a literary tour of writer Paulo Leminski’s hometown
Eduardo do Valle
Getty Images, Publicity, and Orlando Azevedo / Illustration: Leonardo Kayo
Between bars and bookstores, explore the favorite places of Paulo Leminski, a poet that’s the personification of Curitiba
Paulo Leminski is the “crazy dog,” the “former weirdo,” the “beast from the pine fields” of Brazilian literature. In Curitiba, however, he is the friend, the colleague, and the father who frequented the streets, bookstores, and bars in the city until 1989, the year he died. As he drank from such different sources as concretism and the Japanese poetry form known as Haiku, he never cared about aesthetics: he wrote as he spoke – and he spoke with a Curitiba accent. In 2013, his entire body of work was re-released. He became a best-selling author. Ever since, he has inspired an official itinerary in the Paraná capital, where people still remember him as just “Paulo.”
“My father loved going out. He walked around a lot,” says Aurea Leminski, the author’s daughter. Perhaps that’s why he’s in the memory of bars like Bife Sujo and Bar do Stuart, where he used to be seen writing on napkins, as recalled by Orlando Azevedo, a Portuguese photographer who lives in Curitiba and still keeps one of these “relics.” In the early 1970s, Azevedo was a member of the band A Chave, with which the poet collaborated on more than one occasion. “Back then, Paulo still liked rock’n’roll,” jokes Azevedo, “then he learned of Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and only listened to MPB.”
Aurea recalls that her family home, in the neighborhood of Pilarzinho, was a famous stronghold for the “marginália” in the 1970s, where the author received all the city’s intellectuals. It was this fame that once attracted young Caetano, as well as singer Gal Costa, who were curious about this guru. The meeting yielded fruits, like the lyrics to the song “Verdura,” written by Leminski.
The writer was also a regular at the public library and the bookstore Livraria do Chain, where he did research for his experimental prose book Catatau (1975). His interest in Eastern culture, portrayed in the Haiku in Distraídos venceremos (1987), for instance, was sparked by the martial arts: Leminski was a judo black belt and trained at the Kodokan gym, which is still in business to this day.
The poet hardly ever left Curitiba. He used to say that “you can’t transplant a pine tree.” These days, he’s an icon in the city. Even graffiti artists pay homage to him. On the walls in the city center and at Largo da Ordem, you can still find the deep roots of his marginal art.