three years of ballet tutus and taffeta and still i lost my posture.

Language: Portuguese
Poet: Angélica Freitas
Translator: Hilary Kaplan

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three years of ballet tutus and taffeta and still i lost my posture.

Five poems by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan

I first discovered Rilke Shake while browsing the poetry section at Livraria Cultura, a large bookstore in Porto Alegre. I grabbed it because of the title; the pun on “milkshake,” which in Brazil’s vernacular means just what it does in English, made me laugh. The voice in the poems stood out to me because it was funny and female, portrayed queerness, used speech from the south of Brazil, and combined local and global perspectives to deal with questions of personal and poetic identity. I was intrigued by this voice, which grappled with the poets of the past but had a style unlike most other poetry on Brazilian bookshelves. I walked into the street with a new book to devour.

The shake is Freitas’s symbol of poetic invention; it is the delicious mess of combination that makes poetry. In Freitas’s vision, poetic formation is life formation. Life in these poems occurs in concrete scenes—a family library, a young person’s room, a city street—but the setting and its artifacts always point to the human interior. By shaking together literary classics, pop culture, pastoral fantasy, and more, the poems reflect upon and attempt to understand the self, and the poet’s art.

–Hilary Kaplan

Angélica Freitas (b. 1973) is the author of Rilke shake (Cosac Naify, 2007) and Um útero é do tamanho de um punho (Cosac Naify, 2012), which was a finalist for the Portugal Telecom Prize. Her graphic novel, Guadalupe (2012), published by Companhia das Letras, was illustrated by Odyr Bernardi. Freitas’s poems have been translated and published in German, Spanish, Swedish, Romanian, and English. She was awarded a Programa Petrobras Cultural writing fellowship in 2009. Freitas co-edits the poetry journal Modo de Usar & Co. and lives in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Brazil.
Hilary Kaplan is the translator of Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas (forthcoming from Phoneme Media), for which she received a PEN Translation Fund award, and Ghosts by Paloma Vidal (2014). Her work has been featured on BBC Radio 4 and in Modern Poetry in Translation, PEN AmericaThe White Review, and elsewhereHer writing on Brazilian poetry and poetics appears in eLyraJacket2Rascunho, and the collection Deslocamentos Críticos. She holds an M.A. in comparative literature from Brown University and an M.F.A. from San Francisco State University.

cosmic coswig mississippi

abriremos a janela mais tranquilas para ver
não esse tanto de edifícios mas

vacas aparando a grama
galinhas arregaladas
galos em estacatos

abriremos a janela toda

não só uma fresta para a ver a vida besta
que se desenrosca amanhecida nos metros

porque lá só haverá tatus
underground

só haverá o blues
rural

cosmic coswig mississippi

tranquil we will open the window to
see not this endless mass of buildings but

cows clipping the grass
wide-eyed hens
roosters in staccato

we will open the window wide

not just a sliver to see brute life
untwist asleep from the metros

because there will only be armadillos there
underground

there will only be country
blues

r.c.

os grandes colecionadores de mantras pessoais não saberão a metade/ do que aprendi nas canções/ é verdade/ nem saberão/ descrever com tanta precisão/ aquela janela da bolha de sabão/ meu bem eu li a barsa/ eu li a britannica/ e quando sobrou tempo eu ouvi/ a sinfônica/ eu cresci/ sobrevivi/ a privada de perto/ muitas vezes eu vi/ mas a verdade é que/ quase tudo aprendi/ ouvindo as canções do rádio/ as canções do rádio/ quando meu bem nem/ a verdadeira maionese/ puder me salvar/ você sabe onde me encontrar/ e se a luz faltar/ num cantinho do meu quarto/ eu vou estar/ com um panasonic quatro pilhas aaa/ ouvindo as canções do radio

r.c. (roberto carlos)

the greatest collectors of personal mantras will never know the half/ of what i learned from the songs/ oh no/ they’ll never know/ how precisely to show/ a soap bubble’s glossy window/ my dear i’ve read the encyclopedia barsa/ i have read the britannica/ and when i had time to spare i listened/ to the symphony/ i grew up/ survived/ saw the porcelain up close/ many times/ but the truth is/ i learned nearly everything/ listening to the songs on the radio/ on the radio/ my love when not even/ real mayonnaise/ can save me/ you know where to find me/ and if the light grows dim/ in a corner of my room/ that’s where i’ll be/ with my panasonic four AAA batteries/ listening to the songs on the radio

cassino

você prefere o cru
ao creme:
boca ostra língua
lago lua lugar
paisagem com pinheiros
ao fundo. você sempre
preferiu o cru
ao ecrã, insônia a
barbeiro de sevilha.
paisagem de pinheiros
com abismo
por trás.

você precisa
habitar as elipses
precisa dissecar
o sapo da poesia
– não abole o poço.
salta saltador
o grande salto.
a maresia come
as rodas do carro.
você prefere o cru
nem precisava
ter dito.

casino

you prefer the raw
to the refined:
mouth oyster tongue
lagoon moon taste
landscape with pine trees
in the background. you always
preferred the raw
to the reel, insomnia to
the barber of seville.
landscape of pines
with the abyss
behind.

you need
to live in the ellipses
need to dissect
the frog of poetry
—not abolish the well.
leaper, leap
the great leap.
the salt air eats
car wheels.
you prefer the raw
you did not need
to speak.

l’enfance de l’art

porque eu perdia a pose mamãe me deu uma cadeira elegante de veludo burgundy. três anos no balé tutus e tafetás e ainda perdia a pose.

mamãe disse vou comprar uma cadeira para que pelo menos sente elegantemente. papai chegava tarde e ao me ver sentada lendo pedro nava suspirava e tirava trollope da estante. “leia os clássicos,

é importante.” era o entendimento de papai o self-made man o marido de mamãe a de quatro sobrenomes.

daí a minha aversão a heráldica e estofados.

daí por que nunca li chaucer antes.

l’enfance de l’art (formative youth)

because i lost my posture mama got me an elegant chair in burgundy velvet. three years of ballet tutus and taffeta and still i lost my posture.

mama said i am buying a chair so at least you’ll sit elegantly. papa came home late and seeing me seated reading pedro nava sighed and took trollope down from the shelf. “read the classics,

it’s important.” that was the understanding of papa the self-made man the husband of mama who had the traditional four last names.

and so my aversion to heraldry and upholstered things.

and so i’ve never read chaucer before.

[só]


me consolaria:
o ejetor de teias
do homem-aranha
só lá no alto
entre prédios
não se veria
este coração
sem plumas

– algum vilão
por aí
usa um
colar de penas
made in
my heart –
só lá em cima
entre edifícios
com o aval
das pombas

uma criança
olha pra cima
mamãe, mamãe
é a mulher
-aranha?
não seja tola
ela está
limpando
janelas


me consolaria:
o ejetor de teias
do homem-aranha
só lá no alto
entre prédios
não se veria
um coração
sem planos

[i'd only]

i’d only
be consoled by
spiderman’s
web-ejector
only up high
between buildings
no one would see
this heart
without plumes

—some villain
around here
wears a necklace
of feathers
made in
my heart—
only there up above
between towers
protected
by pigeons

a child
looks up
mommy, mommy
is it spider
woman?
don’t be silly
she is
washing
windows

i’d only
be consoled by
spiderman’s
web-ejector
only up high
between buildings
no one would see
a heart
without plans