Shortlisted for the 2015 Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize
Adélia Prado was “discovered” when she was nearly 40 by Brazil’s foremost modern poet, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who was astonished to read her ‘phenomenal’ poems, launching her literary career with his announcement that St Francis was dictating verses to a housewife in the provincial backwater of Minas Gerais. Psychiatrists in droves made the pilgrimage to Divinópolis to delve into the psyche of this devout Catholic who wrote startlingly pungent poems of and from the body; they were politely served coffee and sent back to the city. After publishing her first collection, Baggage, in 1976, she went on to become one of Brazil’s best-loved poets, awarded the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
Adélia Prado’s poetry combines passion and intelligence, wit and instinct. Her poems are about human concerns, especially those of women, about living in one’s body and out of it, about the physical but also the spiritual and the imaginative life; about living in two worlds simultaneously: the spiritual and the material. She also writes about ordinary matters, insisting that the human experience is both mystical and carnal. For her these are not contradictory: ‘It’s the soul that’s erotic,’ she writes.
‘Sometimes other poets and critics analyse my writing, and they’ve said how, even though the text is made of colloquial and everyday language, the work goes to transcendental issues. I don’t know, I don’t explain things; I simply do what I do. I only know how to write about concrete, immediate and commonplace things. But these commonplace things show me their metaphysical nature. I can only see the metaphysical, the divine, through the concrete and the human.’ - Adélia Prado
'What a feast awaits the reader of Adélia Prado. This is a rich, sensual book, full to bursting with desire, honey, ovums, perfume, prostitutes, fish, butterflies, breasts, pomegranate liqueur and ‘needy, needy god’. Doré Watson’s warm translation, the fruit of a thirty-year conversation with the poet, captures the surprising shifts of Prado’s voice, its unique mixture of earthy humour and mysticism. ‘My soul wants to copulate!’ Prado declares. Here is poetry that believes in itself, in its power to send the barriers crashing down, by letting life in, everywhere.' - Olivia McCannon & Clare Pollard, Judges of the Popescu European Poetry Translation Prize 2015
‘Adélia Prado is one of Brazil’s best-loved poets, though we’re also meant to think of her as a kind of savant. She’s a housewife from a humble background: it’s not clear why this should preclude her being a gifted poet. The Mystical Rose: Selected Poems, translated and charmingly introduced by American poet Ellen Doré Watson, is a sampler from 40 years of verse. Its idiosyncratic yet visionary folk Catholicism is unlike anything in British verse.’ – Fiona Sampson, Independent (Poetry Books of the Year)
‘Brazil has produced what might seem impossible: a really sexy, mystical, Catholic poet.’ – Robert Hass
Adélia Prado: The Mystical Rose
Adélia Prado visited Britain then for the first time to launch The Mystical Rose with her translator Ellen Doré Watson at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, followed by further readings in London, Hull, and Newcastle, where Neil Astley was able to film them before their NCLA event in November 2014. Here Adélia Prado reads seven poems in Portuguese with Ellen Doré Watson reading her English translations: ‘Day’ (‘Dia’), ‘The Mystical Rose’ (‘A rosa mística’), ‘Dénouement’ (‘Desenredo’), ‘Responsory’ (‘Responsório’), ‘Seduction’ (‘Sedução’), ‘The Dark of Night’ (‘A treva’), and ‘Human Rights’ (‘Direitos humanos’). This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: World Poets, filmed & edited by Pamela Robertson-Pearce and Neil Astley (2017).