Charles A. Perrone
Brazil certainly has a place in the international imaginary, though
poetry does not often dwell there. Interested parties continue
to make efforts to create a greater presence for Brazilian lyric on other
shores, beyond the boundaries of the nation, largely through bilingual
publications, of both established names and newer poets. Initiative
for such projects comes from private sources, state institutions, and university
environs. The academic world organizes endless conferences, symposia,
encounters, etc., and these can indicate current concerns and directions.
One such recent happening in the US featuring Latin America was called
“The Powers of Poetry.” Indeed. Many more events in the immediate
past have addressed such questions as hybridity, the transnational,
globalization, multilingual markets for literature, and the fin de siècle.
As 2000 approaches, it is probably inevitable that a next wave of discussion
should involve the end of the century.
All of these matters relate, directly or directly, to the present collection, as a venture involving international cooperation and as a selection of poems of variegated expression. It should be interesting to verify to what extent they hint at consciousness of such aspects as, say, the turn of the millenium or the implications of the proximity of 2001. In the specific domain of the poetry of a given country, s/he who wears the hat of (conventional) critic-historian has the chore of dealing with the mania of taxonomy, classification, labeling, periodizing. In the present case, naturally, we are too close to have to do that. We can say that these poets are “emerging” (though by age this is relative in a few cases, e.g. the rigorous Júlio Castañón Guimarães and Jacques Brand), that this is “new” poetry. Its sixties-born makers perhaps would have been called “novíssimos” in another time. They all are, however we choose to slice the pie, among the many in Brazil who are giving form to a new lore.
This volume was organized in Curitiba -- capital of a state (quite well represented in this undertaking by Neuza Pinheiro, Marcos Arruda, et al.) with a laudable purpose of outreach (to other Brazilian states and to other parts of the world) in its sights. Given this origin, one could hardly compose an afterword such as this one without alluding, rather pointedly, to one of the city’s favorite sons: poet-proseer- provocateur Paulo Leminski (1944-1989), who better than any other figure defines the generation that precedes the one of this anthology; who palpably, if you will, influences them (with rampant assonance, odd rhymes, fragments, humor, attitudes of attack); and who was, beginning with his contribution to the exceptional São Paulo arts journal Invenção (1962-67) and presence at the seminal Semana de Poesia de Vanguarda (Belo Horizonte 1963), an incarnation of curiosity, a cultural agitator, a dis-cartesian well of knowledge about languages in lyrical and less than lyrical lights, an avatar. With, during his lifetime and postmortem, his own particular lore. His one-word poster poem PERHAPPINESS (maybe felicity?) was a fine idea. The legacy of Leminski links him lovingly in his land, in recollection and in the latest feeling of things, to poetry in the final four decades of this about-to-end century.
One of the most memorable items in the disparate repertory of things poetic in 1970s’ Brazil was a montage that Leminski assembled (Polo Cultural 7/78). It is a collation of dozens of statements from different countries and centuries about what poets / poems are / do (or not). The myriad quotations are arranged in the form of spokes around the tips of four pointing index fingers on skeletons of hands. At the appointed center of the tabloid sits, in bold caps, the word POESIA. Let’s imagine it as covering an empty hub we might think of as the void or silence that is the other side of the dialectical equation whose solution makes (hopefully) poetry in diverse manifestations. The present crop of novíssimos may be aspiring to reach a position that would allow them to slide their fingers down some of those spokes: permanent hesitation between sound and sense (Paul Valéry), a true pretending (Fernando Pessoa), design of language (Décio Pignatari), criticism of life (Matthew Arnold), to inspire (Bob Dylan), the liberty of my language (Paulo Leminski), to name a few. The result might be to get a temporary shine or brilliance (“Gente é pra brilhar” [People are to shine] sang celebrated poet- composer Caetano Veloso citing the incomparable poet of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Mayakovsky via the translations of the incomparable concrete poets, Augusto and Haroldo de Campos). Or to discover peculiarities of the Brazilian tongue and of the languages of lyric (poetry and text for music), strange cousins at times, close enough to be incestuous, in select moments of history in given cultures, such as this one. Yes, because the poetry of song in Brazil, most notably in the late 1960s-1970s, has been a major force. With, above all, Caetano, so many of whose song texts impress us as poetry, and who, by the by, once recorded a song by Leminski. In the present collection, the musical link is represented dynamically by the cerebral poet Antônio Cícero, who has doubled as a leading lyrisict in the realm of rock. Musical motifs and vibrations are many here, salient examples being Marcos Prado’s popularesque “Sad Blue Men” and Carlito Azevedo’s classically toned “Four Movements.”
And riding the waves of reverberation (cf. texts of Ricardo Corona and Ademir Assunção) , it occurs to me that the words of these poems can also be trying to echo (cf. Rodrigo García Lopes) each other's materiality and possible significance, simply in order to respond to, extrapolate on, or de-center (an appropriately late-century verb) some centrifugal image (esp. Claudia Roquette-Pinto, Alexandre Horner). Or for someone to unsay a saying, the genesis of the poem for French American theorist Michel Rifaterre (The Semiotics of Poetry) and perchance for some of these voices too. Poets today still climb on acoustic, visual, and conceptual frames, which, at best, disclose something about the arbitrary nature of language, modes of perception, attempts at irrational knowledge, the back-and-forth of nonsense & meaning, sometimes related rather closely to self. And, why not?, they might want to build imaginary blocks, to create atmospheres or moods of words, to shape syntax, to pattern motion, to exorcise hypothetical selves, to temper falsified realities. In (ergo) sum, the big picture might encompass several ways to somewhere.
To return to the chores and commotion alluded to at the outset, at an event with a very international theme, an energetic speaker pondered how print culture is dying today in his homeland and how, in the 1950s, the great debate in poetry had been between those who wanted it to be fundamentally an act of communication grounded in more every-day linguistic reality and those who saw poetry as destruction of discourse (Octavio Paz, poetry is organized violence against language) toward the creation of new languages. Similar debates, of course, went on in many places, on other shores -- the Brazilian version was rich and exemplary-- and still goes on to the degree that poetry remains at issue and engaged parties want to pitch in. But perhaps more than ever we can understand, fin-de-siècle-ment, that both can be, that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive, that it is not a question of (n)either (n)or but rather of granting that poetry can be the “most,” and often is, when it suggests the mutual attraction of those poles or embodies a tension, even if an oscillating meeting point, between them. This is a perspective that novíssimos can have if they so desire, that they demonstrate in so many lines here, and that can be woven into their own new lore , which will be continuing to take shape at the dawn of one more decade, one more century, one more millenium.
Gainesville, Florida June 1997