Brain Drain


This lovely 18th century woodcut is but one of several illustrations included in Pedro Carolino‘s collection of poems, Cold in the Brain—just published in our Absurdist Texts & Documents series.

At first glance one might suspect that the image has been tampered with—(the subject appears to be wearing a headset)—but this is not the case. The illustration is simply that of a young, drooling poet in the throes of inspiration—wearing earmuffs to undoubtedly muffle distracting sounds while he  listens to the voice of his muse.

Had the artist intended to create a headset, then we’d be admiring the work of a visionary artist far ahead of his time. Parenthetically, had Carolino been a poet “ahead of his time” (as opposed to a head of his time, which he probably was) we’d have chosen illustrations from the 20th century.


Pedro Carolino was a 19th century Portuguese poet and translator, best remembered (if at all) for his Portuguese-English phrase book, English as She Is Spoke (often falsely attributed to José da Fonseca). The book is a classic of unintentional humour since its author could not speak English. According to Wikipedia Carolino used a French-English dictionary “to translate an earlier Portuguese-French phrase book, O Novo guia da conversação em francês e português, written by José da Fonseca.” Without permission, Carolino added Fonseca’s name to the book in an attempt to cash in on that author’s successful work. As for Carolino’s poetry, it would never have seen publication but for an earthquake in Lisbon, during which a casket containing the manuscript was unearthed.

Paul Forristal is the former Jean Poquelin Distinguished Visiting Professor
of Carolino Studies at San Diego State University. He is the author of Ronan, the definitive biography of the Brazilian-born Equatoguinean football defender Ronan Carolino Falcão, which has been translated into four languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, and Equatoguinean Spanish. Paul is currently at work on a guidebook for Carolino Canyon, a 40-acre day-use facility nestled in the juniper-pinion forests near Albuquerque. He lives in the Illinois Valley of southern Oregon.

Black Scat’s deluxe, annotated edition of COLD IN THE BRAIN is limited
to 69 copies.


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