Rafael Mendes is a poet who moved to Dublin in 2016. The following year he participated in the collection “32kg: An Anthology Brazil-Ireland” by Editora Urutau publishing with the same publisher his first collection “an essay on beauty and chaos”, launched in Brazil and Europe. His poems have been published in magazines, radio, and soirees in Ireland. He also took part in the anthology “Writing Home: The New Irish Poets”, by Dedalus Press, in the radio program of RTÉ and in the Sunflower Sessions zine.
He is part of the editorial committee of the bilingual magazine Diaspora and writes for the blog avessodapalavra.wordpress.com.
“Books were the best friends I had as a child”
Rafael was born in between Rio Juquery, on Rua do Inverno in Jardim das Colinas, a neighborhood that was paved only recently, but a place that woke him up every morning to the birdsong. There was a woodpecker in Franco da Rocha, who possibly told him stories about the city. Franco da Rocha, a ‘bridge between the countryside and the city’,residence of the largest mental hospital in Latin America, which today keeps its ‘crazy people’ free. I suspect that one of them is Rafael Mendes, a madman who dares to explore the world beyond his neighborhood, a madman who believes that art is capable of changing everything.
“There is a difference between saving lives and changing lives. Art will not save lives, but art can change a life. ”
In this conversation with Marluce Lima, he talks about art, chaos, beauty, love, and longing – a word full of meaning. We talked about memories – one of the raw materials of a poem – about languages and Rafael’s experience in translations for the Diaspora magazine.
We talked about his books, and he gave tips as a reader and as a writer. He is inspired by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska, the Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges, the Brazilians Lygia Fagundes Telles and Drummond, but the most important person in his literary life was Dona Joana, his grandmother.
“Every beautiful story has a bit of chaos, and every sad story has beauty.”
At 26 minutes of our conversation we changed places, we switched from Portuguese to English, as if this was a bridge capable of getting us through other worlds. Bilingual experimentation for our podcast.
He assumes that he writes differently when he switches the language and that ‘the concept of being a bilingual writer and reader is powerful’.
After three years, he leaves Ireland with two books published in the mother tongue and one in the second language. Then, I wonder will we soon read Rafael in Catalan?
Join in our conversation, listen to his poems, the birdsong of Rua do Inverno, and tell us what you think.
Thank you, Rafael, for this profound conversation on a Saturday afternoon in Dublin. I heard you singing from inside the window in Crumlin.