“I say goodbye to stay”: the poet Thiago de Mello dies

“As one who shares bread, as one who shares stars, as one who shares flowers, I share my song of love. With just one stanza, I take my leave – to remain with you. I say goodbye to stay”.

A speech by the poet, writer, journalist and translator Thiago de Mello was delivered at an event at the Mário de Andrade Library, in São Paulo, in celebration of his 90th birthday. This Friday (14), at the age of 95, the giant of Brazilian literature dies. But it remains.

The cause of his death has not yet been released. According to the Folha de S. Paulo, family members reported that he left sleeping.

Thiago de Mello’s vast work has already been translated into about 30 languages. His most recent book – an old text but hitherto unpublished – was published in 2020 by the publisher Valer, under the title News of the visit I made in the summer of 1953 to the Amazon River and its ravines.

Among his many poetry books are the legend of the rose, Poetry committed to mine and your life, Mormaço in the forest, general wind e In a field of daisies.

It’s dark but I sing

Born in 1926 in Barreirinha, in the interior of Amazonas, Mello was studying medicine in Rio de Janeiro in the 1950s when he decided to take some of his verses to Carlos Drummond de Andrade. He said he was thinking of dropping out of college and dedicating himself to letters. The already renowned writer advised the young man: living off poetry is not an easy thing. Mello disobeyed him.

He worked as a cultural attaché in Bolivia, Peru and Chile, but in a short time his diplomatic career was interrupted by the Brazilian military coup in 1964. When it broke out, Mello was working in the Chilean capital and received news from Salvador Allende that , nine years from now, he would suffer a blow himself.

:: “Even under the dictatorship culture was not as kicked as it is now”, evaluates Juarez Fonseca ::

At that moment Thiago de Mello began to write what would become one of his best-known poems: the status of man.

In it, the poet decrees: “The use of the word freedom / which will be suppressed from dictionaries / and from the deceptive swamp of mouths is prohibited. / From this moment on / freedom will be something alive and transparent / like a fire or a river / and its abode will always be the heart of man”.

The text made up the book It’s dark, but I sing: because the morning will come, published in 1965 and whose title – excerpt from the poem Peasant Dawn – was the subject of the most recent Bienal de São Paulo, held in September 2021.

A musical version of It’s dark but I sing was made in partnership with sambista Monsueto Menezes and recorded by Nara Leão.

For his fight against the military dictatorship, Thiago was imprisoned for about a month and a half. In 1965, he participated in a protest in Rio de Janeiro made by intellectuals and artists, in front of the Glória hotel. At the time, he was one of the detainees who became known as the “eight of Glory”. Among them were Carlos Heitor Cony, Antonio Callado and Glauber Rocha.

In 1969, the poet went into exile. He lived in Argentina, Portugal and Chile.

He lived with some of the greatest Latin American writers, such as Mario Benedetti, Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel García Márquez and Pablo Neruda. The latter, for whom he nurtured friendship, had books translated into Portuguese by Thiago de Mello.

In defense of forests

Since returning from exile in the final years of the military dictatorship, Mello has lived, until his last days, in Amazonas.

The land where he was born was honored in his verses, his struggles and also in his prose publications, as in the books Manaus Love and Memory, Amazon, homeland of water e Amazon – the apple of the world’s eyes.

:: “Pretos de Peleia forced me to reinvent myself as a poet”, says Renato de Mattos Motta ::

In an interview given to Principles Magazine in 2014, Thiago de Mello already warned of the negative impacts of global warming on the life of the Amazon forest.

“I tried to contribute to the knowledge of the forest with my books. There are six or seven books just about life in the forest: its legends, its myths, its miracles, its greatness, its miseries too…”, says the Amazonian poet.

In the same interview, the writer states that “when a part of a people becomes aware, they know the reasons why this people is being oppressed, the first thing they do is want to organize themselves, organize themselves to fight”. And he adds: “This conscientious people will grow and will be invincible”.

Editing: Vinicius Segalla


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