by Angélica Freitas
translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan
2016 National Translation Award Winner
2016 Best Translated Book Award Winner
2011 PEN Translation Fund Winner
Rilke Shake’s title, a pun on milkshake, means in Portuguese just what it does in English. With frenetic humor and linguistic innovation, Angélica Freitas constructs a temple of delight to celebrate her own literary canon. In this whirlwind debut collection, first published in Portuguese in 2007, Gertrude Stein passes gas in her bathtub, a sushi chef cries tears of Suntory Whisky, and Ezra Pound is kept “insane in a cage in pisa.” Hilary Kaplan’s translation is as contemporary and lyrical as the Portuguese-language original, a considerable feat considering the collection’s breakneck pace.
“In this brilliant translation by Hilary Kaplan, Angélica Freitas shakes and blends the influences of her Brazilian forbears with international figures like Gertrude Stein, Elizabeth Bishop, and Mallarmé. Her poetry possesses an essential lightness that Italo Calvino believed to be the basis of good writing, along with quickness, exactitude, and visibility. This lightness brings momentum, weight, and wit. In Freitas’ “Cassino Beach,” for instance: “you prefer the raw / to the refined: / mouth oyster tongue / lake moon place / landscape with pine trees / in the background. you always / preferred the raw / to the reel, insomnia to / the barber of Seville…” Kaplan presents the dance and humor of Freitas’ Portuguese with a similar exactitude. No fabled saudade here, but the sound of an ocarina underwater in the Orinoco.” —Paul Hoover
“What a lovely collection of poems. They mix topics including arcade basketball, mustaches and Gertrude Stein into unexpected, funny and poignant delights.” —A.J. Jacobs, New York Times-bestselling author of Drop Dead Healthy
“Wry, painfully funny and moving. Kaplan’s translation captures the formal invention and deadpan beauty of the original perfectly.” —Sasha Dugdale, Editor of Modern Poetry in Translation
Angélica Freitas (b. 1973) is the author of Rilke shake (Cosac Naify, 2007) and Um útero é do tamanho de um punho (Cosac Naify, 2012). Her graphic novel, Guadalupe (2012), published by Companhia das Letras, was illustrated by Odyr Bernardi. Freitas’s poems have been translated and published in German, Spanish, Swedish, Romanian, and English. She was awarded a Programa Petrobras Cultural writing fellowship in 2009. Freitas co-edits the poetry journal Modo de Usar & Co. and lives in Pelotas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Hilary Kaplan's translations of Brazilian poetry and fiction have been featured in Modern Poetry in Translation, PEN America, and on BBC Radio 4. Her writing on Brazilian poetry and poetics appears in eLyra, Jacket2, Rascunho, and the collection Deslocamentos Críticos. She holds an M.F.A. from San Francisco State University. She received a 2011 PEN Translation Fund grant for her translation of Rilke Shake.
Cover art by Marcelo Gandhi