Monday, 2 November 2009

'after a while, crocodile'

02 nov 2009

today i attended this great event from the portuguese studies folks. it was a pleasure to meet Astrid. i love the experience of listening to the author reading her poems and telling us about them, why she wrote them that way. she read the original protuguese and jaine beswick read the translation to english. great reading by jaine. loved it, too. astrid has a beautiful voice and seasoned the words with the forest accent as she comes from the amazon region. this accent is different from mine. when i listen to somebody reading poetry i feel like closing my eyes and just feeling it. also, listening to the author's reading give a particular interpretation, one that is different from mine. poetry should always be read out loud. here is my favorite, original followed by translation:

cave canem
dentro de mim ha cachorros
que uivam em horas de raiva
contra as jaulas da cortesia
e as coleiras do bom senso.
solto-os em nome da justica
tomada de coragem homicida.
mas sabendo que raiva mata
aa mingua de domar meus caes
vacinei-os. ladrem mas nao mordam
e caso mordam, nao matem.

cave canem
within me there are dogs
that howl in times of madness
against cages of courtesy
and collars of good sense.
i set them free in the name of justice
possessed by homicidal bravery.
but knowing that madness kills
unable to control my dogs
i get them vaccinated. they bark but do not bite
and if they do, they do not kill.

this was a very special way to finish up a day that had been so busy and hectic with walks campus to campus and classes and lots of other daily bits. i could easily have not gone to this one, but i thought it would be nice because it is about my language and my culture. for this reason, whenever i can i will come by and spend time with these nice people. it is also an opportunity to meet new people. i saw aurelie in there, hilra. :-)

astrid talked about her life closely connected to nature and animals. on the back oh her house as she was a child there were 18 different fruit trees. the sauvas would destroy all of the trees in one single night. and of course she wrote a poem called 'igarape das sauvas'. all the explanations introduce poems. there is a poem, called 'adeus', that she wrote for a dog of hers that died.

she tells of nice and funny stories involving crocodiles. she said that there were so many animals around she was afraid sometimes of waking up to find out there was actually a crocodile beneath her bed. later on she said the writings about and from the jungle always have the most interest from people abroad. i said to her: 'of course it is more interesting to hear about the girl who is friends with the crocodile'. she smiled and agreed. after the reading i went to speak with her, had a picture with her, of course, and we talked a bit about our brazilian origins. i told her my parents are form ceara, and, surprise surprise, hers too. astrid told us of her uncle who would came back from the forest and give monkeys to relatives as a gift. she said that from her recollections of childhood in the forest she realized her memories were of animals and not of angels and that is why she write this book called 'cage'. astrid said she believes that there is NO sharp division between men and animals, and that it is wrong to advocate superiority to men, as men as so savage and animals can be very 'humane': the importance of nature.

she also gave precious cultural information for the portuguese students, very young people interested in learning the language and about the culture. some of them want to live in brasil for a while. astrid talked of the indigenous people in manaus and how they are now preserving their language by registering it. she cited some of the indigenous culture that we adopted: - the hammock for lazy hours (some people can sleep in a hammock only); - the manioc, which i consume very often; - the nakedness in the bikinis in copabacana are a sample of that; - we have two to three baths a day with soap. the portuguese (who colonized us) soap twice a week whereas the indians bathe daiky but without soap.

astrid pointed out that we brazilians stress the sounds of vowels when we speak whereas the portuguese place stress on the consonants. it was nice to be reminded that our continental country, with a large population, speaks the same language north south east west. of course there are regional variations, but the main language is portuguese.

there is a poem devoted to the 'boto', a very popular myth of the amazon region. according to the myth, if a single girl becomes pregnant we can blame it on the mysterious boto, who is handsome and will dance with the girl in a party. the myth of the boto has a very important social role because everybody believes it is true.

note: the readings came from her book Cage, translated into english by
Alexis Levitin, publisher: host publications: austin, texas.

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