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
MOMENT IN A CAFÉ
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)