Haroldo Eurico Browne de Campos was born in São Paulo, on August 19, 1929. He graduated from Brazil’s oldest and most prestigious faculty of Law of the University of São Paulo. After first publishing poems and translations in the São Paulo press in the 1940s, he published his first book – O auto do possesso – through the São Paulo Poetry Club in 1950.
Two years later, he formed the Noigandres group with his brother, Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignatari, both of whom were also students at the Largo de São Francisco Law School. The word ‘noigandres’ pertains to the language spoken in the Provence region of France and its precise meaning is disputed. The poet Ezra Pound, considered a precursor to Concrete Poetry, used the word in his tenth Canto and it later became the title of a magazine published by the Noigandres group in five issues over a period of ten years (Noigandres I, 1952; II, 1955; III, 1956; IV, 1958; V, 1962). The members of the Noigandres group are considered co-inventors of Concrete Poetry on the global level and their poetic creations, also known as shape or visual poetry, were exhibited outside the limits of printed publications at the National Exhibition of Concrete Art, held at the Museum of Modern Art in São Paulo, in 1956, and at the Ministry of Education and Culture in Rio de Janeiro, in 1957.
Expanding the group’s activities through the Invenção team, between 1960 and 1967 Haroldo became a collaborator on its weekly section in the Correio Paulistano newspaper and was deeply involved in Invenção – Revista de arte e vanguarda, a magazine published by the same team in five editions between 1962 and 1967, focusing primarily on the arts and avant-garde creations.
Haroldo’s first collection of poetry, Xadrez de Estrelas – Percurso textual (1949-1974), was published in 1976 and contains his early and concrete productions as well as a significant excerpt from Galaxias, a poetic prose work published in its final version in 1984. In his subsequent books – from Signantia: Quasi Coelum – Signância: quase céu (1979)to the posthumous publication of Entremilênios (2009) – Haroldo developed his heavily intertextual writing and elevated level of poetical complexity and construction, characteristics that made Campos an icon of Brazilian Poetry.
But inseparable from his poetry and his name are his translation works that range from Ezra Pound's The Cantos (in collaboration with Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignatari, 1960) to Homer's Iliad (2 volumes, 2002/2003), in addition to posthumous publications. His unique vision toward literary translation, which was discussed in his many essays and introductory texts where he theorized his particular idea of translation, or 'transcreation' as he defined it, made him an international reference in the field of literary translation. His rich linguistic and literary knowledge also included ancient Hebrew texts, Dante and Goethe, classic Chinese poetry and Noh Theater, as well as the modern poetry of several languages and contemporary poets such as Octavio Paz, Giuseppe Ungaretti and Konstantinos Kaváfis.
Copious theoretical postulations registered in many essays on art and literature accompanied his translation work and through which he also exercised critical reflection on the act of literary creation. His intense correspondence with global intellectuals like Umberto Eco, Roman Jakobson, Tzvetan Todorov and Octavio Paz, to name but a few, is apparent in his texts, replete with singular awareness of contemporaneous thinking and associated with a scholarly interest in uncovering the past through historical texts.