Archaeology

Myriam Fraga
Translated from the Portuguese by Chloe Hill

In the museum hallThe cramped craniums,Their label and numberBetween empty orbits.The record, the dossier,The theory, the hypothesis.Three molars fished outFrom the cave rubble.Digital in silence,FossilBetween flint chips.Yet the bonfireWas merely the meeting,And between offering and banquetWe devoured the godsAnd distributed the tents,Cain’s sons, the blackRace of wolvesWithout absolution.

Arqueologia

Na sala dos museus,
Os cérebros colados
E entre órbitas vazias
A etiqueta e um número.

A ficha, o dossiê
A teoria, a hipótese.

Três molares pescados
No entulho das grutas.

Digital no silêncio,
Fóssil
Entre lascas de sílex.

No entanto, a fogueira
Era apenas o encontro,

E entre oferenda e banquete
Devoramos os deuses
E distribuímos as tendas,

Os filhos de Caim, a negra
Estirpe de lobos
Sem perdão.

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Myriam Fraga (1937-2016) up until her passing in February 2016 was, and continues to be, one of the leading literary figures of Salvador da Bahia. Born in Salvador in 1937, Fraga counts among her contemporaries the writers Sônia Coutinho and Fernando de Rocha Peres, artist Calazans Neto, and filmmaker Glauber Rocha. She produced over 10 volumes of poetry plus several children’s books on popular figures in Bahian culture. In 2015, she was named the vice president of the Academy of Letters of Bahia.

Chloe Hill is a PhD student in the Department of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University. In 2014, with the support of a Fulbright fellowship, she traveled to Brazil to work alongside Myriam Fraga translating a selection of poems. Her translations have appeared in Metamorphoses: The Five-College Literary Translation Journal and Exchanges: The University of Iowa Literary Translation Journal.

The Cliff Becker Translation Prize

“These are dense, florid, strange, and beautiful poems that rewrite the Greek pantheon into a feminist Brazilian landscape. Beginning with an invocation, they ask us to bear witness and reflect familiar myths upon the body of the poet. The collection makes its way from these abstract, timeless myths to vibrant present tense. Chloe Hill has created a beautiful voice in English, paying special attention to the clean sound, powerful movement, and aching pulse of each line, making this translation a pleasure to read and re-read.”
—Aron Aji and Diana Thow, Becker Prize Judges

“Fraga‘s poems, which offer exquisite insights into the eternal questions of time, existence, and meaning, are marvels of concision, metaphor, and allusion. Yet even more impressive is the degree to which the author, in the best tradition of modern Brazilian literature, engages naturally with global culture. The translations are superb, both fluid and supple and true to their originals. Fraga’s unique voice, reproduced here so brilliantly, is not to be missed.”
—Earl E. Fitz

“This is ambitious work—Myriam Fraga means business: “Don’t think. Devour.” Her poems are rich with symbols, brashly taking on existential questions, liturgy, myth, gender roles, and beastly human behavior. Seeking to illuminate our collective future, Fraga interrogates both ancient and present-day experiences on “this ship called conflict,” but the quest is nothing if not personal. As she has said, “For me, writing is a matter of survival.” Chloe Hill’s translation is both faithful and inventive in enacting Fraga’s idiosyncratic mix of rhetorical declarative and singular urgency.”
—Ellen Doré Watson

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