August 1, 2011

Nelson Ascher

Nelson Ascher [Brazil]

Born in São Paulo in 1958, Nelson Ascher majored in Business Administration at Fundação Getúlio Vargas, but never worked in that field. A literary critic for Folha de S. Paulo since 1984, he was the founder and editor of Revista da USP from 1999 to 1994. His books of poetry include Ponta da Lingua (1983) and Sonho da Razão (1993). His most recent book of poetry is Algo de Sol (1996).

Ascher is perhaps best known as a translator. His translations include Vida sem fim (in collaboration with Paulo Leminski) by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Folhetim: poemas traduzidos (1987), Canção antes da ceifa—posia húgara moderna (1990), and Quase uma elegia (1995), a selection of Joseph Brodsky’s poetry. He has also published a volume of political and polemical essays mainly about Central and Eastern Europe, dealing with the fall of communism, the Yugoslav civil war, German reunification and the Holocaust: Pomos da Discórdia (1966). His most recent collection of translations is Poesia Alheia, published by Imago press in 1998.


Ponta da Lingua (São Paulo: privately printed, 1983); O Sonho da Razão [published with Ponta da Ligua] (Rio de Janeiro: Editora 34, 1993); Algo de Sol (Rio de Janeiro: Editora 34, 1996).


selections in The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century, Volume 3: Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain—20 Contemporary Brazilian Poets (Los Angeles: Green Integer, 2003)

Where There's Smoke

Dann steigt ihr als rauch in die luft
—Paul Celan

No smoke implies
memory, since tings
are lost in smoke
which cannot thus

become a monument,
for being transitory, it
pays no homage
even to transitoriness.

Smoke as in,
though white (a white more
of horror's pallor
than purity's innocence),

may serve for writing;
but where's the skill
that inscribes a name,
in smoke, as in a rock?

When smoke, near-
vegetal, erupts and,
betraying genealogy,
takes on arboreal shape,

one musn't ask
about (where there's smoke,
here's ash) the deepest
roots of smoke.

—Translated from the Portuguese by Dana Stevens


Sight dispossesses
the form of the other, hearing
sequesters the voice of the other,
smell abducts the odor

of the other, taste
steals the flavor of the other,
touch snatches the flesh
of the other, that is, one's own;

the look of the other gleams
from what is seen in another,
the ear of the other echoes another,
the scent of the other rises

to another, the flavor of the other
tastes of another
the other touch palpates another
that is, the very same.

—Translated from the Portuguese by Regina Alfarano

Basho in Paris

For Rose

Gala morning:
flowers, motionless
naked ladies,
parade colors.

Midi le juste:
suicidal, the sun,
in a sea of sweat,
acts at high noon.

Second-hand afternoon:
leaves of green,
like printed sheets,
turn yellow.

Albino night!
The tower, though
iron, almost
shivers from cold.

Translated from the Portuguese by Regina Alfarano


If—precise machines
for dying that we are—
our function implies
unending memory,

why, then, do you bear
Contractile between your legs)
Your wine-press of amnesia?

Translated from the Portuguese by Regina Alfarano

Reprinted from The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century, Volume 3: Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain—20 Contemporary Brazilian Poets. Copyright ©2003 by Douglas Messerli and Green Integer

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