55. Contemporary Brazilian Poetry

Junge Dichtung gibt es in allen Ländern und wir wissen viel zu wenig davon. Mit der Reihe “Türmer der Nachbarn” wollen wir den babelsprech-Kreis junger deutschsprachiger Dichtung erweitern. Wir sind froh, dass wir diese Erweiterung nun auch organisatorisch abbilden können, denn wir konnten das Hilda Magazine und die holländische Seite Samplekanon für eine Kooperation gewinnen. Nachdem Max Oravin im ersten Beitrag die junge Finnische Dichtung vorgestellt hat, widmet sich die folgende Serie der Dichtung in Brasilien. Ricardo Domeneck, Herausgeber von Hilda und Lyriker zwischen Brasilien und Berlin nähert sich mit angemessener Vorsicht einem Feld, das viel zu lange als ausschließlich Portugiesisch beschrieben worden ist. Aber Brasilien ist älter und jünger als die Geschichte portugiesischer Kollonisation, vor allem ist dessen Lyrik pluralistischer. Diese Vielfalt verfolgt der Autor in den kommenden drei Ausgaben. In diesem ersten Block zunächst einige grunlegende Überlegungen, eine historische Einleitung und ein Teil zur gegenwärtigen Performance Kunst in Brasilien. (Wir haben den Artikel nun zunächst im Englischen Original veröffentlicht; eine Übersetzung werden wir in den folgenden Wochen anfertigen und so bald wie möglich nachreichen)

Contemporary Brazilian Poetry, In The Singular:
Giving Voice to a Few Tongues, Silencing Hundreds
(in the best Brazilian style)

by Ricardo Domeneck


One of the huge problems in such a task is that Brazil, a country of continental proportions, tends to be seen by ourselves and others as “unified”. One language, one culture, much in the way we look at other continental-sized countries such as Russia or China, forgetting the myriad of “minor” languages spoken in the countries, unprotected by oficialdom, hiding “traditions-other”, if you allow me the strange construct.

This seems particularly forbidding for my present task when I think of Brazil, a territory where nothing is more efficient than the agents of the status quo. A Nation-State unified in its territory after the independence from Portugal, unlike Hispanic America which broke into several republics, because every single rebellion and every single revolution was crushed by a centralized Government without mercy. When asked why Brazil enjoys such an image of peace when discussed abroad, if I myself constantly talk of its violence, I usually say that this phenomenon takes place because at every instance of rebellion, nobody is left alive to tell the story.

I once wrote on the same matter saying that one must escape the danger of discussing “contemporary Brazilian poetry” as if “contemporary”, “Brazilian” and “poetry” possessed some sort of quidditas, a given essence agreed upon by all. Just to mention this fictive “Brazilianness”, Mário de Andrade, an important Modernist poet and theoretician from São Paulo, in the south of Brazil, once wrote in a poem about a man, living in the North and having just come home from work, ending the poem, called “Discovery”, with the line: “This man is as Brazilian as I am.” But are all experiences in the territory as Brazilian as the next one? Carlos Drummond de Andrade (1902 – 1987) had already questioned this in a poem apropriately titled “National Anthem”, from his first book, saying in its last lines:

“Our Brazil is in another world. This is not Brazil.
No Brazil exists. Would Brazilians however exist?”

And if they do exist, when have they begun to? Take any school manual for Brazilian Literature and the answer will be: 1500, with the “arrival” of the Portuguese, which I will ask your permission to rewrite here as the Invasion of the Portuguese. Their choice is political and clear: Brazil and Brazilians, and therefore Brazilian poetry, produce and express themselves in Portuguese.

But that lands us right back on the problem of some voices in the midst of much silence. Either we consider Brazilian Literary Tradition as beginning in 1822, when the country became independent of Portugal, or we must consider the production of signs in that territory from its very beginning. After all, German Poetry does not begin in 1871. Again, we are faced with a decision which is not only literary, but political.

Megalomaniac, maybe – but a political choice

This is not literary criticism, Ricardo. This is anthropology.”
a Brazilian poet and friend, reacting to the first draft of this article.

What Jerome Rothenberg has called Ethnopoetics in his critical work in the United States, has only found practitioners in Brazil in the past couple of decades. In anthologies like “Technicians of the Sacred” (1968) and “Shaking the Pumpikin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas” (1972), Rothenberg collected poetry from ancient cultures such as the Maya and Egyptian, along with poetry from the early 20th century indigenous cultures, creating parallels between their language art practices and those of our historical avantgarde which showed us the true meaning of what tradition could be, beyond our romantic notions of the “national”, and displaying what true historical synchrony could mean to our literary studies.

This is important to note because when I start discussing a few poets and poetic practices in Brazil today, conducted in Portuguese, it must be clear that several traditions are still active in Brazil today, in indigenous languages, striving to survive, and this article will have silenced all of them.

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