Modern Brazilian Sonnets: Paulo Henriques Britto’s Forms of Nothing

By Rob Packer

Formas do nada by Paulo Henriques Britto

A constant in all (?) European literatures, the sonnet has a long pedigree in Portuguese, ranging from love sonnets by Camões, the language’s equivalent to Shakespeare, Cervantes or Goethe, right down to twentieth-century Brazilian poets, such as Vinícius de Moraes or Mario Quintana. In his collection from March this year, Formas do nada (Forms of Nothing, no English translation), Paulo Henriques Britto, one of Brazil’s leading poets, returns to the form throughout, exploring in half the collection’s poems the sonnet’s Petrarchan, Shakespearean and unrhymed forms, as well as reaching into more unconventional combinations (5-4-3-2, 5-5-4 and the like).

It soon becomes clear how apt the title is: the Forms are specifically poetic in their most traditional and rhyming guise and it is clear that Nothing refers to the subject matter. The first poem is ‘Lorem ipsum’, named after the placeholder text, featured in PowerPoint or WordPress that’s really a nonsense version of text by Cicero. Britto, who is also a translator, includes a “self-translation”, where the speaker promises poetic fireworks: Read more of this post

%d bloggers like this: