Brozilian Poetry

By Whitener, Brian | Chicago Review, Summer 2001 | Go to article overview

Brozilian Poetry


Whitener, Brian, Chicago Review


We turn to Brazilian poetry for many reasons now--beyond the simple sparking of our attention that the recent Nothing the Sun Could Not Explain (Sun & Moon, 1997) occasioned--each reason expressive of a latent desire, or expectation, or wish from our own poetry. Poesia concreta fascinates us as a major international movement with little American participation (half-truth) and the Niogandres group represents a formally experimental poetry which pointedly attempted to engage the social realities of Lubitschek's democratic presidency, Brazilian industrialization or "developmentalism," the hegemonic relation between First and Third World countries (deception), and the technological reality of writing in the nascent age of mass communication. In Brazil we also discern, not one, but two poetries of the people (generalization), a continuum which satisfies both strains of the American left, the consciousness raising Violao de rua anthologies (1962-3) and poesia marginal, the informal youth poetry of the 1970s. With T ropicalia, music and poetry become one (simplification), experimental poets... are popular! and reach a mass audience, and the revolutionary potential we see in music looks like it's redeemed in the way we would expect (misinformation). But to get back to the present--Brazil's response to two international phenomenon seems artistically promising (provocation): the criticism of postmodernism by Augusto de Campos in Post-tudo and the resistance to globalization which can be traced back to Oswald de Andrade's The Cannibal Manifesto, to the intellectual's of the 1950s, and to the Cinema Novo movement. Come, let us lie, sleep, and dream.

Thank God that the events of November 2, 2000 conspired to dispel all this with a healthy dose of empirical reality. That Thursday evening saw a sorry crowd of fifteen gather in Columbia College's Ferguson Theater to hear Regis Bonvicino and Horacio Costa read in conjunction with New American Writing's special issue of Brazilian poetry in translation. As editor, Bonvicino has put together a catholic selection of poetry spanning Brazilian modernism, the mid-century, and current experimental practice. Constituting the single largest selection of Brazilian poetry available in translation, the issue focuses primarily upon poets of Bonvicino's generation and those of the next, including Tarso M. de Melo who assisted with the production. While there is a little overlap with the Sun and Moon anthology, in terms of the poets, Bonvicino has been careful to present different facets of their work and it is, invariably, these poets who give us occasion to comment. Notably, Julio Castanon Guimaraes's "3 Movements," a poem of three short lyrics each prefaced by a place and year ("3. Brussels 89"), where memory intersects with the physical past incarnated in a sense of place; but not exactly 'place' but rather a pause in movement, the poet sitting in this pause, 'on line' as New Englanders say, recording the enigmatic passing into remembrance but without registering a sense of loss. …

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