Adélia Luzia Prado de Freitas (Adélia Prado) was born in 1935 and has lived all her life in the provincial, industrial city of Divinópolis, in Minas Gerais (General Mines), the Brazilian state that has produced more presidents and poets than any other in the country. She was the only one in her family of labourers to see the ocean, to go to college, or to dream of writing a book. She attended the University of Divinópolis, earning degrees in Philosophy and Religious Education, and taught in schools until 1979. From 1983 to 1988 she served as Cultural Liaison for the City of Divinópolis.
A private writer and daydreamer since she was a girl, it was not until she was nearly 40 that Adélia Prado began to think she might be writing something worthy of being called “literature”, and sent a small sheaf of work off to poet and critic Affonso Romano de Sant’Anna. Sant’Anna, in turn, passed the poems along to Brazil’s great modernist, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who pronounced them ‘phenomenal’, and hand-delivered them to his editor. Drummond subsequently announced in a newspaper column that St Francis was dictating verses to a housewife in Minas Gerais, and her literary career was launched. Bagagem (Baggage), her debut collection, was released soon afterwards in 1976, followed by seven subsequent books of poetry, and seven of prose. Despite “overnight” and continuing success, Adélia Prado mainly prefers to remain out of the limelight, only very occasionally travelling to Rio or São Paulo to participate in literary events. And despite this relative “outsider” status, she is recognised as one of the most important poets in Brazil.
Adélia Prado has been the subject of dozens of theses and dissertations, as well as a documentary film and countless articles, profiles, and interviews in newspapers, literary supplements, and popular magazines, and her work has been translated into Spanish, Italian and English. In 2006, she was a huge hit as the featured reader at FLIP (Paraty International Literary Festival). A documentary and theatrical adaptations of Adélia Prado’s work have widened her readership and gained her popular acclaim. The one-woman show Dona Doida: Un Interlúdio (Mad Mrs: An Interlude) had a spectacular run in Rio de Janeiro starring Fernanda Montenegro, the grand-dame of Brazilian theatre, and toured throughout Brazil.
In 1998, when the National Library’s Jornal de Poesia polled intellectuals to compile the ‘List of Twenty’ foremost living poets, she was ranked fourth. Since 1996, the Instituto Moreira Salles has been producing Cadernos de Literature Brasileira – coffee-table sized retrospectives of a writer’s work, complete with photographs, manuscript reproductions and critical essays. Among the first to be so honoured with one of these tribute volumes were João Cabral de Melo Neto and Jorge Amado. Adélia Prado was featured in 2000.
In June 2014 she received the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award in Canada. In November 2014 her first UK edition, The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems, was published by Bloodaxe Books. This drew on on Ellen Doré Watson’s translations from her two US titles, The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1990) and Ex-Voto (Tupelo Press, 2013). The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems was shortlisted for the Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015 for Ellen Doré Watson’s translations from Brazilian Portuguese.
Books by Adélia Prado