Natalie d'Arbeloff

Born in Paris, raised in Europe, Paraguay, Brazil and the USA, Natalie d’Arbeloff speaks those languages and lives in London. Her father was Russian and her mother French. Her alter ego is the cartoon character Augustine whose twelve year-old blog is Blaugustine where she has sometimes interviewed God and other unusual celebrities.

There is more about her work as book-artist, painter, printmaker and cartoonist on her website.

This entry is part 23 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Ricardo MazoParaguayan poet Ricardo Mazó (1927-1987) worked as an engineer and geologist. He is regarded as one of the Promoción del 50, a group of 1950’s poets, mainly from the Academia Universitaria and the Faculty of Philosophy in Asunción, who wrote socially engaged poetry during Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship (1954–1989). Briznas: suerte de antología (Scraps: A Kind of Anthology), 1982, gathers together 73 poems written between the years 1940 and 1980. Solitude, absence, nostalgia, distance, boredom, as well as a constant search for the self, a recurrent encounter with time, and fixation on an unceasing memory, are the dominant motifs of his poetry. He’s also known for his Spanish translation of Hegel’s Introduction to Aesthetics. (Cribbed from the Wikipedia. Read the rest, or see the Spanish bio at Portal Guarani.)

Repeating Myself


Here it comes again
the disturbing presence of hours
my relentless
awareness of time
and the constant
repetition of a single souvenir.


Now that the moment’s gone
carnation’s sudden blossom,
face no sooner seen, instantly befriended,
premonitory sigh, ingenuous love.

Now that I can’t shake hands
without missing a beat,
now that the moon’s a symbol, and my deserted
heart lowers the sluice and locks the gate
for fear of drowning
in bitter blood, stagnant blood.

…in two words,
barely a fraction of myself,
still I had to see you, so many times
that finally, loving you was my only option.


I had to love you even though it was no more
than a wasted clarion call, I regret
leaving misleading tracks in the sand.

I’ll tell you my love:
—a rush of blood, a delirium
of contrary and untamed feelings—

arteries open and words spoken
and the expectations such audacity reveals.


Because of the way things are we will never
be able to share Christmas Eve.

December 1953

Repetición de mi mismo


Otra vez hoy conmigo la inquietante
presencia de las horas,
la continua
apreciación del tiempo
y la constante
repetición de un único recuerdo.


Ahora que ya ha pasado el tiempo
del clavel florecido en un momento,
del rostro que se mira y se hace amigo,
del suspiro precoz y del amor sencillo.

Ahora que no puedo dar la mano
sin que sienta un latir destituido,
que la luna es el símbolo, y desierto
mi corazón se rige con compuertas
por temor que se me inunde el cuerpo
de sangre amarga -y de sangre muerta-.

y, en dos palabras,
una fracción apenas de mí mismo,
he tenido que verte tantas veces
que al fin no pude menos que quererte.


He tenido que amarte aunque no fuera
más que un clarión gastado, arrepentido
de hacer trazos mentidos en el suelo.

Y decirte mi amor:
-un tumulto de sangre, un desvarío
de sentires opuestos e indomables-.

La arteria abierta y la palabra dicha.
y la espera que sigue a tanta audacia descubierta.


Porque así son las cosas se que nunca
podremos compartir la nochebuena.

This entry is part 18 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

José Luis AppleyardThe deep emotional connection I have with Paraguay began when I was about six years old and landed, with my family and all our Parisian furniture including a grand piano, in a wild place which was to be our home while my father supervised his dream of building a road linking this small landlocked country to Brazil and beyond. (I’ve written about some of this in an ongoing online autobiography, which starts here.) The Paraguay I knew then, and much later as an adult, is shaped by my personal recollections and bears little resemblance to the harsh realities which its people have endured throughout their history. My affection for the Paraguayans, their joyous, sad, beautiful country, their Guarani-infused Spanish, their music and their voices continues unabated to this day. But it’s thanks to Via Negativa’s Other Americas project that I’ve just started to discover some of their poets, strangely and unfairly omitted from the major anthologies of Latin American poetry. José Luis Appleyard (1927–1998) was part of the so-called 50s generation of Paraguayan poets, along with such other luminaries as José María Gómez Sanjurjo, Ricardo Mazó and Ramiro Domínguez.


Some words die
and no dictionary can revive them;
simple words, clear words, words which formed
on our lips the language of childhood.
In vain we search, trying to give them back life
a life the years have taken away.
Sweet exiled words
forsaken sounds
once the milestones
of our personal vocabulary.
No use looking for them, they’ve already crumbled
under the dictionary’s brutal weight.

