Skip to main content

Five poems from All Poetry by Paulo Leminski

Translated by Charles A. Perrone and Ivan Justen Santana



  1. forty clicks in curitiba (1976)


suddenly I discovered

I don’t say America or gunpowder

work of so many

an account in the red

standing on tiptoes

besides the noble exercise

the wisest measure read

in life to get ahead





  1. caprices & re-laxities (1983)


when we’re scared

and grieving

when we’re thirsty

and water’s lacking


only you

whom we follow

until it’s finally

in check

or in flames

any sound

any at all

can be your voice

your zoom-zoom-humming

frightful edge

in the shape

of a sudden hedge

loosened pebble

deviled sky

could be your shade

or your homecoming





III. distracted we shall overcome (1987)



hail the rage of this night

the hefty splinter sudden fury

crazy beast cow let loose

red-haired light against the day

so much & so late you’ve awoken


may the calm of this afternoon

simply perish in gold

at last, more silk

this death, this fraud,

when prosperous


may it live and die above all

this day, vile metal,

deaf, dumb and blind,

in it was all and, if being were all,

i can’t know everything

even if springtime will know

or if one day i’ll know that

neither my knowing nor being just so



Hark, it is born complete

and at death it dies a germ,

this desire, illiterate,

to know my ruling concerns,

knowing what my self does

so that I might be who I was,

behold what’s born a success

and goes on to grow even less.




Minimal temple

for a kind of smallish god,

on guard for you here,

instead of my grieving so odd,

my extreme vanguardian angel.


What masks do your

boastful sorrows fancy,

what’s but vainglorious

vacancy in your story,

whoever may know.


It’s enough, I find,

the body drawing away

the shadow left behind.





  1. la vie en close (1991)



tuning in for haste and presage

I used to write in space.

Today, I graph in time,

on skin, on palms, on petals,

light of the instant.

I sound in doubts that shuffle

the ones who shout silence

apart from scandals that shuttle,

in time, distance, squares,

that pause, yes paws, take

to go from mishap to spasms.


Behold the voice, the god, the speech,

the light that was lit in the house yet

no longer fits in rooms within reach.


ALL POETRY by Paulo Leminski. Complete poems in English. New London Librarium . In the Brazilian arts of the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, Paulo Leminski (1944-1989) stands as a singular and widely celebrated figure. His complete poems (2013) became the best seller in all the land (for books other than non-fiction), quite a rare achievement for a volume of poetry. Nine years out it has sold some 200, 000 copies. It is a distinct pleasure to bring a full translation of the Portuguese original to an

Anglophone public. Leminski also wrote songs (words + music), lyrics, experimental narrative, biographies, and creative essays. He was a polyglot translator, tutor-teacher, advertising man, and martial arts master. All these endeavors are reflected in his multi-faceted poetry. Leminski the poet promotes an encounter between opposites: rigor and emotion, erudition and lightness, avant-garde and convention. Reconciling tight formal construction and a truly genuine colloquialism, he was fully aware of the best in poetry from the West and the East. He embodied a frontier where "cultured" and "pop,"super-concentrated and thinner quotidian material, could transit, legitimately or as contraband. Existential and love lyric, haiku, visual effects, the so-called "joke poem," meta-poetics, slogans, songs, nothing escaped the “rogue samurai.” All Poetry is a true adventure—for the intellect and the senses.



Poemas publicados aqui com expressa autorização de Áurea Leminski, em e-mail a Charles Perrone.