Poetry Month — Mario Quintana

Mario Quintana (July 30, 1906—May 5, 1994) was a Brazilian writer who once said, in response to attacks on free speech and artistic expression by conservative (read dictatorial) government, that “mistreating a poet is a sign of very bad character.” He is said to have been interviewed once, near the end of his life by a jornalist who asked: “Back in your time, how was life?” His answer? “Your time, my ass. I am alive, and pretty well alive, my time is now.”

He was a poet of “the simple things”, unconcerned with critics, he wrote poetry because he “felt the need to write it.” The following poem is some form of a sonnet, though my tranlation approaches nothing of the sort. It was impossible to maintain some of the rhyming. This is Soneto II from Rua dos Cataventos:

Sleep, little street, everything is dark . . .
And my steps, who is there to hear them?
Sleep your pure and restful sleep,
with your lamps, and your gardens, nothing to fear in them . . .

Sleep . . . There are no thieves, I assure you . . .
Or even guards that would seek to torment . . .
In this high night, as if above a wall,
the stars sing like crickets . . .

The wind is asleep on the sidewalk,
the wind stoops down like a dog . . .
Sleep, little street . . . There is nothing . . .

Just my footsteps . . . But they are so light
as to even seem, in the mid of night,
the footsteps of my future haunting . . .

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7 thoughts on “Poetry Month — Mario Quintana

    1. Thanks, Kelly. I’m on a roll what with the writing pbs in Portuguese and the translating poems in Portuguese. I like Mario’s gumption too. And I think I’ll take the “my time is now” quote as my inner war cry, without all the trappings of hubris that might seem to accompany such a statement, but simply as a reminder to move forth without fear and to never think it’s too early or too late to put my voice out there.

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