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Carlos Pena Filho

Date Born.:

Lawyer, Journalist, Poet


Carlos Pena Filho

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 27/09/2013

By: Maria do Carmo Gomes de Andrade - Librarian of the Fundação Joaquim Nabuco

Gifted with keen imagination, aesthetic sensitivity and intelligence
Carlos Pena Filho would have to rock his generation,
to its foundations, with his message, of which was the
most convincing: lucidity.
(J. Gonçalves de Oliveira)

Carlos Souto Pena Filho, a poet from Pernambuco, was born in Recife on 17 May 1928. His father was a Portuguese trader, Carlos Souto Pena and his mother was Laurinda Souto Pena. He completed his primary and intermediate education in Portugal. When he returned to Recife, he studied at Colégio Nóbrega and at Joaquim Nabuco.

From an early age he started to write and develop his poetic vocation. In 1947, Diário de Pernambuco published his sonnet Marinha. From then on his poems continued to be published in North-eastern Brazilian supplements and in publications from southern Brazil as well. His compositions began to be read and sought after. He was hailed as a promising great poet of the new Pernambuco generation.

His first sonnets and poems were collected and published under the general title of O tempo de busca (The Time of Searching). Later, having been linked to the group known as O Gráfico Amador (The Beloved Graphic), Carlos Pena Filho published a long poem entitled Memórias do Boi Serapião (Memories of Boi Serapião), printed in the presses of rua Amélia with the graphic design of Aloísio Magalhães, under the supervision of Gastão de Holanda, Orlando da Costa Ferreira and José Laurênio de Melo. The poem is an erudite version of Cordel (string) literature and begins in a sentimental and melancholic way, by saying: Este campo, vasto e cinzento/ não tem começo nem fim/ nem de leve desconfia, das coisas que vão em mim (This field, vast and grey / has neither beginning nor end / nor light mistrust, of the things that run in me).

He worked for Diario de Pernambuco, Diário da Noite, Folha da Manhã, but made his mark in his journalistic endeavours mainly at the Jornal do Commercio, where he was the editor of the Literature section, later entitled Rosa dos Ventos (Rose of the Winds).

Upon entering the Faculdade de Direito do Recife (Recife Faculty of Law), in 1953, he linked up with old friends from Colégio and made many new friends, most of whom were part of a generation interested in politics, sociology and, primarily, literature, rather than in the Science of Law. There were, of course, exceptions that went on to have stellar careers in law. Out of these friends, his closest were: José Souto Maior Borges, Geraldo Mendonça, Eduardo Moraes, José Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti, Sileno Ribeiro, Sérgio Murilo Santa Cruz, José Meira, Joaquim Mac Dowell, Edmir Domingues, César Leal, Mozart Siqueira and many others with blossoming intelligence, whose thinking would be dedicated to the Science of Law.

Despite achieving an average result in his vestibular exam, Carlos Pena Filho impressed others thanks to his cultural strengths. This did not stop him, time and time again, from using his imagination to overcome unpredictable challenges. Once, after being told he was wrong during an oral exam about a certain aspect of Law, he refuted the professor who had warned him by emphatically stating that a new but already “famous European jurist” – Fred Zinneman – thought in the same way he had expressed. The professor accepted his “statement” without knowing, and probably never knowing, that Fred Zinneman was the exceptionally talented cinematographic director responsible for directing the film High Noon, one of the best westerns of all time, which was then en vogue.

In the same year he graduated (1957), A vertigem lúcida (Lucid Vertigo) was published by the Secretary of the State of Pernambuco. Carlos Pena was at the height of his art and editions of his books quickly sold out.

The poet assumed the role of Social Service Attorney for Slums, increasing his responsibility and limiting his time for creative dreaming. However, his already edited poetic work, with new poems added, was compiled and published under the title Livro Geral (General Book).

The work of Carlos Pena Filho revealed delicate sentiments and was careful not to offend people and ideals. He was considered by friends to be a very communicative, smiling, cordial, tolerant and understanding person. Naturally, many of these characteristics were passed on to his works.

His final poem, Eco (Echo), was published in the Jornal do Commercio, on a Sunday, which was the eve of his tragic death.

On 2 June 1960, the poet was in the car of his friend, the lawyer José Francisco de Moura Cavalcanti, when they were hit by an out-of-control bus. Carlos Pena received a violent blow to the head. Radio soon broke the news and authorities and friends rushed to the Emergency Room. The bus driver and Moura Cavalcanti suffered minor injuries, but Carlos Pena couldn’t resist his injuries and died on 10 June 1960.

Friends, intellectuals throughout Brazil, his wife Maria Tânia, his daughter Clara Maria, his brother and sister, Fernando and Maria, were all left distraught. The funeral procession, with speeches at the entrance to the tomb and with the large number of people accompanying it, demonstrated how greatly adored a poet he was.

Recife, 11 November 2004.
(Updated on 9 September 2009).
Translated by Peter Leamy, January 2011.

sources consulted

CARLOS Pena Filho (Foto neste texto). Revista do Nordeste, Recife, ano 3, n. 29, p. 22-23, 15 jun. 1960.

PENA FILHO, Carlos. Livrogeral. Recife: Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, 1969.

______. O Tempo de busca. Recife: Região, [195-?].

SILVA, Jorge Fernandes da. Vidas que não morrem. Recife: Secretaria de Educação, 2000. v.1.

how to quote this text

Source: ANDRADE, Maria do Carmo. Carlos Pena Filho. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.