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“The Stones” by Cora Coralina

By HEESUN KOH - September 22 2023

Mother of Brazilian Poetry, Cora Coralina (1889~1985)

“Whether life is too short or too long for us, I don’t know.
But I do know that if we cannot touch the hearts of others,
then our life will have no meaning.”

Cora Coralina is a beloved poet among the people of Brazil, and she is also an educator and a short story writer who has left behind a beautiful life story. Born in Goiás*, she started writing at the age of fourteen and, at nineteen, co-founded the women’s poetry newspaper “A Rosa” with her friends ‘Alice Santana’, ‘Rosa Godinho’, and ‘Leodegária de Jesus’. From that point on, she began writing short stories and chronicles under the pen name ‘Cora Coralina’, drawing inspiration from simple things to create touching writings. Her original name is ‘Anna Lins dos Guimarães Peixoto Bretas’.

*Goiás: A state in central Brazil with a population of approximately 5.6 million.

Das Pedras

Ajuntei todas as pedras

Ajuntei todas as pedras
que vieram sobre mim.
Levantei uma escada muito alta
e no alto subi.
Teci um tapete floreado
e no sonho me perdi.
Uma estrada,
um leito,
uma casa,
um companheiro.
Tudo de pedra.
Entre pedras
cresceu a minha poesia.
Minha vida…
Quebrando pedras
e plantando flores.
Entre pedras
que me e smagavam
levantei a pedra rude
dos meus versos.  
Gathered Stones

Gathered Stones,
One by one,
That came upon me.
Raised a ladder tall,
Towards skies I trod.
A carpet of flowers,
Woven in my dream,
And got lost.
A road,
A bed,
A house,
A friend,
All formed by stones.
Among these stones,
My poetry grew.
My life…
Breaking stones and Planting flowers.
Between stones that smote me
I raised the rough stone
Of my verses.  

Translated by HeeSun K. 

This verse unfolds, a tale to share of stones as trials that souls must bear.
These stones aren’t reserved for some, but all must navigate and overcome.
Challenges, sorrows, tears, and strife, form the fabric of every life.
With care, the poet gathers each stone, stacking them high, crafting a throne.
A tower of trials, she’s building tall with courage, she answers her call.
Complaining not, she aspires to rise towards the heavens, where dreams comprise.
With each step climbed, a pattern spun, like silk threads weaving under the sun.
Yet in pursuit of this lofty height, exhaustion creeps, and day turns to night.
Sleep’s embrace, a gentle reprieve, where dreams entwine and spirits believe.
What struggles faced, what battles fought, to reach that peak, where dreams are sought? Despite the toil, she journeys on, seeking beauty till the breaking dawn.
In slumber’s realm, she may lose her way but such is the price dreamers often pay. For in pursuit of beauty’s sweet thrill, a wandering path can be part of the skill. Within the stones that challenge her tread, Cora finds treasures, like words unread. A single pebble, precious and rare, her poetry’s essence, a gem beyond compare. In pain’s embrace and trials faced, her verses bloom, with strength encased. A flower of art, amidst life’s debris, her soul’s song sung with a heart so free. Cora, she likens herself to a guide, climbing life’s mountain, side by side. Clearing the stones, planting flowers anew, a testament to strength, forever true.
This imagery, a journey’s portrayal, of facing life’s tests, with unwavering valor.
Pain transformed into art’s brilliant light. A poet’s spirit takes its flight.

What holds significance in your academic journey
Isn’t just where you begin, but the path you traverse.
By consistently putting in effort and learning,
You’ll ultimately yield the rewards you seek.

Cora Coralina portrays herself as a woman like any other, a soul that has journeyed across centuries and eras, carrying the weight of impossible dreams while yearning for life. Carlos Drummond de Andrade, a prominent Brazilian poet and one of the most revered writers in Latin America during his time, was entranced by Cora’s “remarkable life, gracefully lived through poetry.” He extolled her verses, likening them to flowing brooks, brimming with the force of nature and the finesse of lyrical expression.
After her passing at the age of 95 in her hometown of Goiás on April 10, 1985, the very house she once inhabited has been transformed into the Cora Coralina Museum. In 2001, it was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a powerful testament to the profound impact of her life.

Cora’s eye glasses and a letter from Carlos Drummond de Andrade
Photo by Eduardo Vessoni

I sincerely express my gratitude to my Brazilian friend Andreia (Andreia Vettorazzo) for sending me a beautiful poem. 

When I lived in Boston, I met her at MIT. She studied at Sloan School at that time. She is an entrepreneur and she is living in Brazil with her family. When I got in touch with Andreia, her mother passed away and she was in mourning, despite this time of profound sadness, she shared Cora’s poem ‘Das Pedras’ with me. May Andreia’s mother rest in peace

Andreia and her mother Sonia

HeeSun Koh

With a heart brimming of joy, I extend my warmest greetings to the readers of Learning Curves. An exquisite journey into the realm of world poetry is about to unfold before you. Through the pages of the column I’m crafting, you are set to embark on an enchanting journey, immersing yourselves in the symphony of verses from diverse lands. Prepare to be captivated, for the pure elation of poetry will wrap around you like a comforting embrace. With each line, you’ll traverse into the enigmatic, the picturesque, the ethereal – a world where words give life to feelings that resonate across souls. This travel shall not be confined by borders; it will foster connections that transcend cultures, uniting hearts in the beautiful tapestry woven by the power of poetic expression. So, open your hearts and minds, for the verses that lie ahead are poised to guide us, like twinkling stars in the velvety night sky.

HeeSun is a poet and storybook writer who belongs to the University in the Community. She brings hope to people and brightens the world with beautiful poems, songs, and stories. She is a member of the Pen International.


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