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Birds for a Demolition Paperback – September 30, 2010

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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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Carnegie Mellon University Press; 1st edition (September 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887485235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887485237
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.2 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,220,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Meg Sumner TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 30, 2010
"Poetry is to flap without wings."

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.
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"Birds for a Demolition" is a compilation of poems by the celebrated poet Manoel de Barros. Life on the rural Pantanal (the beautiful, tropical wetlands of Brazil, in the northeastern corner of the country, near Paraguay) lies as the center of this poet's expression. The Pantanal is a unique landscape in that 80% of the 54,000 square miles are submerged during the rainy season. Little in the environment is considered stable, practical, or predictable. It is a sustaining, yet surreal and decadent eco-system. The physical landscape gives rise to a poetic portrait.

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.
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Thanks to the wonderful translation of Idra Novey, one of the most original voices of Brazilian poetry of the XX century is now available in English. It's a good choice of poems of some of the amazing books by Manoel de Barros, an author whose work has been more and more appreciated since the emerging of the environment concern in the 8O's.
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