A debut for a grown boy…[1]

by Camila Lourenço Panhoca and Pedro Panhoca da Silva 

That’s what the book Mar & Versos: Entre Amor & Armas – “Sea & Verses: Between Love & Weapons”, in free translation – by Gustavo Paes, is like. This debut work by the young author from Rio de Janeiro, who was 18 at the time, was more than just an attempt at how to venture into the world of writing.

cover image of Gustavo Paes, Mar & Versos

The book has several charms of its own. In the paratexts there is a short story of how it came about – a gift from the author’s father to his son – internal intertextualities, with sometimes identical verses copied from one poem to another, which a reader who is enchanted by the poems in this book will easily realise that “They’ve read this a while ago”. The little thematic variation helps to consolidate an identity to the book, moving it away from the “heap of poems” books.

Despite the name, few are the poems dedicated to the marine environment, such as As ondas vêm… (“The waves come…”), Ondas Gigantes (“Giant waves”) and As ondas vão… (“The waves go…”). Normally associated with freedom and love, Paes attributes an exactly opposite connotation to the sea: it is suffering, longing, pain, estrangement. Love is the subject of other productions by the author, always in a tragic way, such as Alma (“Soul”), Casados(“Married”) and Querida (“Darling”), which gives his debut work a tone of originality. 

The great highlight goes to the connection between the first and last poems of the book, As ondas vêm… and As ondas vão…; They are highly reminiscent of the feeling of being alone adrift on a sea being pushed and carried by its waves, in a swing that simulates well the feeling of loneliness.

As can be expected, the debutant poet is far from being a scholar or a big name, which does not diminish Paes’ poetry. Younger readers will be able to identify with his texts thanks to his language being able to say much of what young audiences feel. It may also appeal to more experienced readers who prefer direct poems to academic litanies.

For the reader looking for love in reading, Mar & Versos will be a low blow that will shatter expectations. But even a sad book like this may well teach us to love again. Some need suffering to value what is good in life, and this is what Gustavo Paes poetically alerts us to with his work.

Camila Lourenço Panhoca is a specialist in Early Childhood Education and Literacy from the Centro Universitário Claretiano (CEUCLAR). She is teacher at Colégio Antares. She has dozens of published book reviews in journals, newspapers and websites. Contact: camiladopedro@gmail.com

Pedro Panhoca da Silva is a PhD in Literature from Mackenzie Presbyterian University (UPM) and Herz Fellowship/Universität Konstanz scholar. He is the author of the book Traumas & Tabus (2016), co-editor of the books Narrativas interativas contemporâneas (2022) and Role-Playing Game: práticas, ressignificações e potencialidades(2021), besides hundreds of poems, short tales and short stories published in literary anthologies of Brazil, Portugal, Spain and India. He writes reviews and articles to Alarums and Excursions (monthly) and Legendary Art Magazine(quarterly), proofreads gamebooks to Jambô publishing house as a freelancer and helps to update gameboorks.org. Contact: ppanhoca@yahoo.com.br

[1] „Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF) und dem Wissenschaftsministerium Baden-Württemberg (MWK) im Rahmen der Exzellenzstrategie von Bund und Ländern“.

“Funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science as part of the Excellence Strategy of the German Federal and State Governments”.

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