Antônio Moura Antonio Moura's third collection has the clarity and urgency of a black and white woodcut. A playful collusion of experimental and traditional poetic styles, this collection has both a powerful mythic reach and a bizarre neo-Baroque flavour. Life appears as uncanny, mysterious, something to be faced by the individual


Antônio Moura, Silence River. Trans. by Stefan Tobler. ARC Publications, 2012.


This is a selection of Antonio Moura's previously published books and the first in English/Portuguese. It has the clarity and urgency of a black and white woodcut. A playful collusion of experimental and traditional poetic styles, this collection has both a powerful mythic reach and a bizarre neo-Baroque flavour. Life appears as uncanny, mysterious, something to be faced by the individual. There is a tension between spiritual insight and the sordid realities of life, between the world of today and that of previous eras, between the wider picture and the intensely personal.
Moura's rhythms and his questioning of contemporary assumptions about poetry and our lives make this a powerful and distinctive - and one might say a very 'Brazilian' - book.


The back cover of Antônio Moura's Silence River tells me this is the first full-length book by a living Brazilian poet to be published in the UK and that Moura (b.1963) is 'one of Brazil's leading literary figures'.
The conveying of a poet into another language can be talked through in various ways. Stefan Tobler's preface caught hold of me by its enthusiasm, pleasure in the work, and that he cares. In contrast, David Treece's introduction had me bored by the first page. It's the difference - or is here - between the worker on the text and the standing apart academic.
The translator's practical invitation and his conveying the pleasure of the task is, so far as I can tell, brought to fruition in his translations. There is a faster flow than Hèléne Dorion's, while having something akin in the way the poems connect; Fall begins like this,
When the sound of a fall is
heard and on running to the spot

stretched out and alone, exposed,
a soul is found, victim of its own body,

his open eyes staring into space
the sky is for him, almost dead,

the blue of a bruise on the shoulders of
the world that, human animal, approaches,
and several couplets more without a full stop. I'm not sure I know what Portuguese sounds like. The look of the sound, if you see what I mean, is of something much more staccato than Dorion's French, more accented. And it is can be tricky to check lines for sound across languages. Here is the first line of a short poem, Indicios / Signs:
A natureza reina silenciosa
Nature reigns in silence
On the face of it, one might say, this looks straightforward, but the line in English seems static, as perhaps it might seem in the original for anyone who can hear it properly, sounds musical to me. An ovation for dual language books, anyway; and finally from this book that overall pleases me a lot, the opening of a poem without title,
Walking home, usual routine,
on your brow the daily sweat

for bread baked by God and the devil,
stars above, remains of the dead

below your feet that walk
carefully not to disturb them,
and several couplets more before a full stop, and several couplets more before an end without one. - David Hart

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