About Scrap Metal, Brazilian poet Manoel de Barros, Pantanal/Mato Grosso do Sul/Brazil, Teologia do Traste por Manoel de Barros, Theology of Junk by Manoel de Barros
Giant water lily, Victoria Amazonica – Pantanal – Mato Grosso do Sul – Center-West Brazil
Photo Credit: Andre Dib/WWF
My Poetry Corner February 2018 features the poem “Theology of Junk” (Teologia do Traste) by Brazilian poet, lawyer, and farmer Manoel de Barros (1916-2014). Born in Cuiába, Mato Grosso, he was a year old when his father decided to start a cattle ranch in Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland area, in Mato Grosso do Sul. The young Manoel grew up playing in the yard, between the pens and the “unimportant things” that would influence his poetry.
In “Manoel by Manoel,” he describes his childhood experience:
… I used to play pretending that stone
was lizard. That a can was a ship. That the sloth was a
little problematic creature and equal to a young grasshopper.
I grew up playing on the ground, among ants. Of a
childhood free and without comparisons. I had more
communion with things than with comparison.
When he moved to the city to go to school, Manoel found it a strange and complicated world. In the countryside, they had to make their own toys: small bone animals, sock balls, tin can cars. In “About Scrap Metal,” from his book Memories Invented for Children (2006), he observes:
I saw that everything that man makes becomes scrap metal: bicycle, plane, automobile. What doesn’t become scrap is only bird, tree, frog, stone. Even a spaceship becomes scrap metal. Now I think a white swamp heron is more beautiful than a spaceship. I beg your pardon for committing this truth.