From Publishers Weekly
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.)
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"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
"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
"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