From This Pier of Mine: The Poetry of Mario Quintana

From This Pier of Mine: The Poetry of Mario Quintana

Poetry clarifies life’s confusing blur with words and music. It is a surprising fact about human nature that we could perceive the existence of an imagined world alongside the real physical world. The real source of human creativity is poetry. Poetry reveals important truths about human life and the world. The poet meditates on our experience and the language of poetry allows dialogue as a free exchange of intimate thoughts.

Clearly Quintana’s poetry is rich with observational truths. As a great poet, he is the mentor who teaches a way of seeing and feeling. Think of Zorba, the Greek: “Zorba sees everything every day as if for the first time,” wrote Nikos Kazantzakis in his famous novel. The voluptuousness of living! The great poetry recalls us every time the importance of living. Quintana’s is hopeful, joyful, a great wit, gentle and a man of wide interests. The reflected irony is the hallmark of his style. He likes to express his sly view of things with epigrams like the following: “The soul is that thing which asks us if the soul exists.” As a romantic, his principal mode of expression is the lyric poem. He is able to write a classical sonnet and has the capacity to create a free rhythm.

Quintana was born in Alegrete in 1906, in Southern Brazil, a peaceful little town near the Argentinian border. His father owned a pharmacy and his mother taught French. During his youth years, he studied at the Military Academy in the capital of state, Porto Alegre. And after his parents died, he moved to that city. A journalist and translator by profession, he lived almost all his life in the capital, which he admittedly loved. Quintana wrote many books and translated hundreds of novels and short stories from English, French, Spanish and Italian into Portuguese language. His father was a conspirator in the Revolution of 1923. So, the family used to talk French in front of servants and household.

The sensitive and curious boy grew up at the time called Belle Époque. As a kid, he used to speak French and Spanish in the beautiful manor where he was born. His mother sang Castilian songs and recited poetry, while his father encouraged him to memorize and recite La Fontaine’s fables in French. The whole family enjoyed poetry. After the mother’s illness, the family was financially ruined.

At first glance, Quintana’s poetry reveals very little influence from his personal circumstances. A very reserved man, he used to say that all his life was in his poetry. Although, he wrote chronicles and artistic brief commentaries for the press, Quintana’ poems are his chief contribution to the Brazilian literature. Ranked beside Carlos Drummond, Manuel Bandeira, Vinicius de Moraes and Cecília Meireles, he is one of the best loved poets of his country.

Images are the visual aspects of the poetic message. The predominance of the family scene as a lyrical element is a striking feature of his work. In his compositions, the feeling of life and tenderness with which he animates the simplest things stands out: clock, portrait, mirror, pencil, little street, house, bedroom, shoes, boats, clouds, etc.

I believe that the great poets are like the multi-colored fishes in Ingeborg Bachmann’s poem: because they come into the world with a “mission of light”. Mario Quintana died in 1994.

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