Las palabras

A veces hay palabras que se mueren
y no las resucita el diccionario;
palabras simples, claras, que acrecieron
el verbo de la infancia en nuestros labios.
En balde las buscamos para darles
una vida que ha muerto con los años.
Dulces palabras nuestras exiliadas
solo sonido ya desamparado,
que por un tiempo fueron los mojones
de nuestro personal vocabulario.
Es inútil buscarlas, ya se han muerto
bajo el peso brutal del diccionario.

How Little I Understand Things

How little I understand things
The years have not succeeded in anchoring experience
in my memory
I’m always astonished that a pair of eyes exist
which see me in close-up, so very close.
I’m astonished at the dark power of their gaze
recalling the innocence of childhood
while simultaneously conjuring up the blackest night
born of secrets.
Like an old alchemist
I want to transmute the dreams in those eyes
I want to create with those eyes
looking at me so intently
a kind of oblivion taking me to their core.
And when their language becomes wordless
when it becomes the soft expression of something which is mine,
then I see what I don’t understand about things,
their reflections are shimmering in the air,
looking at me, timelessly,
speaking of me, of themselves, of everything.

Qué poco entiendo las cosas

Qué poco entiendo las cosas.
Los años no han logrado fijar en mi memoria
la experiencia
y siempre me sorprendo que existen unos ojos
que me miran de pronto tan cerca de mí mismo.
Me sorprende el oscuro poder de su mirada
que guarda ingenuidades de infancias manifiestas
y tiene, sin embargo, una profunda noche
nacida de secretas experiencias.
Como un viejo alquimista
yo quiero interpretarla trasmutando sus sueños,
quiero hacer con sus ojos
que me miran de cerca
una forma de olvido que me lleve a su centro.
Y así, cuando sus manos son lenguaje sin cifras,
cuando son la suave expresión de algo mío,
comprendo que no entiendo de las cosas,
y quedan en el aire sus reflejos,
mirándome, sin tiempo,
y hablándome de mí, de sí, de todo.

This entry is part 13 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Vinicius De MoraesMarcus Vinicius da Cruz e Mello Moraes (October 19, 1913 – July 9, 1980), also known as Vinícius de Moraes and nicknamed O Poetinha (“The little poet”), was a Brazilian poet, lyricist, essayist and playwright who wrote the lyrics for many now-classic Brazilian songs and became a seminal figure in contemporary Brazilian music. He also wrote a number of plays, served as a national diplomat, composed his own bossa nova music and, as an interpreter of his own lyrics, recorded several significant albums. (Thanks, Wikipedia. Read the rest.)

These two poems appeal to me for their quirkiness. I took liberties with “The House” so that I might approximate the rhymes; I’ve added “Heroes” to the penultimate line so it could rhyme with “Zero” (actually makes sense in the context).


Virgin! Daughter of mine
Where have you been
You’re all dirty
You smell of jasmine
Your skirt’s stained carmine
And your earrings are clinking
Mother dear
I’ve been in the garden
I went to look at the sky
And I fell asleep.
When I awoke
I smelled of jasmine
An angel was scattering petals
Over me….

A Annunciaçāo
(Rio de Janeiro 1962)

Virgen! filha minha
De onde vens assim
Tão suja de terra
Cheirando a jasmim
A saia com mancha
De flor carmesim
E os brincos da orelha
Fazendo tlintlin?
Minha mãe querida
Venho do jardim
Onde a olhar o céu
Fui, adormeci.
Quando despertei
Cheirava a jasmin
Que um anjo esfolhava
Por cima de mim…


The House

There was a house
A very funny house
No roof
No nothing
No one
Could go in
Because there was no door
Because there was no floor
No one
Could sleep in the hammock
In the hall
Because there was no wall
No one
Could do pipi
Because a chamberpot
There was not
But the house was built
With great care
In the Street of Fools and Heroes
Number Zero.

A Casa
(Rio de Janeiro 1970)

Era uma casa
Muito engraçada
Não tinha telo
Nāo tinha nada
Ninguém podia
Entrar nela não
Porque na casa
Não tinha chão
Ninguém podia
Dormir na rede
Porque a casa
Não tinha parede
Ninguém podia
Fazer pipi
Porque penico
Não tinha ali
Mas era feita
Com muito esmero
Na Rua dos Bobos
Numero Zero.

