The Poet’s Parking Space

Manuel Bandeira, the Brazilian poet, was given a life-long private parking space in front of his apartment building in Rio de Janeiro by city officials.

The plaque above the space read POETA.

The best part of the story is that Bandeira not only didn’t own a car; he didn’t even know how to drive (I just love that!).

Today I think about how we honor our poets, what role they have in our lives, the lengths we’ll go to show them how much we care.  How would you honor your favorite poet?

Here is one of my favorite Bandeira poems (English translation follows original Portuguese):

Momento Num Café

Quando o enterro passou

Os homens que se achavam no café

Tiraram o chapéu maquinalmente

Saudavam o morto distraídos

Estavam todos voltados para a vida

Absortos na vida

Confiantes na vida.

Um no entanto se descobriu num gesto largo e demorado

Olhando o esquife longamente

Este sabia que a vida é uma agitação feroz e sem finalidade

Que a vida é traição

E saudava a matéria que passava

Liberta para sempre da alma extinta


When the funeral procession passed by

The men who were in the café

Tipped their hats mechanically

In a perfunctory and absent-minded salute to the dead

For they themselves were all turned toward life

They were swallowed up in life.

They were relying upon life.

One of them, swept off his hat

In a long and slow arc of a gesture

And stared at the hearse:

For this man knew that life is a fierce and timeless agitation

That life is a treason

And he paid his respects to the flesh which passed by

Forever freed from the dead soul.

(trans. by John Nist and Yolanda Leite)

18 thoughts on “The Poet’s Parking Space

  1. This is a beautiful poem. I could picture the scene so vividly. And I loved the facts that he was honored with a parking space even though he didn’t drive and didn’t have a car. It makes you realize that sometimes we honor people in ways that aren’t always relevant. My son does that sometimes when he gives me gifts that are really all about him and have nothing to do with me. But he’s so proud and eager to give them to me. That’s what makes them special.

  2. A parking spot means more than just convenience – it’s a symbol that you’ll always be welcomed here, and I think it’s a very touching gift!

  3. Thank you for introducing me to this poet. My favorite poet is Pablo Neruda and so other than trying to read all his writings, another way I would like to spread his work is to do some simple street art and place some of his verses in random places around the world—yet, I’m too afraid to do something considered illegal 🙂

    • That would be a great idea! Have you seen the movie “Il Postino” about Neruda’s time in Italy? It is such a charming movie…. Thanks for checking out my blog – I just had a look at yours and love your post topics and writing style so will be following along 🙂

  4. I guess you will also appreciate Vinícius de Moraes, Carlos Drummond de Andrade…among other brazilian poets…it seems to me that does exist a brazilian poetics…as if poetic also express the cultural scene… thanks for visiting my writings. Walter

    • Yes, I love their poetry too- I agree with you, there does seem to be a Brazilian poetics. I think the Portuguese language and the Brazilian cultural marry themselves so well to create something beautiful 🙂 I’ve enjoyed reading your writing, thanks for sharing it with us.

      • thanks for this comment…I appreciate your witings and blog so much…let me tell that the official language is Portuguese, but I guess the official language should be Brasilian..Portuguese if from and for Portugal and some countries…but Brasil should have a proper language, Brasilian…some things are brasilian culture: bossa nova, other various musical genres (samba and other), cultural themes and so on…perhaps in a tale story of Clarice Lispector you will find some source of my elaborations regarding literature, writing/reading and writer practice…warm regards…I hope see you soon…al the best, Walter

        • I love Lispector’s writings! There’s one about chickens/roosters (I can’t remember the name right now) which is especially great. I agree with you, Brasilian is really a much better name for the language: it explains the history so much better. Eu morava em Sao Paulo por alguns anos como uma crianca e visitar algumas vezes, mas eu nao falo muito bem mais. Mas e uma bela lingua. Eu posso “ouvir” o ritmo de que em sua poesia 🙂

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