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Two Poems by Astrid Cabral

translated from the Portuguese by Alexis Levitin



Because of poetry
beans burn
milk spills
one forgets to change
clothes go inside out
the baby cries in hunger
one misses the train.
But one goes on.
Who knows to where,

to what anonymous cloud.


With the Word, the Poem

Don’t put another music to the verse.
It would be wrong, in excess.
The poem asks for silence.
It wants to proclaim its own sound.
It is the song of another universe.
Strings? Vocal chords suffice.
Listen: its music of another pitch
advances with a retinue of vowels
gushing from a fountain of phonemes.
Don’t unseat the word.
Another tillage, the music of the poem.



Astrid Cabral is a leading Brazilian poet and environmentalist who grew up in the Amazon. She is the translator of Thoreau’s Walden into Portuguese. She has won a dozen literary awards in Brazil and her work has been included in over sixty anthologies. Among her twenty books are the collections Gazing Through Water, Cage, The Waiting Room, Word in the Spotlight, and Intimate Soot. Her poems have appeared in over forty magazines in the United States, including Atlanta Review, Bitter Oleander, Catamaran, Cincinnati Review, Confrontation, Dirty Goat, Delos, Florida Review, Metamorphoses, Osiris, Pleiades, Poetry East, and Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas. Her book of Amazonian animal poems, Cage, appeared from Host Publications in 2008. Her poem “Manaus Once Again” was featured in the New York Times on Oct. 4th, 2020. Her book Gazing Through Water appeared from Aliform Publishers during the summer of 2021. In 2008 she did a reading tour with her translator, presenting at Clinton Community College, SUNY-Plattsburgh, Paul Smith’s College, St. Michael’s College, New York State Writers Institute in Albany, Univ. of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, Chatham University, the annual conference of the American Literary Translators Association, and Smith College.


Alexis Levitin has published forty-seven books in translation, mostly poetry from Portugal, Brazil, and Ecuador. His work includes Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugénio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words, both from New Directions. Translations from Ecuador include Tobacco Dogs by Ana Minga, Destruction in the Afternoon by Santiago Vizcaino, and Outrage by Carmen Vascones. He also co-translated Tapestry of the Sun: An Anthology of Contemporary Ecuadorian Poetry with Fernando Iturburu. Recent translations of Brazilian poetry include Salgado Maranhão’s Mapping the Tribe (Spuyten Duyvil, 2021) and Consecration of the Wolves (Bitter Oleander Press, 2021). His translation of Astrid Cabral’s Cage appeared from Host Publications in 2008 and his translation of a second collection, Gazing Through Water, came out from Aliform Publishing during the summer of 2021. He has served as a Fulbright Lecturer at the Universities of Oporto and Coimbra, Portugal, The Catholic University in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and the Federal University of Santa Catarina, in Brazil and has held translation residencies at the Banff Center, Canada, The European Translators Collegium in Straelen, Germany (twice), and the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center in Bellagio, Italy.

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