Translation: “Quiet” by Thiago Camelo

Over 2016 and beyond, I’ll be slightly changing the dynamic of the blog, alternating reviews with translations (the photos that I used to post here are now on my Instagram feed). I’ll start with the poetry of a few young contemporary Brazilian poets, that I’ve been working with over the past couple of months. The first is “Quiet” a pamphlet-length poem by Thiago Camelo, which will be launched later this week on 14 January at Hospedaria Rio in Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro (more details here).



Thiago Camelo in Rio de Janeiro.

Thiago Camelo was born in Rio de Janeiro in 1983. He studied Journalism and Cinema at the PUC-Rio and has published two books of poetry: Verão em Botafogo (2010, 7Letras, Rio de Janeiro) and A ilha é ela mesma (2015, Moça Editora, Curitiba). In addition, he has published the short story A carne, as coisas in the Megamini imprint of 7Letras (2015). A ilha é ela mesma was supported by the Bolsa Criar Lusofonia grant, awarded by the Centro Nacional de Cultura (Lisbon, Portugal).
The poem “Silêncio” will be published in 2016 as a pamphlet by Pipoca Press in the collection Puxad_nho.

As well as being a poet, Thiago Camelo is also a lyricist; in 2015, ‘Espelho d’água’ written in partnership with his brother Marcelo Camelo, was recorded by acclaimed Brazilian singer Gal Costa on her album Estratosférica.

You can find out more about Thiago Camelo on his blog and can contact him at


The island is not a dream.
It is my skin
it is this rock.
It is my skin, it is the beacon.
There’s nothing but water
water’s the dust we came from
the dust we’re going to.
From the island,
a boat is an island
and I, a castaway.
From the island,
a boat is an island.
And I, castaway.
I’ll drop anchor, make port, step ashore
put down roots.
Build a home
children, siblings.
But will I always be a castaway?
A boat never stumbles across an island
no arrival is by chance.
They say all islands are illusionists.
All islands are magic.
They say navigation is setting sail for guile.
They say the deaf of the island are polyglots
they speak languages as they watch their reflections in the water.
They say the blind of the island see nothing but blue
and that’s why, they say
they always know where they are
between sea and sky.
I know: there are many ways to make an island.
I know what a continent is, what a volcano is.
I know what the Big Bang was.
I believe islands are born and die like stars.
I know there are icebergs the size of islands.
They float into forgetting.
I believe in islands that float like icebergs.
I know the universe is expanding.
It could burst, I know
and this all become dust again.
Dark energy.
Dark matter.
Invisible islands in space.
But I sail on. I know what an island is.
I don’t get confused, I believe.
I know, another earth had to fall to Earth
and the Earth exists, I know.
Another earth had to fall to Earth
and the Moon exists.
The boat against the island:
earths, moons, children.
Father, mother, brothers?
They say on the island there are trees
There are blind people there
and the deaf speak languages they cannot hear.
The birds hear the deaf and see the blind.
Of course the trees neither see nor speak
but die on their feet.
We contribute to the silence, don’t you see?
All the cycles
accelerating or slowing.
When I tell you about the island
do you understand?
I spoke about silence
the gestures to avoid suffering.
If you drink water and look up at the Moon
if you walk up the hill
jump three times
seek a saint’s kindness
nothing will happen
the storm is so short
and there’s all this sun.
Islands have skin too
they turn away when they open the door
they shiver in winter
they cry in summer.
The blind are illuminated
they light up the deaf polyglots.
At night, there are stories in all languages:
the bird that breathes wind
the Earth that turns the Sun
the island that holds up the sea.
Strange dreams of strange days.
I know three types of tree
but could speak all day about the almond.
I know its leaf, I’ve kicked
and eaten almonds.
For years I’ve heard cicadas.
The pain threshold is a hundred and twenty decibels.
I’ve shouted through a window for much less.
I’ve never shouted at the cicadas.
Turn down the volume.
I’ve never shouted on my own
I find it hard to laugh on my own.
I need to tell you
this is the cicadas’ island
the deaf feel them
and they make the blind happy with their song.
I think you will get used to it.
I wanted to tell you
the island is not a dream.
Islands, all of them
have skin
cry like icebergs
freeze like icebergs, get lost
are icebergs.
Without the embarrassment of metaphor:
these things, you and me
you, these things and me
everything in between
there are always two bridges
there are always two isthmuses
two hands, two islands
two people
one person
another person, an island
if I were to say
it’s all and it’s nothing
at the same time
we are this and we are not
seriousness and intention
irony without joy
we are embarrassed metaphors
we are stars with skins
I love astronomy
rocks in pain, I love geology
it would be obvious if I said it
we are smoke
I love coffee, you know
I could be a barista
grains granules
or a particle physicist
an island, a football stadium
I could be a pigeon
a blue bird, you
you see
from up above we are castaways
earth, island, everything – I’m sorry
I need to say this again
in the most obvious way, I will try
that old expression that fits so well
we are all
earth, island, everything
we are all in the same boat.

Quiet by Thiago Camelo translated by Rob Packer. Originally published as Silêncio by Pipoca Press (2016, Rio de Janeiro).

Thiago Camelo - Silêncio

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