PLATTSBURGH — A boy was born on Nov. 13, 1953, in Maranhão, a northeastern state of Brazil.
His mother was a campesina, a field worker of African descent. His father hailed from a wealthy and politically powerful family, of European descent, who owned the land where field workers eked a living.
For his mother, he was the son fervently prayed for. For his father, he was the elusive son not born of the union with his wife.
His father wanted to bring him into his privileged world. His mother heroically refused, thus setting in action the forces that forged the boy into poet, who chose the non de plume Salgado Maranhão, a tribute to his family’s surname and his native place.
In Brazil, Maranhão is a literary rock star with the distinction of penning lyrics for top jazz and pop musicians. His “Mural de Ventos (Mural of Winds)” won the prestigious Prêmio Jabuti in 1999. Last year, “A Cord a Palavra (The Color of the Word)” was honored as the best book of poetry by the Brazilian Academy of Letters.
Maranhão has authored nine collections of poetry. The most recent “Sol Sangüíneo (Blood of the Sun),” published by Milkweed Editions, is his first book translated into English by Dr. Alexis Levitin, SUNY distinguished professor at Plattsburgh State.
READING COMING UP
Maranhão, a visiting presidential scholar, and Levitin offer a bilingual reading of “Sol Sangüíneo” 8 p.m. Wednesday in the Cardinal Lounge, Angell College Center.
The poet and the translator were fatefully paired by Luiz Fernando Valente, a professor of Portuguese and Brazilian studies and comparative literature at Brown University. Five years ago, Valente invited Maranhão and Levitin to a conference in hopes they would collaborate on a translation project. “Sol Sangüíneo” is the result.