Monday, July 18, 2016

Algaravias/Echo Chamber - Waly Salomão (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Algaravias/Echo Chamber.  Waly Salomão. Translated from the Portuguese by Maryam Monalisa Gharvai. Ugly Duckling Press. Brooklyn, New York, 2016.
Winner of the 1995 Premio Jabuti.

Algaravias: Echo Chamber

Waly Salomão (1914-2003) was so revered in his native Brazil by the time of death he had been given the title "Secretary of Books."

Algaravias/Echo Chamber is brash narrative tropicalismo from the source.

Our big, small world has so many lovely voices to celebrate, our newly discovered Brazilian friend Waly Salomão is a splendid addition to the international choir here at Today's book of poetry.

Open Letter to John Ashbery

Memory is an editing deck - a nameless
passerby says, in a nonchalant manner,
and immediately hits delete and also
the meaning of what he wanted to say.

The self expired, there remains the shock of the world not being
dragged away altogether.
Where and how to store the color of each moment?
What stroke to retain from the translucent dawn?
To set ablaze the dry wood of shriveled friendships?
The scent, perhaps, of that faded rose?

Life is not a screen and never acquires
the rigid meaning
that one wishes to imprint on it.
Neither is it a story in which each detail
locks away a moral lesson.
It is stuffed with fish-spawning pools, hams,
shopping sales, the burning of archives,
divisions of captures,
the conclusions of fragments, vanishings of originals,
extermination groups and exploding photograms.
Who cares if the cold ashes remain
or if they still burn hotly
if some proper urn is not selected,
be it Grecian or barbarian,
in order to deposit them?

Before tomorrow pours down here,
still forgotten now will be what brings
today's watermark.

Hyenas keep watch in the ambush of the thicket while
the cattle dogs of time make a threaded
archipelago from the suit of memory.
Islets. Images in distress from the days past.
Innumerable ozone craters.
The family ties having become lapsed.
Vacant and crumbling and sunken and prosthetic,
the world goes on giving birth to the cadaver
of its synopsis.
Without any final explosion.

Nulla dies sine linea. Not a day without a line.
One, without name and with watery will,
raises this slogan like an anti-entropic

And the days follow each other and settled is the intention
to convert all prohibited things and rust
into pieces of paradise. Or vice-versa.
At the pleasure of one's own convenience,
as one who presses the homemade button
of an editing deck
and a god emerges at last to redeem the human

                         the human fate.


The translation of these poems by Maryam Monalisa Gharavi doesn't read like a translation at all, Gharvi has magically learned to inhabit the subtleties of Salomão's dialect.  She renders Salomão's Brazilian into a birdsong we recognize.

From what Today's book of poetry can tell much of Waly Salomão's earlier work was far more experimental in nature, cut and paste, concrete and so on.  Algaravias/Echo Chamber was meat for a far bigger table, it reached a much larger audience because of it's crisp and nuanced dialect.  Algaravias/Echo Chamber won the prestigious Premio Jabuiti in 1995, Brazil's highest literary prize.

Class Nightmare
                           for Marcelo Yuca

if i don't take my foot out of the mud
and don't partake in ecological tourism
at the Chapada dos Guimaraes
or the Chapada dos Veadeiros

if all of a sudden the mud hardens
turning hard as bronze
and i never take my foot out of the ground again

if i lose the penultimate migrant's lorry
or the last wagon of the hunger train

if i don't smoke a joint at a 5-star hotel
or on a first-class flight
champagne, caviar and blinis
smoked salmon and Chablis

if i don't take a twin-engine plane
on a low-flying flight over the swampland
and a hand span of the top of a wood stork
and open jaw of an alligator

oh what a nightmare
if on the capital-h hour
i were unable
to take my foot out of the mud

if i don't hear the singing frog
on the bank of the Cuiaba river
if by bad luck i don't take part
blow by blow
in the neo-pagan festival of the Parintins ox

if all of a sudden the mud hardens
turning harder than bronze
and i never take my foot out of the ground again


Today's reading was a lesson in modesty.  The challenge, as presented by Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, was for each reader to read their chosen poem aloud in English and then in Portuguese.  I killed my translated poem and the Portuguese poem killed me.  Next time we'll call out for some help.

