Translation Tuesday: Poems by Roberto Piva

I am the acid trip / in nighttime boats

Today we present the Brazilian poet, Roberto Piva, translated by Asymptote Editor at Large for Brazil, Maíra Mendes Galvão. At once spiritual and carnal, Piva’s poems are rooted in the chaos of the metropolis, the dirt and grime of the urban underworld, all with a Surrealist and sometimes Romantic tinge, at the heels of André Breton, Murilo Mendes, Lautréamont, and Pier Paolo Pasolini. His utter divergence from the formal constraints of constructivism and the then-flourishing Brazilian concrete movement, as well as his reliance on the sensorial, rendered him one of the “poetas malditos”—maligned poets—an outcast even from the infamous yet famous Brazilian “marginal generation.” “Piazza I” first appeared in Piazzas (1964), while “Poema Vertigem” (Poem Vertigo) was published in Ciclones (1997).

Piazza I

One afternoon
is enough to go mad
Or to hit the Museum to see Bosch
a winter’s afternoon
on a grave patio
where garòfani milk-shake & Claude
obssessed with angels
or vast engines that spin with
seraphic grace
playing the banjo of Remembrance
without the love found tasted dreamed of
& long municipal vivaria
without seeking to understand
the eyeless marrow
or virgin birds
it just so happened that I saw again
the simple mortal tower of Dream
not with real & cylindrical fingers
Du Barry Byron the Marquess of Santos
Swift Jarry with the noise
of bells in my barbarian nights
the chariots of fire
the trapezes of mercury
are hands writing & fishing
eschatological nymphs
small cannons of blood & the large open eyes
for some miracle of Luck
I am the jet set of damned love
the parrots of death with Aristotle at the stern of thunder
spinach in the morning & cream cheese
sporty-souls with flowers between their teeth
my orange opening up like a door
YOUR VOICE IS ETERNAL I see the ashen hand tearing
the wall of the world

Poem vertigo

I am the acid trip
in nighttime boats
I am the boy who masturbates
on the mountain
I am the techno pagan
I am Reich, Ferenczi & Jung
I am the Eternal Return
I am the cybernetic space
I am the virgin forest
of convulsive girls
I am the tattooed flying saucer
I am the boy and the girl
The Masters & the Slaves
I am the orgy with the
blond boy and his girlfriend
and her colorful vagina
(he’d put on her panties
& dance like Shiva
upon my body)
I am the Orgon nomad
I am Velvet Island
I am the Invention of Orpheus
I am the fishing eyes
I am the Shaman’s Drum
(& the Shaman covered
in furs and androgynous)
I am the Uranium kiss
of Al Capone
I am a machine gun in
a state of grace
I am the pomba-gira of the Absolute

(Ilha Comprida, 91)


Photo credit: Mário Rui Feliciani

Roberto Piva was born in São Paulo, Brazil, in 1937. His first book, Paranóia, was published in 1963, followed by Piazzas (1964), Abra os olhos e diga ah! (1976), Coxas (1979), 20 poemas com brócoli (1981), Quizumba (1983), Antologia poética (1985) and Ciclones (1997). He died in São Paulo on July 3, 2010.

Maíra Mendes Galvão is a Brazilian poet, translator, and editor, as well as Editor-at-large, Brazil at Asymptote Journal. She has translated Jonathan Safran Foer and Boris Fishman into Portuguese and two of her translations of poems by Mina Loy have been published in the anthology Lira Argenta. She is preparing her first poetry book, jamanta na testa, and some of her work has been published in online and print magazines such as CasuloDiversos AfinsRaimundo and Parênteses and her poem “hileia, nosso humble abode” was published in the anthology Golpe: Manifesto.


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