Poems by Adélia Prado
The Brazilian National Library's Jornal de Poesia ranked Adélia Prado fourth on its "List of Twenty foremost Living Poets." Prado was born and has lived all
her life in the provincial, industrial city of Divinópolis, in Minas Gerais (General Mines), the state that has produced more presidents and poets than any
other in Brazil. She was the first in her family of laborers to see the ocean, to go to college, or to dream of writing a book. After earning degrees in
Philosophy and Religious Education, she taught school and served as Cultural Liaison for the City of Divinópolis. Prado burst on the literary scene when
Brazil's great modernist, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, announced in his weekly newspaper column that St. Francis was dictating verses to a housewife in Minas
Gerais, declaring that "Adélia is lyrical, biblical, existential; she makes poetry as naturally as nature makes weather." Her debut collection, Bagagem
(Baggage), was released soon after, followed by seven subsequent volumes of poetry, and seven of prose.
Prado's work has been the subject of dozens of theses and dissertations, as well as documentary films and countless articles, profiles, and interviews in
newspapers, literary supplements, and popular magazines in Brazil, and her work has been translated into Spanish, Italian, and English. The one-woman show Dona
Doida: Un Interlúdio (Mad Missus: An Interlude) had a spectacular run in Rio de Janeiro starring Fernanda Montenegro, the grand-dame of Brazilian stage and screen,
and toured throughout Brazil.
According to Prado, poetry is " the most human form of communication" -and her work, as she says, is written "neither from the head nor the heart, but from the
gut," proceeding by associative leaps, full of contradictory impulses, and featuring bold questions and out-of-nowhere declarative statements. The structure is
entirely organic and rooted in the belief of the supremacy of extreme feeling. One reason for these poems' appeal is the way they fairly vibrate with human
concerns, both bodily and spiritual; another is that they insist not only on the intermingling of mysticism and carnality, but on their connectedness. ("It's
the soul that's erotic.")
Initial translations to English were greeted enthusiastically, published in The Paris Review, Antaeus, Field, and American Poetry Review. Ellen Doré Watson
was awarded an NEA Translation Fellowship in 1984 to translate Prado's work, producing The Alphabet in the Park, poems drawn from her first three volumes.
Carolyn Forché proclaimed Prado "a major poet of the Americas," and her work was included in both The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry and The Farrar
Straus Giroux Book of Twentieth Century Latin American Poetry. "This is poetry at its hottest and most naked," wrote James Tate. Tupelo Press has just
published Ex-Voto, Watson's second full-length book of Prado translations, drawn from her three subsequent collections. Ex-Voto reflects the heights and
troughs of Prado's faith and despair, as she questions and redefines her role as God's mouthpiece, and finds her way back to transcendent celebration of
the small daily wonders of living. In Jean Valentine's words, this most recent book "is nothing like any poetry I know in our present moment."