Belém in the eyes of Mário de Andrade

Mário de Andrade, one of Brazil’s best literary figures, once spent time in Belém and told of his experiences to friend and fellow poet, Manuel Bandeira. Below is the passage…

“However, to really conquer me to the point of aching with desire, only Belém has conquered me in this way. My only ideal from now on is to spend a few months living in the Grande Hotel of Belém. The right to sit on that terrace in front of the mango trees covering the Teatro da Paz, to sit without a worry, slowly devouring ice cream of cupuaçu, of açaí, you know this world, but do you know anything better than this, Manu? I would think it impossible. Look, I have seen stupendeous things. I saw Rio at all hours and from all places, I saw Tijuca and Santa Teresa from you, I saw the decline of the mountain range leading into Santos, I saw the afternoons in Outro Preto and right this very moment, I am looking at the prettiest Amazonian morning. […]

I want Belém as one wants love itself. It is inconceivable the love which Belém has awoken in me. And as I already said, I am sitting in white linen on the terrace of the Grande Hotel after the rains and inhaling the ice cream, without a want in the world, except to be doing something.” (Passage from the letter Mário de Andrade wrote to Manuel Bandeira, June, 1927)

Porém me conquistar mesmo a ponto de ficar doendo no desejo, só Belém me conquistou assim. Meu único ideal de agora em dianteé passar uns meses morando no Grande Hotel de Belém. O direito de sentar naquela terrasse em frente das mangueiras tapando o Teatro da Paz, sentar sem mais nada, chupitando um sorvete de cupuaçu, de açaí, você que conhece omundo, conhece coisa melhor do que isso, Manu? Me parece impossível. Olha que tenho visto bem coisas estupendas. Vi o Rio em todas as horas e lugares, vi a Tijuca e a Stº Teresa de você, vi a queda da Serra para Santos, vi a tarde de sinoa em Ouro Preto e vejo agorinha mesmo a manhã mais linda do Amazonas. […]

Quero Belém como se quer um amor. É inconcebível o amor que Belém despoertou em mim. E como já falei, sentar de linho branco depois da chuva na terrasse do Grande Hotel e tragar sorvete, sem vontade, só para agir. (Trecho da Carta de Mário de Andrade a Manuel Bandeira, junho, 1927)

Side note: The Grande Hotel of Belém was demolished in the 1970’s in order to make way for the Hilton Belém, in case you are looking for the same view.

Arnaldo Antunes – Rocker and a Poet


Arnaldo Antunes (born on September 2, 1960), is a writer and composer from Brazil. He began as a member of the band Aguilar e Banda Performática in the late 1970s. For most of the 1980s he was a member of the famous rock band Titãs. After 1992 he had six solo albums. Since 1992 he has been an award winning poet, but he was first published in 1983. He is noted abroad for collaborations with Marisa Monte. Later on in 2002, he took part in a collaboration effort between Marisa Monte and Carlinhos Brown, in which they dubbed themselves Os Tribalistas (The Tribalists). The CD was a major success, starting with the single Já Sei Namorar.

Essa Mulher

Sem Você

Volte Para Seu Lar, Socorro, Seu Olhar, Não Vou Me Adaptar, and the first song I ever heard of his, Fora de Si.

Mario Quintana – A Life in Poems

Mario de Miranda Quintana (July 30, 1906—May 5, 1994), was a Brazilian writer, poet and translator. Born in Alegrete, state of Rio Grande do Sul. 

He was considered a poet of simple things, with a style marked by irony, profundity and technical perfection. He worked as a journalist almost all his life and translated more than one-hundred and thirty works. These literary works include In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and Words and Blood by Giovanni Papini.


I was born in Alegrete, on the 30th of July of 1906. I believe that was the first thing that happened to me. And now they have asked me to speak of myself. Well! I always thought that every confession that wasn’t altered by art is indecent. My life is in my poems, my poems are myself, never have I written a comma that wasn’t a confession. Ah! but what they want are details, rawness, gossip…Here we go! I am 78 years old, but without age. Of ages, there are only two: either you are alive or dead. In the latter case, it is too old, because what was promised to us was Eternity.

I was born in the rigor of the Winter, temperature: 1 degree; and still I was premature, which would leave me kind of complex because I used to think I wasn’t ready. One day I discovered that someone as complete as Winston Churchill was born premature – the same thing happened to Sir Issac Newton! Excusez du peu…(To name a few…)

I prefer to cite the opinion of others about me. They say I am modest. On the contrary, I am so proud that I think I never reached the height of my writing. Because poetry is insatisfaction, an affliction of self-elevation. A satisfied poet doesn’t satisfy. They say I am timid. Nothing of the sort! I am very quiet, introspective. I don’t know why they subject the introverts to treatment. Only for not being as annoying at the rest? It’s exactly for detesting annoyingness, the lengthiness, that I love synthesis. Another element of poetry is the search for the form (not of the form), the dosage of words. Perhaps what contributes to my safety is the fact that I have been a practitioner of pharmacy for five years. Note that the same happened with Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Alberto de Oliveira, Erico Verissimo – they well know (or knew) what a loving fight with words means.

