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Volume 64 / Humanities

LITERATURE: BRAZIL: Poetry


NAOMI HOKI MONIZ, Associate Professor Emerita of Literature, Georgetown University

THE PANORAMA OF POETRY in Brazil, as it can be observed in the publications of the last few years, has not changed much since the beginning of the new millennium. There is a complete edition of the perennial favorite and popular Mario Quintana (item #bi2007002175#) and an anthology organized by Gullar and Dora Ferreira da Silva including the "usual suspects" (Chacal, A. Antunes, F. Alvim, L. Frota among others) (item #bi2007002168#). These poets have established their reputations over the last three or four decades, and in their variety and lack of affiliation to a particular group or canon represent what the critic Fabio Lucas said about the fragmentary nature of Brazilian poets, "estrelas solitarias cada qual com seu brilho e trajetoria" (in Linguagem Viva, Ano 13, São Paulo, 2001).

Although significantly fewer authors appear to be in search of a national identity—a prevalent theme in the past—the themes of identity, culture, and Otherness continue to be central to many readings. Sociologically based critical schools often privilege these themes. Thus some of the marginalized voices given currency in the later decades of the past century are still represented, such as the works of Afro-Brazilians published by Quilombhoje (item #bi2008003773#); the regional poets primarily subsidized by local cultural institutions (items #bi2007002158# and #bi2007002953#); and women authors, often more inspired by classical themes than feminist ones (items #bi2007002182#, #bi2007002198#, and #bi2007002150#). Also found among this group of previously marginalized poets are more poems of Patativa do Assaré, now one of the best known poets of oral literature in Brazil (item #bi2007002185#).

The 50th anniversary of Brasília's inauguration is the topic of an anthology of poems about the nation's capital with established poets revisiting the aspirations and dreams of creating a utopic city and the unrealized promises of "the city on the hill" (item #bi2007002188#). A group of publications feature Carlos Nejar (item #bi2007002173#) and Ledo Ivo (item #bi2007002174#), who have been well-known authors for almost half a century. Also reviewed for HLAS 64 is a new edition of the counterrevolutionary text of the 1970s "Me segura que vou ter um troco" by composer, lyricist, and poet Wally Salomão, who died in 2003 while a member of Gilberto Gil's office in the Ministry of Culture (item #bi2007002950#), and a book by Bruno Tolentino, who passed away in 2007 (item #bi2007002186#). The dearth of new voices is underlined by the publication of complete works by "young" poets such as Alexei Bueno who is in his forties and has been publishing since the 1980s.

Given this scenario, one may ask what is the state of poetry in Brazil today?

While a few chauvinistic critics extol the quality of Brazilian poetry as being as good or better than other countries, others such as Alcir Pécora have been contemptuous of the official editorial presses and of the paucity of new talent in a country that has, according to him, more poets who boast publicly about being "followers" of consecrated poets and not enough of those with Oedipal "anxiety of influence" rebelliousness (in Jornal da Unicamp, 283, 2005) Adding to the criticism is the poet and editor of the online magazine Revista de Poesia, Floriano Martins, who laments the dubious quality of works that are published, saying "stupefied irreverence, frivolous Orientalisms, and innocuous graphics, works lacking a real contribution to the poetic meaning (in Revista de Poesia, 1, 2004).

There is much confusion about how the genre has been evolving and there may be new poetic/artistic practices that don't conform to known paradigms as mentioned by the critics above or the usual lamentation of the type "não há inauguração do novo, reinvencao do já inventado." Nicolas Bourriaud observed a trend that began in the 1990s that he labeled "post-production": a tendency among many artists, in response to the chaos in global culture, to follow consumer society and the media. The notion of originality, creation, and uniqueness are discarded by the artist who interprets, reproduces or uses works made by others as available cultural products and draws on "ready-made" forms previously disdained or ignored.

In Brazil, the romantic, take-to-the-streets movement of the 1970s generation, resulting in the violão de rua and poesia de varal (street guitar and clothesline poetry) evolved into using the public space agora with a new focus on interactivity—whether in the street, shopping mall or via the ever-changing impact of media technologies. A growing number of artists use performance and interactive techniques that rely on the responses of others, strangers or passersby. This group of artists resists traditional channels, making it more difficult to locate and evaluate their work. Despite their rejection of institutional venues, they are sharing their work on the web, searching for connectedness and relational esthetics.


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