Thursday, April 21, 2016

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Ferreira Guilar

Ferreira Guilar, Dirty Poem
Translated from the Portuguese by Leland Guyer
New Directions Poetry Pamphlet #18, 2015

If the good doctor, William Carlos Williams, returned to life and I was given the task of looking after him on the first day of his Second Coming, I wouldn’t panic.  I’d show up in New Jersey with this book.  Perhaps we could take turns reading to each other?  What greeting could be better than this great “Dirty Poem”?  Williams might well begin making additions to Patterson at once.  “Dirty Poem” is a triumph of the long poem.  As well as being beautiful and profound, it is actually exciting.  You may find that you need to stand up to read it, or pace quickly around the room.

Because I so much love poetry that illuminates small, quiet, ordinary things, I think I tend to forget that a poem can also be an extravaganza, a blockbuster.  Such energy and motion!  “Dirty Poem” could be a movie -- but the budget would be prohibitive.

It is overwhelming to think that Guilar, in exile from Brazil, fleeing for his life, believing he would soon be dead, somehow found within himself the force to write this epic about his personal history, his home and the nature of time.  An important figure in the literature of Brazil, this work should be important to English-speaking readers too.   In particular, anyone interested in the possibilities of the long poem has to read this small (and enormous) book.

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