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Volume 58 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL


Poetry

NAOMI HOKI MONIZ, Associate Professor of Portuguese, Georgetown University


IN THE LAST 20 YEARS, globalization and democratization, combined with the pervasiveness of media and communications technology, have resulted in tremendous changes in the cultural life of Brazil, and in the production, distribution, and consumption of its culture. Brazilian poetry has not been impervious to these alterations; poetic works are exhibiting a wider range of views and approaches and demonstrating a renewal of older forms. Contemporary Brazilian poetry conveys the fluidity and movement of the present, while portraying the utopian ideal as empty, disappointing, or even abandoning attempts to define a perfect society. Perhaps poetry has entered a "post-utopian" era as expressed by the poet and rock singer Arnaldo Antunes. Despite these trends, no single new style or movement has established itself as paramount. Lack of consensus about the social role of literature makes it difficult to find a common poetic language that unifies a diverse group of writers.

Some of the aforementioned issues are analyzed in Charles Perrone's Seven Faces: Brazilian Poetry Since Modernism (item #bi 98004842#), a survey of poetry produced in Brazil from the 1950s to the late-1980s. This work and Gonzalez and Treece's The Gathering of Voices: the Twentieth Century Poetry of Latin America (1992) are among the few English-language studies about the new generation of Brazilian poetry. Contemporary Brazilian poetry exhibits, in its various stages—tropicalismo, marginal, post-Concretism, and postmodernism—tendencies that have different forms of resistance, nonconformity, and formal innovation. In general, contemporary poets have been practicing the major themes of earlier groups, particularly those found in the works of the "Geração de 60;" and post-Concretist works: 1) the obligatory points de répere, i.e., points of reference in their own language, that is their lyric inheritance; 2) the use of the epic and long narrative poems; and 3) metapoetics or the exploration of the nature and function of poetry.

Democratization has led to a movement away from a unified critical libertarian political perspective to a fragmented body of voices—feminist, racial, and ethnic, among others—demanding a share of the public space. Additionally, there is an acute awareness of marketing forces, and the inter-relationship of media, art, and culture. The Concretist movement anticipated this point of view with its critical exploration of the relationship between advertising and new media technology, poetry, and popular music (for example, the poetry of Vinicius de Moraes, MPB or tropicalismo, and even in rock, among singers/poets like Antunes).

In the 1990s and as the end of the millennium approached, several prominent themes were evident in the "novíssima poesia brasileira." First among these themes is self-knowledge, the "search for the self," or the formation of the subject, together with its opposite, the "loss of self " or the dissolution of the subject. The second theme, poetry as its own subject, is more reflexive, less centered in self-expression and less autobiographical as it questions the subject itself, the implied reader, and the idea of reality in poetry. The third theme, modern urban life as a disaster, reflects the explosion of large urban centers. A fourth theme explores the persistence of the topos of the poetic search, a key myth of modern poetry. This poetic odyssey is found in two opposing theoretical camps of Brazilian poetry: Haroldo de Campos' Sobre Finismundo: a último viagem, which narrates a journey through literary history (item #bi 98005408#), and Alexei Bueno's A via estreita, a search for history in its totality, which is linked to the modernist ideology that the structure and content of poetry is created through history. Bueno stands out as one of the preeminent poets of the "novissima geração," a unique poet within the typically aristocratic diction and references of this group, and, as noted by Stegagno-Picchio, the "last of the classics" with roots in the Luso-Brazilian tradition. Fifth, in addition to Bueno's metaphysical search, a number of poets have preserved a type of spiritual poetry, especially in the Northeast with the influence of Jorge de Lima and, in the South, thanks to the gaúcho poet Nejar. Nejar, the author of Arca da Aliança is also considered a classic modern poet, according to Octavio Paz (item #bi 98004996#). Finally, race has become synonymous with community for Afro-Brazilians and the commingling of these ideas figures prominently within their poetry.

As we enter a new millennium, there is a need for coalitions that transcend differences of color, culture, and class to ensure political and economic advancement. There is a need to explore our diverse personal histories and to examine our multifaceted heritage to relieve racial and ethnic conflict and resolve issues of identity, providing a kind of "healthy ethnocentrism."

Finally, it is important to note that during this biennium, two great names in Brazilian literature—Carlos Drummond de Andrade and João Guimarães Rosa—had their works Farewell and Magma published for the first time (items #bi 98004841# and #bi 00006068#, respectively).


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