Traveling in the Family: Selected Poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade, edited by Thomas Colchie and Mark Strand, with additional translations by Elizabeth Bishop and Gregory Rabassa. New York: Random House. 134 pp. $9.95, paper. WHEN we think of Brazilian literature, we think of Jorge Amado and Clarice Lispector, novelists whose works have been translated into English and thus made available to North American readers.
Brazil's important poets, such as Manuel Bandeira, Cecilia Meireles, and Carlos Drummond de Andrade, have not been so fortunate. This recent collection of Drummond de Andrade, published in English and translated by distinguished translators such as Gregory Rabassa and Elizabeth Bishop, is perhaps one of the most important publications devoted to the dissemination of Brazilian poetry abroad.
Drummond de Andrade is Brazil's most popular living poet. In many respects, he reminds one of Chile's Pablo Neruda. He is also a widely read poet who tries to be a voice for his people. Drummond de Andrade, in addition to poetry, writes columns for various Brazilian newspapers. Like Vinicious de Morais, who became famous for his poems set to the music of bossa nova, Drummond de Andrade is constantly in the public eye.
There is no doubt that one reason for his popularity as a poet lies in the nature and tone of the poetry itself. Andrade speaks with the voice of one in tune with the everyday experiences of the ordinary man. Unlike Neruda, Drummond de Andrade is never grandiloquent; his language is direct and clear, and goes straight to the heart.
``Supposed Existence,'' a recent poem that shows Andrade's talent for abstraction, ends this way: The war without quarter continues undefined, made of negation, weapons of doubt, tactics to be turned against me, in stubborn interrogation to find out if the enemy exists, if we exist or are all a hypothesis of strife in the sun of the short day in which we fight.
``Traveling With the Family'' encompasses almost 60 years of poetical production of Drummond de Andrade. The poems are well selected, well translated, and they convey a clear picture of the landscape of Brazil, including its people, their everyday concerns, and above all the soul of the country, as expressed in poetry and song.