guerilla bitchcraft


Adelaide Ivánova is a Brazilian poet and artist. We began by asking about the dedication: who is Maria Felipa? For a while we suspected she was a fictional construct, but eventually our workshop participant Anne did some investigation on the internet and discovered she was part of Bahia’s struggle for independence in 1823 – a seafood seller who led 200 people including black women against the Portuguese. The whole workshop was in fact a crash course in Brazilian history. We learnt about ‘captaincies’ – the administrative divisions of the Portuguese empire; caravels (small, highly maneuverable sailing ships); the associations of the south with coxinhas (battered and fried cones of chicken meat), and the current ‘black bloc’ movement (who all wear black when protesting to conceal their identities).

We were dazzled by Ivánova’s breadth of reference, lurching between the personal and political. One moment she jokes about weed and star-signs, the next she’s addressing rape, colonialism and Zika. It’s not often in a poetry workshop you have to read a whole Nirvana lyric (turns out ‘Polly’ is not really about a parrot). And how to translate the ‘piriguetismo’ of the title? Francisco Vilhena, who provided the bridge translation, said it meant something like ‘bitchism’, but had more a celebratory charge (a woman saying it to another woman was being positive). Anne made a very convincing case for ‘bitchismo’ but in the end we settled on Francisco’s suggestion of ‘bitchcraft’ as it sounded more empowered and cunning! We very much hope his plan to publish a book of translations of Adelaide Ivánova will happen soon.

Clare Pollard

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