This entry is part 9 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas


A small gesture would be enough,
made lightly and from a distance
for you to come with me
and for me to hold you forever…

Basta-me um pequeno gesto
feito de longe e de leve
para que venhas comigo
e eu para sempre te leve…



For me, and for you, and for the others
wherever the others are,
I’m leaving the raging sea and the quiet sky:
I want solitude.

My road is without a sign and without a landscape.
So how do you recognise it? — they ask.
— By the absence of words, the absence of images.
Not a single enemy and not a single friend.

What do you need? — Everything. What do you want? — Nothing.
I travel alone with my heart.
I’m not wandering lost, merely un-met.
I carry my course in my hand.

Memory has flown from my head.
Flown my love, my imagination…
Maybe I’ll fade before the horizon.
Memory, love and all the rest, where are they?

Here I leave my body, between earth and sky.
(I kiss you, my body, all disillusioned!
Sad flag of a strange war…)

I want solitude.


Por mim, e por vós, e por mais aquilo
que está onde as outras coisas nunca estão,
deixo o mar bravo e o céu tranqüilo:
quero solidão.
Meu caminho é sem marcos nem paisagens.
E como o conheces? — me perguntarão.
— Por não ter palavras, por não ter imagens.
Nenhum inimigo e nenhum irmão.

Que procuras? — Tudo. Que desejas? — Nada.
Viajo sozinha com o meu coração.
Não ando perdida, mas desencontrada.
Levo o meu rumo na minha mão.

A memória voou da minha fronte.
Voou meu amor, minha imaginação…
Talvez eu morra antes do horizonte.
Memória, amor e o resto onde estarão?

Deixo aqui meu corpo, entre o sol e a terra.
(Beijo-te, corpo meu, todo desilusão!
Estandarte triste de uma estranha guerra…)

Quero solidão.

Film by Swoon (Marc Neys) in memory of his mother, using the above translation and reading. Read Marc’s process notes on his blog.



Allow me to close my eyes,
I’m so far away and it’s so late!
I thought you were merely delayed,
and I began to wait for you, singing.
Allow me to change now:
adapt myself to being alone.
There’s a soft light in the silence, and the pain is of divine origin.
Allow me to turn my face towards a sky bigger than this world,
and let me learn to be as docile in dreams as the stars in their wandering.


Permita que eu feche os meus olhos,
pois é muito longe e tão tarde!
Pensei que era apenas demora,
e cantando pus-me a esperar-te.
Permita que agora emudeça:
que me conforme em ser sozinha.
Há uma doce luz no silencio, e a dor é de origem divina.
Permita que eu volte o meu rosto para um céu maior que este mundo,
e aprenda a ser dócil no sonho como as estrelas no seu rumo.


Read the earlier post: “Contrary Moon: three poems by Cecília Meireles

This entry is part 7 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

Cecília MeirelesCecília Benevides de Carvalho Meireles (Rio de Janeiro, 1901–1964) was a Brazilian writer and educator, known principally as a poet. She is a canonical name of Brazilian Modernism, one of the great female poets in the Portuguese language, and is widely considered the best female poet from Brazil, though she combated the word poetess because of gender discrimination. Her style was mostly neo-symbolist and her themes included ephemeral time and the contemplative life. (Thanks, Wikipedia. Read the rest.)


I sing because the moment exists
and my life is complete.
I’m not happy and I’m not sad:
I’m a poet.

Fraternal to fleeting things
I feel neither pleasure or torment.
During all the nights and days
in the wind.

Whether I build or I destroy,
whether I continue or am undone,
— I don’t know, I don’t know. Don’t know if I’m staying
or passing through.

I know that I sing. And the song is everything.
It has eternal blood and rhythmic wings.
And one day I know that I’ll be mute:
— that’s all.


Eu canto porque o instante existe
e a minha vida está completa.
Não sou alegre nem sou triste:
sou poeta.

Irmão das coisas fugidias,
não sinto gozo nem tormento.
Atravesso noites e dias
no vento.

Se desmorono ou se edifico,
se permaneço ou me desfaço,
— não sei, não sei. Não sei se fico
ou passo.

Sei que canto. E a canção é tudo.
Tem sangue eterno a asa ritmada.
E um dia sei que estarei mudo:
— mais nada.



I didn’t have this face then,
so calm, so sad, so thin,
nor these eyes so empty
or these lips so bitter.

I didn’t have these hands so weak,
so still so cold so dead:
I didn’t have this heart
so hidden.

I didn’t expect this transformation,
so simple, so sure, so easy:
— In which mirror did I lose
my face?