Today's book of poetry is convinced that the people at Ugly Duckling Presse have the most interesting jobs in poetry because they consistently pump out volumes that are as diverse as they are excellent.  

We would like to give the impression of being deeply sophisticated and worldly here at Today's book of poetry but in fact we know nothing of the political landscape of Brazil, modern day or otherwise.   That makes it hard to comment on Salomão's experience in post-dictatorship Brazil and to understand how it fueled his vision.  But the view Salomão  provides us with Algaravias/Echo Chamber makes for great tourist travel in his splendid and generous mind.

Guarding The Hollow Of Time

I slide,
concealed here,
guarding the hollow of time.
Uninhabited space, stopped.
Nothing happens. Nothing seems to happen.
But something flows, the incurable,
burning all the bridges of return.
All the past is dead;
it only guards what comes, what arises.
All the full things tear each other to pieces
or are lacerated.
The old well-traveled lady,
holder of mileage record,
fearful of cows from the Ganges
after having gazed at a larval parasite
under a microscope.
A larva that defiles and putrefies
whatever fresh meat it sees
as its eye holograph
the underlying skeleton of all living bodies.
To inhabit change.
The wood floor full of old snake skins
and the fuzzy down of tarantulas.
To inhabit change.
That super-human poetry prick and poison a


Waly Salomão founded a poetry magazine, Navilovca, became a publisher, wrote about movies and theatre, video and photography, he also wrote songs and collaborated on several very popular Brazilian hits.  
Today's book of poetry has another Brazilian friend.  Descansar bem , Waly Salomão , você nos fez um grande serviço com os seus poemas.

Waly Salomão
Waly Salomão  

Waly Salomão (1943-2003) was one of the foremost 20th-century experimental poets of South America. In 1995, his fifth book of poetry, Algaravias: Echo Chamber won Brazil’s highest literary prize, the Prêmio Jabuti. Born in Jequié, Bahia, to a Syrian immigrant father and a Brazilian mother, Salomão carved out an early career as a songwriter to major Tropicália vocalists, including Gal Costa and Caetano Veloso. In 1970, at the height of Brazil’s military regime, he was imprisoned at Carandiru prison in São Paulo. The author of more than ten books, his poetry has been included in major anthologies including Nothing the Sun Could Explain: New Brazilian Poetry (Sun & Moon Press, 2000). Following the author's death, the Waly Salomão Cultural Center was established in Rio de Janeiro.

Maryam Monalisa Gharavi is an artist, poet, and theorist. Her work in visual art and text appears in a wide variety of exhibitions and publications. She completed a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Film & Visual Studies at Harvard University and a B.A. in Film and English at the University of California-Berkeley. She is an editor at The New Inquiry.

Despite his own immersion in English, one can think of few worlds and languages as distant as Waly Salomão’s tropicalismo tinged and politically hued Brazilian Portuguese and our present American poetic lingo. Yet, somehow, with uncanny magic and scrupulous care, Maryam Monalisa Gharavi has imbued this tongue with a lilt it has not heard before, transmitting the fluidity of Salomão’s airy and slippery lines across caesuras of thought and texture in which not one false step impedes the continuity of song and motion.
     - Ammiel Alcalay

In Brazil, the name of Waly Salomão will mean different thing to different people. For many he will be remembered as the deft lyricist of some of the most original pop songs that came out in the 1970s. Others will recall him as the cultural entrepreneur who would eventually became Brazil’s first Secretary of Books and Reading during President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva’s first tenure, with the charge to promote literacy among underserved populations.It is not an overstatement to credit Salomão with the task of reorienting the course of Brazilian literature in the aftermath of concrete poetry: his stature as a major poet is only beginning to be assessed.
     - Sergio Bessa



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