Cecilia Meireles Prize in 1998. His unusual life and work were the subject of Joel Pizzini's 1989 film O Caramujo Flor.
Idra Novey's first collection of poems, The Next Country, was published in 2008. A book of her translations of poet Paulo Henriques Britto, The Clean Shirt of It, received a PEN Translation Fund Award and was published in 2007. She teaches in the School of the Arts at Columbia University, where she is the director of Columbia's Center for Literary Translation.
The Brazilian poet Manoel de Barros has reinvented the Orphic task of the poet in these short, surreal, incandescent lyrics that stick close to the natural world, that make a pact with stones and birds, that celebrate "the Grandeurs of the Lowly." Idra Novey has done us a genuine service by bringing into English these late modern poems that "memorialize the poor things of the ground" and sing the world.
Birds for a Demolition serves up a generous helping of poetry by the irresistible Manoel de Barros, an aphoristic prankster dedicated to "striving for vegetable wisdom." His is a world in which "a frog swigs the sunrise" and death "weeds its way" into a prison cell. "A poem is an un-utensil," he declares—but there is much more than simple high jinks beneath his idiosyncratic ways of seeing and saying. And Idra Novey brilliantly recreates both the spirit and substance of these poems, in language as bold and buoyant as the original.
—Ellen Doré Watson
Manoel de Barros, born in 1916 in the wetlands region of Brazil, has received his country's highest literary honors, but his poetry has not been available in English. It's our good fortune that the skillful translator and poet Idra Novey has rectified the situation with the publication of Birds for a Demolition (Carnegie Mellon $16.95), a broad selection from nearly 50 years of de Barros's enchanting, at times surreal poetry.
—Open Poetry Books
Read the full review at www.openpoetrybooks.com.
While Novey has published numerous translations of the poet's work in journals, I am surprised that this is the first full-length collection of his work, and I am pleased that Carnegie Mellon University Press has given us a book, finally, from this fine and accomplished Brazilian poet.
—Sima Rabinowitz, New Pages
Read the full review at www.newpages.com.
These poems are tightly packed, sharp little lyrics cutting through the world. And it is a testament to Novey's poetic sensibilities as a translator that they are so dense, and yet so light. . . . Novey brilliantly performs de Barros' simultaneous un- and re-construction of himself and the natural world through language. Packed with luminous, inventive and often witty verse, [Birds for a Demolition] preserves the nothing at the core of poetry, nature and being.
—Erica Mena, Three Percent
Read the full review at www.rochester.edu.
Traveling through the landscape built by Barros is not an experience soon forgotten. His poems are all at once small bestiaries and collections of aphorisms, full of indubitable truths and made up of intensely, sometimes fragmented, lyrical moments in plain language; these poems are constantly raising the stakes of surreal, sensory delight.
—E.C. Belli, Words without Borders
Read the full review at wordswithoutborders.org.
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.
Read the full review at www.publishersweekly.com.
Birds for a Demolition is a compilation of a variety of poetry styles by Manoel de Barros, with some arranged more formally in stanzas and others appearing as short proverbs. A repeating topic is his early life in Brazil, in a region called the Pantanal. His small town and his childhood home next to a river clearly holds significance. He talks about the river often, and even uses the word as a verb at times. His voice is both somber and humorous, and when he gets a bit nostalgic, he reveals both.
—Daniel Casey, Gently Read Literature
Read the full review at gentlyread.wordpress.com.
His existence is not a "normal" existence, in any sense of the word. However, in the Pantanal this is not strange. Nothing is normal. The change is not periodic or programmatic or even measurable. Living there is like living in two worlds at once, like living in a readily available space one minute and then in the next minute having all of that taken back. It is like inhabiting a space where at any moment the imagination may be subject to a flood tide of sensory stimuli. Strange transformations may take place at that point. De Barros reflects these strange transformations throughout his work at every juncture that Novey endeavors to translate for an American audience. The strange is a structural element in his work; however, to this reader his most sublime moments derive from those half-strange moments.
—Victor Schnickelfritz, The Great American Pinup
Read the full review at greatamericanpinup.wordpress.com.
To purchase Birds for a Demolition by Manoel de Barros, please contact our distributor, University Press of New England toll free at 1-800-421-1561 or by fax at 1-603-448-9729. The book is also available online at UPNE, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.
To request a copy for review, please contact the Carnegie Mellon University Press Editorial Offices at (412) 268-2861 or by email at CarnegieMellonUniversityPress@gmail.com.