I was born in Alegrete, on the 30th of July of 1906. I believe that was the first thing that happened to me. And now they have asked me to speak of myself. Well! I always thought that every confession that wasn’t altered by art is indecent. My life is in my poems, my poems are myself, never have I written a comma that wasn’t a confession. Ah! but what they want are details, rawness, gossip...Here we go! I am 78 years old, but without age. Of ages, there are only two: either you are alive or dead. In the latter case, it is too old, because what was promised to us was Eternity.
I was born in the rigor of the Winter, temperature: 1 degree; and still I was premature, which would leave me kind of complex because I used to think I wasn’t ready. One day I discovered that someone as complete as Winston Churchill was born premature - the same thing happened to Sir Issac Newton! Excusez du peu...(To name a few...)
I prefer to cite the opinion of others about me. They say I am modest. On the contrary, I am so proud that I think I never reached the height of my writing. Because poetry is insatisfaction, an affliction of self-elevation. A satisfied poet doesn’t satisfy. They say I am timid. Nothing of the sort! I am very quiet, introspective. I don’t know why they subject the introverts to treatment. Only for not being as annoying at the rest? It is exactly for detesting annoyingness, the lengthiness, that I love synthesis. Another element of poetry is the search for the form (not of the form), the dosage of words. Perhaps what contributes to my safety is the fact that I have been a practitioner of pharmacy for five years. Note that the same happened with Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Alberto de Oliveira, Erico Verissimo - they well know (or knew) what a loving fight with words means.
One day, when he had turned eighty, blessed with a very successful career as a writer, a young reporter asked him about his youth: - "In your time, she asked, how was life?" He answered: - " 'Your time' my ass, I am alive, and pretty well alive: my time is now."
Famous lines: "If things are unreachable... oh, my goodness! It is not a reason not to want them. How sad the paths would be if there was not the magical presence of the stars!"
"The worst thing about our problems is that they are not of other people's business."
"If I were a priest, I would not preach about God or sins (...); I would cite the poets, pray their verses, the most beautiful ones, (...) because poetry purifies the soul...and a beautiful poem - even those which are apart from God -, a beautiful poem always takes us to Heaven!"
"After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul. And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning and that company doesn't mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren't contracts and presents aren't promises. And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open and with the grace of an adult not the grief of a child. And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow`s ground is too uncertain for your plans. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much.
So plant your own garden and decorate your own soul Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you will learn that you can endure that you really are special and that you really do have worth. So live to learn and know yourself. In doing so, you will learn to live."
"The beauty of verse printed in books
— a serene beauty with something of the eternal—
Before they are disturbed by women reciters.
There they rest, mysterious amphoras
On their fragile shelves of glass…
There they rest, motionless and silent.
But not identical and dumb as the dead in their tombs.
Each has a distinct timbre of silence…
Only the soul can distinguish their different paces,
When the only sound in your room
Is when you turn, soul suspended, one more page
Of the book…But the verse wounds your chest like
the sword of an angel.
There you are, as if you had, without trying, performed a miracle…
Oh! what a beating, what a beating of wings!"
"A beleza dos versos impressos em livro
—serena beleza com algo de eternidade—
Antes que venha conturbá-los a voz das declamadoras.
Ali repousam eles, misteriosos cântaros,
Nas suas frágeis prateleiras de vidro...
Ali repousam eles, imóveis e silenciosos.
Mas năo mudos e iguais como esses mortos em suas tumbas.
Tęm, cada um, um timbre diverso de silęncio...
Só tua alma distingue seus diferentes passos,
Quando o único rumor em teu quarto
É quando voltas, de alma suspensa—mais uma página
Do livro...Mas um verso fere o teu peito como
A espada de um anjo.
E ficas, como se tivesses feito, sem querer, um milagre...Oh! Que revoada, que revoada de asas!"
A master of the aphoristic verse, Quintana's one-liners frequently illustrate the theme at hand, time and the timeless:
If I were to really believe everything I think, I'd go crazy.
(Se eu fosse acreditar mesmo em tudo o que penso, ficaria louco.)Here "belief" may be taken as those permanent principles at the base of consciousness, whereas the stream-of-consciousness, the moment-by-moment changes in the constant succession of thoughts, are the maddening representatives of the world of time. Thinking, that is, by its very nature, is a process, and a process is all about change; believing, on the other hand, is a state of (relative) permanence. There are many other examples in his poetry:
The quotidian is a disguise of the mystery.
(O quotidiano é o incógnito do mistério.)
Don't forget: the clouds are always improvising, but it's the wind's fault.
(Năo esquecer que as nuvens estăo improvisando sempre, mas a culpa é do vento.)
Time is just a point of view of our clocks.
(O tempo é um ponto de vista dos relógios.)
In the latter one, time itself is negated as a reality; it exists merely because a machine we have invented says it does. The unspoken implication is that eternity is the only reality, an absolute refuting the relevancy of a "point of view."
"The soul is that thing always asking us if the soul exists."
(A alma é essa coisa que nos pergunta se a alma existe.)
"Destiny is chance gone mad."
(O destino é o acaso que enloqueceu.)
"We should go through life as though we were skipping school, not as though we were going to one."
(A gente deve atravessar a vida como quem está gazeando a escola e năo como quem vai para a escola.)
Now there's a happy poetic thought: Immortality as an eternal skipping of school.