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Brazilian Poet Maria Rezende
Photo Credit: Camilo Lobo on Poet’s Website

My Poetry Corner June 2022 features the Risk Poem (Poema de Risco) from the 2003 debut poetry collection Feminine Substantive (Substantivo Feminino) by Brazilian feminist poet Maria Rezende. Born in 1978 in Rio de Janeiro, she is a poet, performer, cinema and TV editor, and wedding celebrant. During her twenty years of literary life, she has published four collections of poetry.

Growing up in a home where her parents were avid readers, she began reading at an early age. On her thirteenth birthday, her parents gifted her an anthology of poetry by Vinicius de Moraes. While the anthology opened the world of poetry for her, the work of the great poets left her believing that her own verses could add nothing of value.

Six years later, Maria’s lack of confidence in her own voice changed when she attended spoken poetry classes conducted by poet and actress Elisa Lucinda. In learning to recite poems by the renowned poets in the Portuguese language, she freed her voice and began writing poetry. In her 2016 interview with Fabiane Pereira, published in Helosia Tolipan, Rezende said that writing and speaking out loud are inseparable processes for her. “When I write a poem, I immediately read it aloud to feel the rhythm, change words because of this, add or delete verses,” she told him.

Love in all its aspects—enchantment, life together, lack of love, falling out of love—is a powerful catalyst for many of Rezende’s poems. In the second verse of the seven-verse poem “Of Love and Other Demons,” she writes of love in the time of cholera:

Love that takes care
of oneself
of the other
of humanity
love without fear
but without naivety

In the poem “Kintsugi” from her 2019 collection Sisters (Hermanas), written in partnership with Spanish singer and guitarist Amparo Sánchez, the poet calls on women not to fear love, not to apologize for dreaming and existing, not to go begging for affection. Instead, she writes in the closing verse, women should Be fragile / accept the falls / stop smoothing every little rough edge / and mend the cracks with gold.

For readers not acquainted with kintsugi, it is the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.

In the six-verse poem “Open Pulse” from her 2015 poetry collection Navel Flesh (Carne do Umbigo), dedicated to the Uruguayan writer and poet Eduardo Galeano after reading his book Mulheres (Women), Rezende encapsulates the multitudinous facets of what it means to be a woman in our world. The opening verse sets the tone of our place in history as procreators.

We are the gateway
and the exit door
we are goddesses and slaves
for a thousand generations

In the words of the poet, women are witches, whores, lunatics, saints, sinners, predators, and bacchantes. We are also invisible, dangerous, submissive, and much more. She notes in the closing verse:

We are the ones who avoid disaster
those who invent life
those who postpone the end

The featured “Risk Poem” is the untitled six-verse poem that opens Rezende’s 2003 debut poetry collection. She describes the poem on her blog as “the poem that gives me strength to follow the paths that seem difficult; the poem that inspires and surprises me always.”

Rezende, who continues to take all kinds of risks in her work as a performing poet and editor in television and cinema, views risk as one of degrees, as expressed in the opening verse:

Risk is not just a trait
it is the distance between one building and another
the difference between jump and leap

We can take risks at our own pace (verse 2): on foot, by flying, or on the slack rope set free in the air. We can even calculate the risk (verse 3):

Inside it fits calculation
fits fear and uncertainty
fits clear instinct impulse

Yet, while we are ready to face the fear, uncertainty, and go with our gut feelings, there are those around us who question attacking [us] at noon and testing [our] will. But this is the price we must pay if we want to realize our dream. We must know, too, that there is no fixed roadmap to get there (verse 5).

To accept it is to know there does not exist
right road
straight line
easy life ahead

As described in the closing verse, success in realizing our dream depends upon how far we are prepared to fly in darkness.

To read the complete featured “Risk Poem” in English and its original Portuguese, and to learn more about Maria Rezende and her work, go to my Poetry Corner June 2022.

NOTE: Excerpts of poems by Maria Rezende translated by Rosaliene Bacchus.