Eu não tinha este rosto de hoje,
assim calmo, assim triste, assim magro,
nem estes olhos tão vazios,
nem o lábio amargo.

Eu não tinha estas mãos sem força,
tão paradas e frias e mortas;
eu não tinha este coração
que nem se mostra.

Eu não dei por esta mudança,
tão simples, tão certa, tão fácil:
– Em que espelho ficou perdida
a minha face?


Contrary Moon

I have phases, like the moon.
Phases to hide myself,
phases to walk the street…
I have phases of being yours,
and others of being solitary.

Phases which come and go,
in the secret calendar
invented for me
by an arbitrary astrologer.
And melancholy goes round and round
its interminable time-table!

I don’t connect with anyone
(I have phases like the moon…)
A day that someone is mine
is not the day that I am theirs…
And, when that day does arrive,
the other has disappeared.

Lua Adversa

Tenho fases, como a lua.
Fases de andar escondida,
fases de vir para a rua…
Perdição da minha vida!
Perdição da vida minha!
Tenho fases de ser tua,
tenho outras de ser sozinha.

Fases que vão e vêm,
no secreto calendário
que um astrólogo arbitrário
inventou para meu uso.

E roda a melancolia
seu interminável fuso!

Não me encontro com ninguém
(tenho fases como a lua…)
No dia de alguém ser meu
não é dia de eu ser sua…
E, quando chega esse dia,
o outro desapareceu…

This entry is part 3 of 38 in the series Poetry from the Other Americas

My long-time friend and fellow blogger Natalie d’Arbeloff volunteered to help out with this Poetry from the Other Americas series, and I jumped at the chance to add some Brazilian poems to the mix. Here are five by Oswald de Andrade that Natalie selected and translated in an admirably straight-forward way, demonstrating that one doesn’t necessarily have to be a professional poet to be a good translator. —Dave

Portuguese error

When the Portuguese arrived
In pouring rain
They clothed the Indian
What a shame!
Had it been a sunny morning
The Indian would have stripped
The Portuguese.

Erro de português

Quando o português chegou
Debaixo duma bruta chuva
Vestiu o índio
Que pena!
Fosse uma manhã de sol
O índio tinha despido
O português.


The discovery

We followed our course on that long sea
Until the eighth day of Easter
Sailing alongside birds
We sighted land
the savages
We showed them a chicken
Almost frightening them
They didn’t want to touch it
Then they took it, stupefied
it was fun
After a dance
Diogo Dias
Did a somersault
the young whores
Three or four girls really fit very nice
With long jet-black hair
And shameless tits so high so shapely
We all had a good look at them
We were not in the least ashamed.

A descoberta

Seguimos nosso caminho por este mar de longo
Até a oitava da Páscoa
Topamos aves
E houvemos vista de terra
os selvagens
Mostraram-lhes uma galinha
Quase haviam medo dela
E não queriam por a mão
E depois a tomaram como espantados
primeiro chá
Depois de dançarem
Diogo Dias
Fez o salto real
as meninas da gare
Eram três ou quatro moças bem moças e bem gentis
Com cabelos mui pretos pelas espáduas
E suas vergonhas tão altas e tão saradinhas
Que de nós as muito bem olharmos
Não tínhamos nenhuma vergonha.


Song of going home

My land has palm trees
Where the sea twitters
The little birds over here
Don’t sing like those over there
My land has more roses
And almost more lovers
My land has more gold
My land has more land
Gold land love and roses
I want everything my land has
God don’t let me die
Before going back home
God don’t let me die
Without seeing 15th Street again
And the progress of Sao Paulo.

Canto de regresso à pátria

Minha terra tem palmares
Onde gorjeia o mar
Os passarinhos daqui
Não cantam como os de lá
Minha terra tem mais rosas
E quase que mais amores
Minha terra tem mais ouro
Minha terra tem mais terra
Ouro terra amor e rosas
Eu quero tudo de lá
Não permita Deus que eu morra
Sem que volte para lá
Não permita Deus que eu morra
Sem que volte pra São Paulo
Sem que veja a Rua 15
E o progresso de São Paulo.


May I never be
Like the old Englishman
Over there
Asleep in an armchair
Waiting for visitors who do not come.

Que eu não fique nunca
Como esse velho inglês
Aí do lado
Que dorme numa cadeira
À espera de visitas que não vêm


3rd of May

I learned from my ten-year old son
That poetry is the discovery
Of things I’ve never seen.

3 de maio

Aprendi com meu filho de dez anos
Que a poesia é a descoberta
Das coisas que eu nunca vi