Carlos Drummond de Andrade (October 31, 1902 - August 17, 1987) was perhaps the most influential Brazilian poet of the 20th century. He has become something of a national poet; his poem "Canção Amiga" ("Friendly Song") was printed on the 50 cruzados note.
Drummond was born in Itabira, a mining village in Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil. His parents were farmers of Portuguese ancestry (and remote Scottish ancestry). He went to a school of pharmacy in Belo Horizonte, but never worked as a pharmacist after graduation. He worked in government service for most of his life, eventually becoming director of history for the National Historical and Artistic Heritage Service of Brazil.
Though his earliest poems are formal and satirical, Drummond quickly adopted the new forms of Brazilian modernism that were evolving in the 1920s, incited by the work of Mário de Andrade (to whom he was not related). He adopted a Whitmanian free verse, mingling speech fluent in elegance and truth about the surrounding, many times quotidian, world, with a fluidity of thought.
One of Drummond's best-known poems is his hymn to an ordinary man, "José." It is a poem of desolation:
- Key in hand,
- you want to open the door -
- there is no door. . .
The work of Carlos Drummond is generally divided into several segments, which appear very markedly in each of his books. But this is somewhat misleading, since even in the midst of his everyday poems or his socialist, politicized poems, there appear creations which can be easily incorporated into his later metaphysical canon, and none of these styles is completely free of the others. There is surely much metaphysical content in even his most political poems.
The most prominent of these later metaphysical poems is A Máquina do Mundo (The Machine of the World). The poem deals with an anti-Faust referred to in the first person, who receives the visit of the aforementioned Machine, which stands for all possible knowledge, and the sum of the answers for all the questions which afflict men; in highly dramatic and baroque versification the poem develops only for the anonymous subject to decline the offer of endless knowledge and proceed his gloomy path in the solitary road. It takes the renaissance allegory of the Machine of the World from Portugal's most esteemed poet, Luís de Camões, more precisely, from a canto at the end of his epic masterpiece Os Lusíadas. There are also hints from Dante and the form is adapted from T. S. Eliot's dantesque passage in "Little Gidding."
Drummond is a favorite of American poets, a number of whom, including Mark Strand and Lloyd Schwartz, have translated him. Later writers and critics have sometimes credited his relationship with Elizabeth Bishop, his first English language translator, as influential for his American reception, but though she admired him Bishop claimed she barely knew him. In an interview with George Starbuck in 1977, she said:
- I didn't know him at all. He's supposed to be very shy. I'm supposed to be very shy. We've met once — on the sidewalk at night. We had just come out of the same restaurant, and he kissed my hand politely when we were introduced.
Bibliography (English translations)
- Souvenir of the Ancient World, translated by Mark Strand (Antaeus Editions, 1976)
- Looking for Poetry: Poems by Carlos Drummond de Andrade and Rafael Alberti, with Songs from the Quechua, translated by Mark Strand (Knopf, 2002)
- Travelling in the family : selected poems of Carlos Drummond de Andrade, translated by Thomas Colchie (Random House, 1986)
- The minus sign : selected poems, translated by Virginia de Araujo (Black Swan, 1980)
- In the middle of the road; selected poems, translated by John A Nist (U of Arizona, 1965)
- Brazilian writers / Mônica Rector., 2005
- The Cambridge history of Latin American literature. Volume 3, Brazilian literature / Roberto González Echevarría., 1996
- Tropical paths : essays on modern Brazilian literature / Randal Johnson., 1993
- Brazilian literature : a research bibliography / David William Foster., 1990
- The unquiet self : self and society in the poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade / Ricardo Sternberg., 1986
- Carlos Drummond de Andrade and his generation : proceedings / Frederick G Williams., 1986
- The poetry and poetics of Carlos Drummond de Andrade / John Gledson., 1979
- The theme of human communication in the poetry of Carlos Drummond de Andrade / Mary Patricia O'Brien., 1970
- Drummond cordial / Jerônimo Teixeira., 2005
- A rima na poesia de Carlos Drummond de Andrade & outros ensaios / Hélcio de Andrade Martins., 2005
- Drummond, a magia lúcida / Marlene de Castro Correia., 2002
- Leituras de Drummond / Flávio Loureiro Chaves., 2002
- Drummond : um olhar amoroso / Luzia de Maria., 2002
- A prosa à luz da poesia em Carlos Drummond de Andrade / Regina Souza Vieira., 2002
- Carlos Drummond de Andrade : a poética do cotidiano / Maria Veronica Aguilera., 2002
- Drummond, poesia e experiência / Ivete Lara Camargos Walty., 2002
- Drummond revisitado / Chantal Castelli., 2002
- Coração partido : uma análise da poesia reflexiva de Drummond / Davi Arrigucci Júnior., 2002
- Drummond : da rosa do povo à rosa das trevas / Vagner Camilo., 2001
- Carlos Drummond de Andrade / Francisco Achcar., 2000
- Ideologia e forma literária em Carlos Drummond de Andrade / Lucila Nogueira., 1990
- Una poética de la despreocupación: modernidad e identidad en cuatro poetas latinoamericanos / Rafael Rodríguez., 2003
- Drummond, el poeta en el tiempo / Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna., 2003
- Las retoricas de la decadencia : Martí, Palés, Drummond / Maribel Roig., 2001
- Estado de alerta y estado de inocencia : algunas reflexiones sobre la poesía y el arte / E Bayley., 1996
- Manuel Bandeira, Cecilia Meireles, Carlos Drummond de Andrade / Cipriano S Vitureira., 1952