Washington University Libraries Home
Final Versions Home

Samambaia, October 3rd, 1963

Dear May:

Yes, I did get those reviews ߶ replying to yrs of the 25th – and, tell me, was there a letter in with them, too? I thought I saw something — that blue paper —then when I looked for it I couldn’t find it, and only turned up an d advertisement on paper the same color. However — if there was one I’ll find it when I go back to Rio next week, - it’s there somewhere, and Joanna just "tidied" it away — although I beg her please not to tidy my desk — (Also missing are some translated poems I’d promised to get to POETRY.) Our lives have been very upset lately, as you can see. Lota did go back to work much too soon and came down with typhoid fever.- From now on we must remember to take those shots every year. I suppose it’s endemic here, but one doesn’t hear of it often. — We’re careful about drinking water - but in her weak state she could have picked it up almost anywhere. That’s why I didn’t write sooner about your reviews, etc. Then she came up here with our maid, to recuperate and I went to the hospital for a week’s rest, supposedly. — I took some letters along to answer, but didn’t — and missed the one I thought I’d seen, from you—maybe an hallucination. I was naturally feeling rather hallucinated by then. I came straight from the hospital up here — grandly, in a government car L’s entitled to but almost never uses. — It is heaven to be back here and how we wish we could stay. — But L is much better, almost like herself again at last, and so back we go, the first of next week. — I do have a vacant apartment [inserted handwritten] Betty T’s [symbol] In Rio [/insert] to work in now, however — about a mile’s hike up the beach — and that’s a great help. My "rest home" was so funny — or seems so now. — A place run by 7th-Day Adventists, away up on the peaks, near that awful Christ — and it was very good. — Apparently about a year ago, to make it pay, they had to go in with one of the "Syndicatos" (labor unions) and it has deteriorated horribly, - but I didn’t discover this till I got up there, then couldn’t face moving out. It was like a combination church — picnic and a trip to Yugoslavia or onr of those Russian Black Sea resorts [with] men clad in pajamas — what was a lovely garden, the time I visited a friend there, now a ruin - The "poor" have moved in, with their shrieking children and pocket radios—One doesn’t know which to hate more — rich or poor — but I suppose the poor aren’t to blame for their dirt and noise, and the rich are guilty. — Hymn-singing every evening, below me — and the food is still superb — vegetarian — only now they’ve had to put rice and black beans on every luncheon, and meat every other day — for the "syndicate" — I give the place about 2 more months. I’ll enclose a curious sample menu for you to see! — (if you care what I ate for breakfast two weeks ago—) It was a weird experience — but I did feel much better at the week’s end — Typhoid isn’t as serious as it used to be, but poor Lota had an awful fever — and I was scared to death — We are both so healthy usually that we can’t take being sick gracefully. She gets FURIOUS!

(Heavens I wish you were here to adjust this Olympia for me,— I’m so stupid about typewriters — keeps falling out and off)

I think the reviews are WONDERFUL, May — you are being a huge success I can see, and a well-deserved one. And they both pick the right things to admire, for once. Richard Moore obviously loves the poems he talks about — and I think he says, but better, what I meant by comparing you to Clare. — And now the theatre fellowship — hurray for you! I thought of applying myself, but didn’t know where I could go if I got one — your problem too, I think? How ever — I think you can go abroad on them — I’m pretty sure. Why not a stretch of "little theatre" in London? That was my only scheme — they do put on so many little-theatre things there, much more than N Y — (But I knew I couldn’t even start writing a play.)

I haven’t seen anything in the N Y Times Book Review yet — or have I missed it? Do tell me of any others — I get that and the quarterlies — U S, the other reviews I get are English. But surely you shd. have an English edition? — or an English selected or collected poems?

I am glad you go the record safely-how did Betty get it to you and I shall expect you to be samba-ing next time I see you. That record sounds like Carnival — there are many more-beautiful old sambas and marchinhas — but it’s hard to get good recordings — they insist on jazzing them up, or making them pretty — and the words are the best part, anyway — I hope I get the Spoon River anthology safely — you really can’t be expected to send me two of everything! — Have I told you yet that I did finally get a hard-cover copy of your book? (I’m sorry if I haven’t thanked you for this before.) Flavio is studying the paper copy at present. He was up here two days ago to get my help in filling out all the forms for Harvard. — I think he’s pretty certain to go in 64, - He brought a new poem along and it is very good — It would be odd if he turned out to be a poet. At 9 P M Mary Morse drove him to the bus stop, to get a bus from Petropolis to Rio. At 11:30 the poor boy telephone from Petropolis — no more busses to after 9 — he’d waited for one to come through from Brazilia and it was too full to get on. — So Lota and I got up and dressed and drove off to find him — it was raining (the one and only time in 5 months) — and L still can’t drive, really — one wrist all bandaged up — (She had ghastly troubles at the hospital because her veins are too small or too deep for those damned glucose needles — and she lived on it for ten days, coming home a mass of sore limbs) — But we did find him, and finally all got to bed at 1 A M. — This is typical country life, I suppose — and typical of Brazil these days that there are no busses after 9—We have light-rationing every night — strikes galore — and maybe a revolution in Rio today — rumors flying — there is my buzzer for lunch —

Afternoon

I hadn’t had a chance to play the Johnson record — any record- until I got up here. Didn’t you like it? — or maybe you don’t like pure blues the way I do. I think it’s superb — heavens! Flavio, who shares my tastes, & I sent Lota to another part of the house and listened to all of it. — Then some Bessie Smith, who sounds ultra-professional after him. — I do thank you a lot, and I feel sure I owe you a lot of money — for postage, at least, on all these things—The trouble is that after the I keep putting everything every thought, into blues form — and very little of my thinking makes good blues, alas. "Brazil Blues" all right — but they have their own forms —

Now our bird poem: Oh dear I had the name partly wrong, I see — It’s Bico Lacre — I had the lacre wrong because I went by the way the man in the shop and our maid say it — and the "lower orders" often leave out "r"s — sort of baby-talk. Also, I’m afraid they come from Africa —you can probably see them among the finches in that Radio City subway pet-shop. Joanna swore they had them up in her northern state and described them most poetically — but a boy I know, a zoologist, was here yesterday and said they’re either Australian or African — so you can go see them and check on my accuracy. — There’s no real "spot" — just a faintly deeper rose color on the belly — The egg is — well, I think I said "jelly bean" but maybe it’s smaller. — a Boston baked bean would be right — not a N.Y. one. — I must put on my reading glasses — not tudo o mundo. — I’m just getting more & more far-sighted with age — There’s no "stripe," just the male’s black pencil-line moustache. — I think you shd have a pair, too, - Here I paid what — with inflation- came to 22 cents each for them—The brute of a woman in the pet shop said — "if you cut their claws they’ll get tame" ! if you cut their claws they’ll die of heart attacks, more like it -

Link to the image of the first page of this letter.
Link to the image of the second page of this letter.
Link to the image of the third page of this letter.
Link to the image of the menu referred to in this letter.