Brazilian, Italian (Latinx)
First Language(s): Brazilian Portuguese
Second Language(s): English, Spanish, French, Italian
Carlos A. Pittella is a Latinx Brazilian poet and lit researcher with Italian-Lebanese-Portuguese rhizomatic roots — a complicated map of borderselves. In Brazil: journalist, PhD in literary studies, translator, ecologist. In the US: teacher & curriculum chair at a global citizenship school. In Portugal: editor & researcher of neglected works in Fernando Pessoa’s archive. Now in Canada: student of creative writing.
What was your favorite book as a child?
I’m still a child among books. When I learned to read, I loved not having one favorite, but books everywhere, piles even in the bathroom. I remember my mom letting me fill a shopping cart at a Rio bookfair and saying, Let’s not save money on books or food today. Some survived many border crossings and I now read them to my 5-year-old daughter, like Liliana Iacocca’s PlicPlic (about the many noises of the rain). Since parents are only as old as their kids, my current 5yo-favorites include Carson Ellis’s Du Iz Tak? (written in Bug language).
Do you remember the original reason or motivation why you started writing creatively?
Maybe my gramma’s wild hair over an out-of-tune piano playing “La Cumparsita” or “Galop du Diable”; I was four and wanted to make that rhythm. Or: during a pre-social-media open-mic in Rio, I heard a street-poet recite the entire “Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke” in a Portuguese translation; I didn’t ask for the title, and Google had not been invented. So I spent years searching for that poem, its rhythm playing on repeat in my head, and perhaps I started writing my own poetry to try to find it.
What was the most adventurous or thrilling thing you ever did/experienced?
Between 2014–2015, I tried to go by land from Portugal to India. I can’t explain, but after exhausting years in Chicago, grieving multiple losses with my wife, I wanted to cross boundaries, both geographic and in myself. I made it to Azerbaijan; but had to fly to Delhi; but was deported to Nepal; but was invited to trek in the breathtaking Langtang region... Staring at the border with Tibet, after 9 months and 20 countries, I knew I had walked enough. Two weeks after I left Nepal, the 2015 earthquake erased the Langtang village. Nine months later, my daughter was born in Michigan. I don’t expect to understand this, but I feel its web, and my poetry is magnetized by this unknown.
Do you listen to music while reading or writing?
I love to read/write while listening to music—but it has to be either instrumental or in a language far from the ones I know, so my brain doesn’t keep trying to parse sentences... I love listening to the Tuareg band Tinariwen (I would love to learn Tamashek, but then I wouldn’t be able to write while listening!), as well as instrumental jazz (Django Reinhardt on a deadline), and mindboggling piano (Ravel’s left-hand concerto, anything Villa-Lobos). I also enjoy indie music in coffee-shops—which I never find distracting, probably because coffee just about hypnotizes me.
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Issue Fall '21