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The Mystical Rose

Adelia Prado was "discovered" she was nearly 40 by Brazil's foremost modern poet, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who was astonished to read her 'phenomenal' poems, launching her literary career with his announcement that St Francis was dictating verses to a housewife in the provincial backwater of Minas Gerais. Psychiatrists in droves made the pilgrimage to Divinopolis to delve into the psyche of this devout Catholic who wrote startlingly pungent poems of and from the body; they were politely served coffee and sent back to the city. After publishing her first collection, Baggage, in 1976, she went on to become one of Brazil's best-loved poets, awarded the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014. Adelia Prado's poetry combines passion and intelligence, wit and instinct. Her poems are about human concerns, especially those of women, about living in one's body and out of it, about the physical but also the spiritual and the imaginative life; about living in two worlds simultaneously: the spiritual and the material. She also writes about ordinary matters, insisting that the human experience is both mystical and carnal. For her these are not contradictory: 'It's the soul that's erotic,' she writes. 'Sometimes other poets and critics analyse my writing, and they've said how, even though the text is made of colloquial and everyday language, the work goes to transcendental issues. I don't know, I don't explain things; I simply do what I do. I only know how to write about concrete, immediate and commonplace things. But these commonplace things show me their metaphysical nature. I can only see the metaphysical, the divine, through the concrete and the human.'
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About the Author

Adelia Luzia Prado de Freitas (Adelia Prado) was born in 1935 and has lived all her life in the provincial, industrial city of Divinopolis, in Minas Gerais (General Mines), the Brazilian state that has produced more presidents and poets than any other in the country. She was the only one in her family of labourers to see the ocean, to go to college, or to dream of writing a book. She attended the University of Divinopolis, earning degrees in Philosophy and Religious Education, and taught in schools until 1979. From 1983 to 1988 she served as Cultural Liaison for the City of Divinopolis. A private writer and daydreamer since she was a girl, it was not until she was nearly 40 that Adelia Prado began to think she might be writing something worthy of being called "literature", and sent a small sheaf of work off to poet and critic Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna. Sant'Anna, in turn, passed the poems along to Brazil's great modernist, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, who pronounced them 'phenomenal', and hand-delivered them to his editor. Drummond subsequently announced in a newspaper column that St Francis was dictating verses to a housewife in Minas Gerais, and her literary career was launched. Bagagem (Baggage), her debut collection, was released soon afterwards in 1976, followed by seven subsequent books of poetry, and seven of prose. Despite "overnight" and continuing success, Adelia Prado mainly prefers to remain out of the limelight, only very occasionally travelling to Rio or Sao Paulo to participate in literary events. And despite this relative "outsider" status, she is recognised as one of the most important poets in Brazil. Adelia Prado has been the subject of dozens of theses and dissertations, as well as a documentary film and countless articles, profiles, and interviews in newspapers, literary supplements, and popular magazines, and her work has been translated into Spanish, Italian and English. In 2006, she was a huge hit as the featured reader at FLIP (Paraty International Literary Festival). A documentary and theatrical adaptations of Adelia Prado's work have widened her readership and gained her popular acclaim. The one-woman show Dona Doida: Un Interludio (Mad Mrs: An Interlude) had a spectacular run in Rio de Janeiro starring Fernanda Montenegro, the grand-dame of Brazilian theatre, and toured throughout Brazil. In 1998, when the National Library's Jornal de Poesia polled intellectuals to compile the 'List of Twenty' foremost living poets, she was ranked fourth. Since 1996, the Instituto Moreira Salles has been producing Cadernos de Literature Brasileira - coffee-table sized retrospectives of a writer's work, complete with photographs, manuscript reproductions and critical essays. Among the first to be so honoured with one of these tribute volumes were Joao Cabral de Melo Neto and Jorge Amado. Adelia Prado was featured in 2000. In June 2014 she received the Griffin Lifetime Achievement Award in Canada. In November 2014 her first UK Selected Poems is launched by Bloodaxe Books at Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, drawing on Ellen Dore Watson's translations from her two US titles, The Alphabet in the Park: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1990) and Ex-Voto (Tupelo Press, 2013).


'The life captured in Prado's poems is convulsive: from a dark corner of despair she can rocket to pure joy in one line. All the contradictions, paradoxes, and dualities of our lives thrive here. This is poetry at its hottest and most naked, beautiful poetry of the body and soul' - James Tate. 'Adelia Prado's most recent collection of poems, once more in Ellen Dore Watson's superbly energetic and natural English, is nothing like any poetry I know in our present moment. Her humour, her dancing solidity, her joy in being alive - I think back to Chaucer, and the poems of Grace Paley. Prado is similarly voluble, playful, down to earth, and cheerful; and she seems to have an uncannily easy-going, even merry relationship with God and all his family. She has given us a perfectly crystalline ex-voto' - Jean Valentine. 'A major poet of the Americas. In Watson's hands, Prado's work arrives in English as if it had never left Portuguese. I send - bouquets of gratitude' - Carolyn Forche. 'Adelia Prado's poetry is a poetry of abundance. These poems overflow with the humble, grand, various stuff of daily life - necklaces, bicycles, fish; saints and prostitutes and presidents; innumerable chickens and musical instruments - And, seemingly at every turn, there is food' - Ellen Dore Watson.

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