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Birds for a Demolition Paperback – September 30, 2010
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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.
In Invented Memoir II, he writes of his birthday as a boy, when his mother had no gift to give him. So she gave him a river.
...The same river that had always passed behind our house.
I liked the gift more than if it had been candy from the peddler.
My brother pouted, he liked the river as well.
Our mother promised him he'd get a tree for his birthday.
A tree covered in birds.
I heard this promise and thought it was fine.
The birds would spend the day on the banks of my river.
At night, they'd sleep in my brother's tree.
My brother teased that his present got flowers in September.
And a river doesn't get flowers!
I told him a tree doesn't get piranhas.
What united us was swimming naked in the river with the herons.
In this regard, our life was a caress.
Apparently, the river was something he held on to, both as a personal touchstone and a poetic motif. While the poetry within this covers almost 50 years of his work, the focus remains much the same. Vines, lizards, adobe buildings, trees, and even ants are woven into more serious topics.Read more ›
While Manoel de Barros's country is Brazil, his language is Portuguese. He is the author of more than twenty collections. He has received Brazil's highest awards for poetry multiple times: the Premio Jabuti (the "Tortoise 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.
The poems in "Birds for a Demolition" are bold, buoyant, and incandescent. Slugs crawl about, naked and damp. Rivers, flowers, piranhas, and birds traverse shadows and stones. The image systems never wander far from the wondrousness wealth of poverty and solitude.
Idra Novey's translation of these late modern poems are skilled and arresting. Translation is in itself a finely balanced art. The gifted translator ever looks simultaneously in two directions.... back at the source language and forward to the language of the translation. Manoel de Barros's talent is in good hands with Idra Novey.