Carlos Drummond de Andrade 1902-1987
Brazilian poet, essayist, and editor.
The following entry presents an overview of Drummond's career through 1999. For criticism prior to 1979, see CLC, Volume 18.
Considered one of the best Latin American poets of the twentieth century, Drummond helped introduce Brazilian verse to modernism. He was both a socialist and a personal, self-conscious poet.
Drummond was born on October 30, 1902, in Itabira, Brazil, to a privileged family. In 1925 he married Dolores Morais, with whom he later had a daughter. In the mid-1920s, Drummond founded the journal A Revista, which became the voice of Brazilian modernism. He also served on the staff of the newspaper Diario de Minas and eventually became an editor at the official state newspaper, Minas Gerais, during the late 1920s and early 1930s when he was also developing as a creative writer. In addition, Drummond taught school and served in various important cultural posts. He was a socialist who advocated justice for the less fortunate but often also wrote in a very private, introspective way. He continued an active writing career until shortly before his death from a heart attack in Rio de Janeiro on August 17, 1987.
Drummond began his writing career when he allied himself with a number of writers and artists in the 1920s known as Semana de Arte Moderna, a group which introduced modernism into Brazilian poetry. Drummond's first poetry collection, Alguma poesia (1930), established his reputation as a major poet. In A rosa do povo (1945), he showed himself to be an effective left-wing social critic. Yet, much more than his famous contemporary Pablo Neruda, he wrote highly autobiographical, inner-directed works. He had no patience, however, with sentimentality. Eventually disillusioned with socialism, Drummond expressed the confusion of the late 1940s era in Brazil in his Novos Poemas (1948). Drummond began to achieve recognition as an important modernist poet with the publication of his Fazendeiro do ar & Poesia ate agora (1955), a volume of his collected works. Returning to personal contemplation, Drummond used his childhood experiences in the Boitempo trilogy (1968-79). Among his important later works was As Impurezas do branco (1973), whose poems attempt to reconstruct past time in structured forms. Drummond was also noted as a short story writer, an essayist, and a translator of many works by such literary giants as Molière, Honoré de Balzac, Marcel Proust, Knut Hamsun, and Federico Garcia Lorca. Drummond's own works have been translated into a number of other languages, including English, French, German, Spanish, and Swedish.
English-language criticism of Drummond was hindered by the unfamiliarity of most critics with the Portuguese language. Many of Drummond's literary contemporaries, such as Fernando Pessoa and João Cabral de Melo Neto, suffered from similar critical neglect. John Nist was an early translator of Drummond's poetry and also a critic who introduced Drummond's work to English-speaking audiences, pointing out Drummond's place of honor in Brazilian literature and his unshakable honesty of expression. Beginning in the late 1970s, World Literature Today and a number of other specialized journals began to pay attention to Drummond's poetry, often urging their North American readers to learn to appreciate the poet as an extraordinary voice of Brazilian modernism. A number of critics did close textual analyses of Drummond's poems, emphasizing the difficulty of classifying his work, his sense of irony, his use of autobiographical material, and his mastery of metrical forms. Increasing critical attention to Drummond, including a detailed profile in Scribner's Latin American Writers in 1989, has finally established Drummond as a major figure in world literature.