O Que Eu Não Quero (What I Don’t Want)

(an excerpt of a piece he wrote, which I translated)

“I don’t want someone that dies of love for me…I only need someone that lives for me, that wants to be together with me, hugging me. I don’t demand that this someone loves me like I love them, I just want that they love me, it doesn’t matter with what intensity. I don’t have the intention that all the people I like, like me…It’s not even about if they miss me as much as I miss them, what is important for me is to know that I, in some moment, was irreplacable…and that that moment is unforgetable…I only want my feeling to be worth something.”

In the Praça da Alfândega in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, one can find a sculpture with Carlos Drummond de Andrade (standing) and Mario Quintana. There is something similar of Andrade alone in Ipanema.

Carlos Drummond de Andrade – A Nation’s Poet

Carlos Drummond de Andrde (October 31, 1902 -August 17, 1987) was perhaps the most influential Brazilian poet of the 20th century. He has become something of a national poet; his poem “Canção Amiga” (“Friendly Song”) was printed on the 50 cruzados note.

Drummond was born in Itabira, a mining village in Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. His parents were farmers of Portuguese ancestry (and remote Scottish ancestry). He went to a school of pharmacy in Belo Horizonte, but never worked as a pharmacist after graduation. He worked in government service for most of his life, eventually becoming Director of History for the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service of Brazil.

Though his earliest poems are formal and satirical, Drummond quickly adopted the new forms of Brazilian modernism that were evolving in the 1920s, incited by the work of Mário de Andrade (to whom he was not related). He adopted a Whitmanian free verse, mingling speech fluent in elegance and truth about the surrounding, many times quotidian, world, with a fluidity of thought.

One of Drummond’s best-known poems is his hymn to an ordinary man, “José.” It is a poem of desolation:

Key in hand,
you want to open the door –
there is no door. . .

 Although my personal favorite is called “O mundo é grande” and I will paste and translate it below

“O mundo é grande e cabe
 nesta janela sobre o mar.
 O mar é grande e cabe
 na cama e no colchão de amar.
 O amor é grande e cabe
 no breve espaço de beijar.”

“The world is large and fits
 in this window over the sea
 The sea is large and fits
 in the bed and in the mattress of love
 Love is large and fits
 in the brief space of a kiss.”

Styles & Influences

The work of Carlos Drummond is generally divided into several segments, which appear very markedly in each of his books. But this is somewhat misleading, since even in the midst of his everyday poems or his socialist, politicized poems, there appear creations which can be easily incorporated into his latermetaphysical canon, and none of these styles is completely free of the others. There is surely much metaphysical content in even his most political poems.

The most prominent of these later metaphysical poems is A Máquina do Mundo (The Machine of the World). The poem deals with an anti-Faust referred to in the first person, who receives the visit of the aforementioned Machine, which stands for all possible knowledge, and the sum of the answers for all the questions which afflict men; in highly dramatic and baroque versification the poem develops only for the anonymous subject to decline the offer of endless knowledge and proceed his gloomy path in the solitary road. It takes the renaissance allegory of the Machine of the World from Portugal’s most esteemed poet, Luís de Camões, more precisely, from a canto at the end of his epic masterpiece Os Lusíadas. There are also hints from Dante and the form is adapted from T. S. Eliot’s dantesque passage in “Little Gidding.”

Drummond is a favorite of American poets, a number of whom, including Mark Strand and Lloyd Schwartz, have translated him. Later writers and critics have sometimes credited his relationship with Elizabeth Bishop, his first English language translator, as influential for his American reception, but though she admired him Bishop claimed she barely knew him. In an interview with George Starbuck in 1977, she said:

I didn’t know him at all. He’s supposed to be very shy. I’m supposed to be very shy. We’ve met once — on the sidewalk at night. We had just come out of the same restaurant, and he kissed my hand politely when we were introduced. 

The Carlos Drummond de Andrade Memorial in Minas Gerias

Below is a short video interview of Andrade in his later years which begins with a few lines of poetry and goes into how at an early age, he was fascinated by the printed word even though he didn’t understand every word he read. The shape and the feel of the sounds and the visual of those sounds on paper was something that left its mark on him. He then speaks about his family who lived on a farm then moved to a city in the interior of Minas, where they had social importance. His immediate family was made up of his wife and his only daughter who lived in Buenos Aires. Later he goes into how moving from Minas was something that made its mark on him too, as anyone from Minas is eternally connected to it. Once in the National Library, he began to read about a lot of different subjects and it “made a salad in his spirit” (salada in Portuguese can mean a mixture). Being old and well-known, he says that lots of young people asked him for advice and counsel, even simple opinions yet he never felt quite right about giving these things, not even to himself. When he decided to move to Rio, he was happy to have his childhood friends around him because they were what connected his past with his present. The last part is a poem about Minas, where they show old pictures of him writing poetry. 

For some of his work in English, see this post!