A Brazilian Poet

As most of us are watching The World Cup taking place in Brazil, I thought I would share this lovely story of the Brazilian poet, Manuel Bandeira, with you once again. I wrote about it in my early blogging days so most of you may be unfamiliar with it.

It reminds me of why I love Brazil.

Manuel Bandeira 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 let’s think about how we honor our poets.


Here is one of my favorite Bandeira poems (the 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)

79 thoughts on “A Brazilian Poet

  1. What a great thing to do….. Have us read a beautiful Brazilian poem during this great world cup! I love the poem and I love the story about the parking (which I had forgotten)

    • This story always makes me smile too. The parking space is a sort of metaphor, I suppose: the city telling him that they are honoring him by making space for him and his creativity.

  2. I wonder if Manuel enjoyed the gift? I know he received other honors but the gesture of the parking space is something for many to see that he was being honored. I loved the poem you chose. I too love Brazil and its people.

    • That’s a good point. The parking space was a public honor (and perhaps used by his driver or wife?). Certainly an original honor.

      p.s. thanks for the tweet!

  3. This poem is especially poignant while watching my dad in the last years of his life. I try to live by the maxim that “life is a fearless and timeless agitation” and therefore it is this moment which counts. You never know what the next moment will bring.

  4. I love stories like that, in fact a parking space for a non driver is the quirky thing would delight me…I suppose that gives you much scope in case you were inclined to honour me at anytime (no pressure).

    Life is a treason…how unbelievably thought provoking…this is a poet I need to check out.

      • We’re having some glorious weather already. And as we approach the longest day (21 June), all the clear skies mean that it does not get completely dark through the night up here in Scotland. Wonderful.

        • I love that about Scotland. Having only visited in the summer (both times were in July) I’ve only experienced those kind of nights in Scotland. I remember coming back to my hotel after a long evening out and realizing with surprise that it was almost midnight. “but it’s not dark out!” I exclaimed gleefully.

  5. Life is a treason. Thank you for sharing him Letizia, I’m not familiar with him…but I will be. How do we honor our poets? Good question, all I can up with is memorize their poems 🙂

  6. A powerful poem Letizia, thanks for introducing us. I don’t know that we would ever honour a poet in that kind of way in the UK, or a writer of any kind…yes, there are awards and fame, but this seems like a different kind of respect.

    • It’s so hard to get anything done with all these matches on, isn’t it?? I was thinking of you today during the Brazil-Mexico game as I imagine you have a special place in your heart for Mexico. They held their own today!

      • YES! A fine performance given the skill of Brazil. I also like the little countries. I was rooting for Uruguay but they couldn’t pull it off. Chile is looking pretty good though. Should be a good match against Spain tomorrow. I suppose you are rooting for Brazil or Italy, given your linguistic affinity.

  7. Oh Brazil is disappointing me so much this World Cup. 😦

    That said, I think that’s a lovely tribute to pay to one of their poets! And the poem is quite nice too! =]

  8. Bravo for this post Letizia! I absolutely love the delightful story about this poet Manuel Bandeira. To my shame, I’ve never heard of him but he is obviously very highly regarded in Brazil, and I can see why. Thank you so much for sharing his poem too, goodness, the vision that these few words conjure up and his thoughts about life and death…incredible. ‘…they were relying upon life’… Much to think of 🙂

    • There are so many great lines in this poem, I agree! Brazil has a rich history of great poets – I’m still discovering new ones and new poems. And the language and pronunciation seems to lend itself to poetry somehow.

      • Yes, I can see that Letizia, with the language, so rich and flowing. Brazil is a country that fascinates me, and not because of the World Cup (I’m not a football fan, bring on Wimbledon I say!) but I would love to visit one of these days….

  9. Perfect timing…poetry and soccer. At least if the bureaucrats can award him a parking space then Brazil is showing its romanticism,metaphorically. An interesting post,Letizia.

  10. Nice story Letizia. Do you have connections to Brazil? I’m afraid most poetry leaves me bewildered though – lack of brain cells maybe. Meanwhile the glum prognosis around here is at least the Spanish, Portuguese and English teams can save money by getting the same early plane home.

    • Perhaps the English team still has a chance. I hope so. At least it’s been a great Cup in terms of good matches. I used to live in Brazil so I’d be happy to see them win (or Italy… or France, but that’s a loooong shot.)

  11. Letizia,
    This poem clearly stands out… It reminded me of Fernando Pessoa and those sad odes by Ricardo Reis… The blue feeling (saudade) is captivating and really touching here.
    Great spotlight!… Thanks for sharing.
    Best wishes, Aquileana 😀

    • There is something similar to Pessoa, you’re right. I hadn’t thought about it until you pointed it out, but that theme of saudade (so hard to really translate, isn’t it?) is there. Thanks for your thoughtful comment, as always.

    • With our eyes glued to the t.v. and our hearts in Brazil, it’s hard not to think of Brazilian culture these days, right? 🙂 Hope the matches are turning out in your favor, Christy!

  12. “For this man knew that life is a fierce and timeless agitation
    That life is a treason”

    These lines resonated! We live in a fast-paced, ever changing, mercurial world that keeps us focused on the moment. Ah, if we could only see that life slips by, easily, relentlessly. Perhaps, if we did, we would live our lives differently. We live in a finite existence but time seems to have infinity on its side.

    • I love that you enjoy poetry even when you don’t understand it – that made me smile! (sorry for the late reply to your comment, I was away on holiday)

  13. Well here’s a way to get my attention … as if you needed it. I’m running out of teams I actually like, but you’ve given me reason to give Brazil another chance with this poem. Even after reading it, I can see it playing out …

  14. A life-long parking space. Wow! That would be amazing in London, even though I don’t have a car either, but I do know how to drive (according to me, others might disagree). Lovely poem and I can’t believe the cup is over. Time flies.

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