Casimiro de Brito

Casimiro de Brito

Casimiro de Brito was born in Algarve, Portugal, 1938. After working at various jobs he attended Westfield College where he found the classical Japanese poetry. He is now a professional writer, and he lives in Lisbon, from where he is travelling as much as he can.

His cultural activity began in 1953 and he is the author of 56 titles: poetry, fiction, aphorisms and essays. He was involved in countless readings, colloquia, and lectures at schools, factories, cultural associations and universities at home and abroad, included rather frequent attendance at conferences and festivals all around the world. His works have been included in more than 160 anthologies and translated into 26 languages.

He is Director of Poetry Festivals in Portugal. He has edited several literary magazines and collections of poetry. He is president of the Portuguese P.E.N. and he is advisor of the WHA, Tokyo and was nominated World Peace Ambassador.

He was awarded with several Portuguese Poetry Prizes as well as several International Prizes: the Viareggio Versilia for Ode & Ceia (collected poetry), the first edition of the Poetry International Prize Leopold Sedar Senghor, for his poetic career, and the Poetry European Prize, for the best book of poetry published in Italy in 2004 (for Libro dell Cadute).

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Labyrinthus, 1980, Portuguese Writers Association Award; Ode & Ceia (“Ode and Supper”), 1985 (includes his production from 1955 to 1984; Versilia/Itália award for the best book of “Collected Poems”); Ni Maître ni Serviteur (“Neither Master nor Servant”), 1986; Subitamente o Silêncio (“Suddenly Silence”), 1991; Intensidades (“Intensities”), 1995; Opus Affettuoso, 1997 (P.E.N. Poetry Award); Pouco de Pouco (“Little from Little”), 1999 and the selected poems O Amor, a Morte e Outros Vícios (“Love, Death and Other Vices”), 1999; Na Via do Mestre (“On the Master’s Way”), an answer to the Tao te-King, 2000; Arte Pobre (“Poor Art”, a collection of previous books); À sombra de Bashô (“In Bashô’s Shadow”, a renku with Matsuo Bashô), 2000; the book of aphorisms, Da Frágil Sabedoria (“Fragile Knowledge”), 2000; Na Barca do Coração (“In the Heart’s Boat”), his diary of the year 2000 ; Animal Volátil (“Flying Animal”, 2002; Libro delle Cadute (“The Book of Falls”, Italy, European Poetry Prize); Livro das Quedas (“The Book of Falls”), 2005; Musica do Mundo (“Music of the World“), Brasil, 2006; Arte de Bem Morrer, 2007; Através do Ar/Through the Air, Tokyo, 2007; Amo Agora (“I Love Now“), 2009.


I do nothing else —
sitting in the world’s centre
I remain breathing

Run, butterfly!
Men are coming,
their armies

After crossing
the desert — a mouse!
It sings? Me too

Drinking a rare tea —
the mouth in the river, the nose
in the mountain’s air

Pine trees have no foot
they don’t walk — are they
far or near?

Salty tears —
the sea remains in our eyes
since the beginning

Gathering shells
on the beach — suddenly
a condom

Casimiro de Brito
© Translation by Ana Hatherly


I left the beaches behind stripped myself of the blue
But I go back to the sun to grow dark
To climb over the rocks to feed myself with light
On the sea’s white sands

I go back to the stage where my body
Learned the essential taste the rhythms
That come from the depths

To crack the skin to forsake the salt of islands
Was my boat and ambition but now I go down
To places of light like one who floats
In the oldest clay in the fresh placenta
With dregs intact
And without age

It’s not that I feel a stranger
In the northern countries in the city’s patio on the sands
Of the page
But this ground is me this stone is a breeze is
A sea
I can unfold touch breathe.

In Subitamente o Silêncio, 1980
Casimiro de Brito

© Translation by Louis Bourne


Hours and hours lying on the sand fallen
On the sand
Or shoved by some arm. Little by little
I stopped feeling the infinitely fine grains
That stuck to my skin. I stopped being
The sky watched by my eyes.
The first waves that touched my feet
I still felt them –tiny mouths
Drinking my silent blood–
But the second waves were no longer cold or warm no longer
Smooth or rough no longer possessed
Lips or teeth. And I know nothing
Of the following ones as I knew nothing then
Of the sand or of the salt or of the insects that were crossing
Over my body after having crossed
The body of the sand.
For some time during the strict eternity
Of a moment
It was as if I were also sand and sea and sun
And maybe had been
Sand and sea and sun. The rest
Is wind.

In Subitamente o Silêncio, 1980
Casimiro de Brito

© Translation by Louis Bourne

Fragments from “Livro das Quedas”


A Carlos Paredes

Dry, drawn as if they were
vestiges of a Portuguese guitar,
I hear night’s murmurs in the maritime city
and I sing in silence. They are the sails
of the wind slipping
among the stone walls, wavering
sculptures; it’s the morning motor
of dogs barking devastated by the cricket’s
and I sing in silence. I see
trees and drugged youths
under the last trees, pale horses
heading for death
and I sing in silence. I carve in my mind
the half-eaten orange that all things
are: the fragile clay, the siren announcing
a tongue of fire at the wolf’s hour
and I hear the beloved body, the mineral sign
breathing peacefully
at my side: I feel I’m by the sea, on it
I lie down—and sing in silence.


Ovid, The Art of Loving, III, 14

The bed is a refuge of pleasure
or an intimate madness. A closed
labyrinth—a clearing
of sad languages
when speech weakens. Sand
and shadows
where there seems to have been
a house lit up. The bed
is a cell
to the world of silence. He who
abandons the bed
and leaps over the forest of love
leaves on earth
excess, fragility, crimes
committed—crimes and sins
of passion
that have no real existence
in the city, not even
in the other clearings of the
house—the flesh has
no other drawing
unless it be death.


Somebody told me some birds weep
when they go without sea
for a long time. They don’t seem
sad to me. Sad am I
facing the waves
from when I was young. Their shadow
on the sand
has the same pattern
my eyes saw when there were
landscapes. Now,
sitting on my rock,
I no longer know if I see nature
or she sees me. We are
the same mouth, the same dark eye
the shadow and its light.


I climb my body’s inner cliff
like a lost song, a rhythm singing in the morning
that gushes in the beloved fountain,
but it is I who burn and crackle. Love
is a sparkling place where, at times,
pain falls away; an insect under the light
is enough; and stones that were diamonds
collapse before your misted
eyes. And what was water
weighs like lead; and the stone that seemed to repose
slips like water. O school of intrigues
and games preceding love’s fever.
the nightly nostalgia of him who drank wine and loses
his mouth. In the body’s movements, song
travels now in the wave, now rots
on the deserted beach. And he who was fire and fuses
with the fungi of earth
no longer lies down for love, but only
lies down in silent death’s

Casimiro de Brito
© Translation by Louis Bourne

Published with the permission of Casimiro de Brito