Brazil’s northeast is a dry and ancient land. Little visited, it has come to be known outside the country for producing some of its best writing. Alexis Levitin has given us a perfect English rendering of Salgado Maranhao’s deft expression of the tonality of this people and land.
Alexis Levitin’s translation of the Afro-Brazilian poet Salgado Maranhão’s Blood of the Sun succeeds in negotiating the quirky experimental richness of Maranhão’s Pre-Columbian, Amazonian, and Yoruba influences with his traditional rhymed lyrics and jazz-like syncopations. Levitin skillfully alerts us to the presence of a complex and offbeat poet whose work merits a wide audience.
The poems of Salgado Maranhão are born of a commitment to language not merely as a tool, but also as a force, a physical, visceral entity. They enact a kind of ecstatic struggle aimed at chasing the sound and the sense we associate with language to the place where it becomes a living presence, one with heft and agency, one that can move not just the mind or the feelings, but flesh itself.
Tracy K. Smith, Poet Laureate
Salgado Maranhão, winner of all of Brazil’s major poetry awards, has toured the United States five times, presenting his work at over one hundred colleges and universities. In addition to fourteen books of poetry, he has written song lyrics and made recordings with some of Brazil’s leading jazz and pop musicians. He has published three previous collections of his work in English: Blood of the Sun (Milkweed Editions, 2012), Tiger Fur (White Pine Press, 2015), and Palavora (Dialogos Books, 2019). On Nov. 13, 2017, Salgado received an honoris causa doctorate for his cultural achievements from the Federal University of Piaui in Teresina, Brazil.
Alexis Levitin has published forty-five books in translation, mostly poetry from Portugal, Brazil, and Ecuador. In addition to three books by Salgado Maranhão, his work includes Clarice Lispector’s Soulstorm and Eugénio de Andrade’s Forbidden Words, both from New Directions. 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.