Motive • Cecília Meireles

Cecília Meireles was a Brazilian writer, educator, and poet from Rio de Janeiro. Born in 1901, she lost her dad even before she was born, and when she was only three years old, her mother died, being then raised by her maternal grandmother.

Later in life, Cecília wrote:

“My lonely infancy gave me two things that might seem negative, but were positive for me: silence and solitude.”

She published her first book of sonnets at the age of eighteen. Later, she worked as a journalist writing columns (chronicles) focused on education and her trips abroad in Europe, Israel, and India.

She translated many writers such as Federico García Lorca, Ibsen, Rilke, and Virginia Woolf into the Portuguese language.

She taught Brazilian literature and culture at the University of Texas and gave lectures at the universities of Lisbon and Coimbra on Brazilian poetry and on the topic “Batuque, Samba e a Macumba,” also taking alongside her 75 authorial drawings and paintings for an exhibition in Portugal.

Nominated twice for the Nobel Prize, Cecília died of cancer in 1964 and left us an outstanding work with beautiful and perfect use of the Portuguese language.

Below, a translation of her poem “Motivo”:


I sing because the moment exists

and my life is complete.

I am not happy nor sad:

I am a poet.

Brother of fugitive things,

I feel no delight nor torment.

I cross nights and days

in the wind.

If I collapse or if I build,

If I persist or fall apart,

— I don’t know, I don’t know. Don’t know

whether I stay or depart.

I know that I sing. And the song is everything.

The eternal blood in the rhythmic wings.

And I know that one day I shall be silent:

— nothing more.

Translated by Mar Lima from the Portuguese – “Motivo” by Cecília Meireles.