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  • An Interview with Edimilson de Almeida Pereira
  • Steven F. White (bio)

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Edimilson de Almeida Pereira was born in Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais in Brazil in 1963. He has published eight books of poetry, including a volume of collected poems Corpo vivido [Lived Body] (1991) as well as the more recent Rebojo [Whirlpool] and O homem da orelha furada [The Man with the Pierced Ear], both of which appeared in 1995. Much of this work reflects the author’s African heritage, especially in Kianda, a series of poems on the general theme of the Angolan goddess of the sea, and Livro de falas [Book of Voices], a collection of dialogues with the myths that form the basis of the Afro-Brazilian religion known as Candomblé. The poems that follow are all from the first section of Livro de falas. Each of the poems begins with an epigraph from a study by Monique Augras entitled O duplo e a metamorfose: a identidade mítica em comunidades Nagô [The Double and Metamorphosis: Mythic Identity in Nagô Communities] as an introduction to the different orishas on whom the poems focus.

Although the interview that follows was conducted by mail in October 1995, in many ways it recreates the conversation I had with the poet while we worked together intensively in Juiz de Fora in June 1994 on my translation of Livro de falas in its entirety. In the interview, he speaks about the links in this book between traditional and modern Afro-Brazilian culture. He also addresses some of the many difficulties facing black poets in Brazil, including the fact that “they often must function as sociologists, anthropologists, and historians—roles that come from the urgent need to present (from a black perspective) the history of blacks in Brazil.” This explains why Edimilson de Almeida Pereira, along with co-author Núbia Pereira de Magalhães Gomes, established the Minas & Mineiros Project. Together, they published half a dozen prize-winning interdisciplinary studies on popular culture and the Bantu traditions that exist in remote rural areas in the interior of the state of Minas Gerais. Edimilson de Almeida Pereira currently teaches Portuguese and Brazilian literature at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora.


Did you have a specific purpose in mind when you wrote Livro de falas [Book of Voices]?


I always nourished the idea that my poetry could be enriched with the poetry that exists in Yoruba mythology. But I am not initiated in the Candomblé religion, which is why I don’t know its constitution of the sacred as deeply as I should or would want to know it. On the other hand, I had no [End Page 44] intention of simply telling the Candomblé myths with my words. In Bahia, Mestre Didi (Deosche Candomblé religion, which is why I don’t know its constitution of the sacred as deeplyrigin initiated in the highest sacred positions, undertook himself the work of telling the Candomblé myths.

There were certain ideas that oriented the writing of Livro de falas. I wanted to write poems that awakened emotion and showed the force of the poet to know words. The book’s epigraph speaks of Exu, who swallows all things and then returns them to the world. I felt the necessity to internalize, or to swallow the beauty of the myths and then to return them to the world. To take the myths within me was a way of knowing them, albeit partially. And what appealed to me the most was the idea of returning the myths with some extra meaning, beyond the sacred meanings they possess in Candomblé.

The new meaning for the myths lies in my experience as a non-initiate, in other words, as a person who is modern, fragmented, and who wants to come closer once again to the sacred. And this brings me to the second point of orientation for the Livro de falas: to establish a link between traditional and modern Afro-Brazilian culture. The epigraphs of each poem refer to the original myth, and the poems seek to be another voice...