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Education by Stone: João Cabral de Melo Neto

Two poems, taken from the recent The FSG Book of Latin American Poetry

O Fim Do Mundo

No fim de um mundo melancólico
os homens lêem jornais.
Homens indiferentes a comer laranjas
que ardem como o sol.

Me deram uma maçã para lembrar
a morte. Sei que cidades telegrafam
pedindo querosene. O véu que olhei voar
caiu no deserto.

O poema final ninguém escreverá
desse mundo particular de doze horas.
Em vez de juízo final a mim me preocupa
o sonho final.

The End of the World

At the end of a melancholy world
men read the newspapers.
Men indifferent to eating oranges
that flame like the sun.

They gave me an apple to remind me
of death. I know that cities telegraph
asking for kerosene. The veil I saw flying
fell in the desert.

No one will write the final poem
about this particular twelve o’clock world.
Instead of the last judgememt, what worries me
is the final dream.

Translated by James Wright

A educação pela pedra

Uma educação pela pedra: por lições;
para aprender da pedra, freqüentá-la;
captar sua voz inenfática, impessoal
[pela de dicção ela começa as aulas].
A lição de moral, sua resistência fria
ao que flui e a fluir, a ser maleada;
a de poética, sua carnadura concreta;
a de economia, seu adensar-se compacta:
lições da pedra [de fora para dentro,
cartilha muda], para quem soletrá-la.


Outra educação pela pedra: no Sertão
[de dentro para fora, e pré-didática].
No Sertão a pedra não sabe lecionar,
e se lecionasse, não ensinaria nada;
lá não se aprende a pedra: lá a pedra,
uma pedra de nascença, entranha a alma.

Education by Stone

An education by stone: through lessons,
to learn from the stone: to go to it often,
to catch its level, impersonal voice
(by its choice of words it begins its classes).
The lesson in morals, the stone's cold reistance
to flow, to flowing, to being hammered:
the lesson in poetics, its concrete flesh:
in economics, how to grow dense compactly;
lessons from the stone, (from without to within,
dumb primer), for the routine speller of spells.

Another education by stone: in the backlands
(from within to without and pre-didactic place).
In the backlands stone does not know how to lecture,
and, even if it did would teach nothing:
you don't learn the stone, there: there, the stone,
born stone, penetrates the soul.

Translated by James Wright

This morning thanks to The Book Depository came through the door Education by Stone, Selected Poems, Translated by Richard Zenith (Archipelago, 2005), which I'm looking forward to reading. João Cabral de Melo Neto (1920-1999) is one of the most interesting Brazilan poets of the twentieth century and has the same hard thinginess as Francis Ponge, as can be seen from the poem above. I'll post again on him when I've had a chance to study Zenith's versions. In the meantime, a couple of links for the curious:

Wikipedia entrySome poems in English


Very effective material, thanks so much for this post.
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