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House of Cora Coralina - Goias Velho - State of Goias - BrazilHome-turned-Museum of Cora Coralina
Goiás Velho – State of Goiás – Brazil
Photo Credit: Cemeb Coral Coralina


In my Poetry Corner April 2014, I feature the poem “Saber Viver” (Learn to Live) by one of Brazil’s great twentieth-century poets, known by her pen-name, Cora Coralina (1889-1985).

Baptized Ana Lins dos Guimarães Peixoto, the poet adopted the name at fifteen years old when she began writing her first poems. It was her way of hiding her identity. In those days, “proper young ladies” did not waste time writing. Cora comes from coração (heart) and Coralina from the red coralline algae: red heart.

Born in the small town of Goiás Velho, then the capital of the State of Goiás, Cora Coralina knew from an early age that she was a poet. But, given the times, she lived more of a domestic than intellectual life. At the age of twenty-one, she deferred her poetic aspirations to move to the State of São Paulo with her husband and to raise a family. Though facing a harsh and busy domestic life, she found time to write.

I’m that woman who climbed the mountain of life,
removing stones and planting flowers.

In her late sixties, twenty years after her husband’s death, she returned alone to her family’s home in Goiás Velho to begin a new life as a poet. She supported herself by selling her homemade sweets.

Recreate your life, always, always.
Remove the stones, plant rose bushes and make sweets.
Begin again.

When she published her first collection of poems, Cora Coralina was seventy-five.

True courage is to go after your dreams
even when everyone says it’s impossible.

Concerned about understanding her world and her role in it, Cora wrote about the simple things of everyday life. The context and lyricism of her poetry overshadowed her poor grammar.

Knowledge we learn with the masters and books.
Wisdom we learn with life and the lowly.

Brought to national attention by Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902-1987), Brazil’s most influential poet, Cora’s work was well received by literary critics and poetry lovers. Following her third publication, Vintém de Cobre – Meias Confissões de Aninha (Copper Coin – My Confessions of Annie) in 1983, Carlos Drummond praised her collection in a letter to her (excerpt translated by yours truly):

My dear friend Cora Coralina: Your “Vintém de Cobre” (Copper Coin) is, for me, a gold coin, and of a gold that doesn’t suffer from market fluctuations. It’s the most direct and communicative poetry that I’ve ever read and loved. What wealth of human experience, what special sensitivity and what lyricism identified with the sources of life!

Cora Coralina died on April 10, 1985 at ninety-five years old.

You can read Cora Coralina’s poem, “Saber Viver” (Learn to Live) in its original Portuguese and English versions at my Writer’s Website.

Note: Quotations and excerpts of poems by Cora Coralina (translated by yours truly) were found at kdfrases.com.