Brazilian Notebook: “Rebolar”

May 17, 2012

Mural from library at Instituto Brasilia - Estados Unidos CENo time for the ocean today, as we worked our way through Fortaleza with engagements at three educational institutions. But first, breakfast at the Hotel Luzeiros. Every morning I eat a new fruit. Guava — pale yellow skin, rosy flesh, chunky tan seeds impossible to chew. You send the whole delicious thing right on down the alimentary in hopes it travels through without commotion. Small bananas with the flavor of five bananas compressed into one velvety sweet/tart pleasure. Mango, papaya. The green lumpy fruit with a name I have not yet taken into my extraordinarily limited lexicon of Portuguese. Obrigada, I can say, the most necessary communication for a traveler: “Thank you.”

A man passes by my table in jogging shorts and t-shirt, glasses on an elastic band, carrying a whole green coconut in his hand, lifting it to drink the chilled liquid inside through a straw. Electrolytes someone says. If you are tired and hot, drink this. The man holds the nut like it’s a small baby balanced with tenderness and pride on his palm. This is what I see at breakfast with my “virginity of sight, or rather of observation” as Michaux says.

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Brazilian Notebook: Incomprehensible Ocean

May 16, 2012

What (Brazilian) tree is this?After Michaux (Ecuador: A Travel Journal): What is this name of this tree lining the beach, waxy open fists of leaves and briquets of green fruit.  What is the name of that boat? Single sail, boxy hull, huge wooden rudder where the stern man navigates in the calm space separating the sand beach from the marine thoroughfare where the queue of behemoth cargo ships and tankers head for the loading booms and siphons in the city’s port, lined up like milk cows waiting to come into the barn.  The small boat — not a panga, dhou, pirogue. I’m looking for what Michaux called “the faithful gong of the word,”  one of the simple hungers of travel that accompany me.

Today we met with students and teachers at Universidade Federal do Ceará, this northeastern state in Brazil which was described to us as the poorest region in the nation. Federal and state public universities here are free. It’s not easy to get in. But it can be a ticket out of a neighborhood so dangerous a college student will not go outside after dark. They stayed in the auditorium for over two hours, asking questions about writing and racism and violence and The Hunger Games. They were eager for the conversation about contemporary literature and so were we, feeling that joy, as one young man described to me, that although we came for such differing circumstances we could feel alike for certain things in the world. He’d lost a friend, an old woman who had loved butterflies. He missed her but had found in one of my poems that connection, sweet and sad, come close into memory. They asked about influences and I mentioned Elizabeth Bishop and her many years of living in Brazil. The professors said she was in the Brazilian canon, which was thrilling to hear.

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Brazilian Notebook: Fortaleza

This begins a two-week series of author, teacher, and editorial board member Alison Hawthorne Deming’s Brazilian Notebook, blogged over at Read the full series.


Praia de MeirelesMay 15. 2012

A day and night given to travel in which it’s impossible to know what’s going on down there below the cotton ball layer of sky until at last we cut through on descent to the spectacle of green felted mountains that lie just inland of the Atlantic coast. They seemed as sharp and young as Tucson’s perimeter mountains, but the ferocity of electric green is a jolt for someone like me coming from an arid land. Fortaleza is perched on the easternmost protuberance of Brazil.  It would fit into the concavity on the west African coast, if Pangaea ever drifted back together.

I’m here for two weeks with Chris Merrill, who directs the Iowa International Writing Program that has brought us here, Joe Tiefenthaler and Alan Heathcock. Cornelius Eady and Maria Jose Barbosa will join us in a few days. The Battery Dance Company from New York City is touring in Brazil as well, working with kids to choreograph performances, and working with us to collaborate on performances of our work tomorrow night at the Dragão do Mar Cultural Center.

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Alison Deming to Serve on Advisory Board for New Film Journey of the Universe

Journey of the UniverseJourney of the Universe is developed by Mary Evelyn Tucker and Brian Swimme

The goal of the Journey of the Universe is to tell the story of cosmic and Earth evolution drawing on the latest scientific knowledge. It aims to inspire a new and closer relationship with Earth in a period of growing environmental and social crisis. The film evokes a shared sense of wonder as we find ourselves in the presence of the immense, complex, and self-organizing creativity of the universe and Earth. The film was inspired by the New Story of Thomas Berry, a cultural historian who wrote The Universe Story with Brian Swimme.

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Georgia Review Essay Wins Gold Award

Georgia Review Spring 2009 coverAlison Hawthorne Deming’s essay, “Culture, Biology, and Emergence,” part of the Georgia Review’s Spring 2009 issue feature entitled “Culture and the Environment—A Conversation in Five Essays,” was awarded the Best Essay Gold award from Magazine Association of the Southeast’s annual GAMMA Awards competition.