LUÍS EUSTÁQUIO SOARES | Carlos Drummond de Andrade, João Cabral de Melo Neto and the Iberian being
According to Italo Calvino, there is lightness, rapidity, exactness, visibility, multiplicity and consistency in the inexhaustible writing and re-writing of this upside-down pyramid (for its base broadens , paradoxically, more and more to the top), which is the endless history of the Babel library of human fictions, especially the literary-cultural, which is each time always a different one, be it its active reception, given the fact that each reading presupposes a new universe of meaning, or in its existential condition, in the past, at present, and in the future, forever marked by autonomy, by the unique lasting of its singularity, or by its originality’s aura, further or short of the taboos and disenchanted, assassin interventions of technical reproducibility, which repeats, like copy of copy, like the cloning of a genocide ideal, a barbarity of its transtemporarygesture, that of chasing and dominating and killing everything that is diverse, vital, that is hunger, enjoyment, jewel, delicacy, dream and utopia.
The technical reproductibility machine, countering Walter Benjamin a little, doesn’t destroy the aura, and it never will, unless doomsday definitely comes, now and forever. The original is not concerned about its reproducing, nor in panting, nor in sculpting, nor in each and every form of creation. What actually fears the end of the aura is not he democratic aura which emanates from a creation, but, usually its author, once he or she tents to lose the primacy and authority of the possession of the patent, and, therefore, of its symbolic and financial prestige outcome.
The dilemma of technical reproducibility doesn’t lie on its capacity of destructing the aura, but on its appropriation and on its use, once the possession of the technique is in the hands of assassins, dominators, rapists (and I highlight I also dislike Manichaeism) of life, of auras, in land, namely, the technocratic powers of imperial profit, with its history of few, and for a few.
It is noted that, in this text, I affirm what is denied today: the creation, the fiction, the poetics, the originality, the heritage, the unique, the aura, even and besides technocracy, even and besides the nightmare which is, and has been, to paraphrase Cortázar (Monoel’s book), the failure of what we call human reality, which is nothing but another name for plutocracy, for the death impulse, for tragedy, which is finitude in a being that wishes and may achieve the infinite: the human, whose creative aura dignifies it and allows it to transcend death, exactly because it dies, exactly because it’s fragile, because it’s vulnerable, because it’s ethereal, because it’s immanent.
And It is sad to find out it is of this auratic vulnerability, of which all power makes use, interpreting it as its weakness (which is actually its strength), because all unilateral power constitutes the inscription, in some beings, of death itself, and attacks, like viruses, everything that is delicate, as happened in the beginning of the colonizing of the Americas, concerning the Indians, whose fragility was not understood by European colonizers, as an auratic gesture of fraternization, but as a motive to the arrogant slight, as vulnerability from which the viral death, inscribed in the wish of taking advantage, in detriment of others, settled and proliferated, as unfortunately happened, and tragically, with our omission, still happens.
All this digression, however (which I frankly do appreciate making, despite the referential fashion dictated by the official genre’s straight jacket, with its manias and tares for what is called cohesion and coherence and sincere concern about “simplistic” readers), is to talk about two Brazilian poets, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and João Cabral de Melo Neto, who, in their manner, contributed to the auratic revitalization of historical originality, (cultural, economic, religious, social, politic and relational), of the Iberian-Catholic world, which, despite the contradictions, and the genocide appropriations (we are also, unfortunately, the result of a history of destruction), it is and has been also a place of beauty, of singularity, of transcendence, in the name of which we need to talk, celebrate and re-inscribe, in practice, especially taking into account the present times, marked by the hegemony of the Anglo-Saxon empire.
The poetic production of Carlos Drummond de Andrade and the dry rivers of João Cabral de Melo Neto’s writing are allegoric parts of this lightness, this quickness, this exactness, this visibility, multitude and consistency of the history of the Iberian cultural tradition. However, the way of performing them, poetically speaking, of re-inventing or re-writing them, scripturally, is rather distinctive to one and the other poet.
In Carlos Drummond de Andrade, the Hispanic-Luso-Afro-Indian-American cultural tradition is experienced and lived from what, in the Iberian world, is and has been estate, verticality, guilt, sin, inquisition, pain, massacre. Hence his poetic gauche, thence, from this gloomy place of the Iberian tradition, the poet from Minas Gerais draws his poetic “flower and nausea”, because he writes from Minas Gerais, whose Iberism is inward, visceral, mountainous, mining and mineral.
Here from Minas, Drummond excavated his poetics like the one who beats, with passion’s gouge, the hard mineral of a grotto that bleeds the steps of a culture marked by an enslaver submission, like the one which intuits that, despite the killing and suffering of many, despite the logic of punishment and despite the guilt, an escape line unties, that of mixture, of a heart’s alchemic oven, Minas Gerais, able to create, by means of an orpheic impulse, catholic-hellish, the resurrection of the leprous beauty of one Aleijadinho, whose imaginary, according to Lezama Lima (La expresión americana), prepares the rebellion’s sparks, those of the great leprosy creator of the baroque of ours, those of a culture that insists in its nonconformist multiplicity, and which rescues the living memory of a humanity marked, since immemorial times, by the dramaturgy of the encounter of people and cultures and which, if still exists and persists until now, it is not because it, with its anti-Semitic purity, with its wish for insularity, has dealt, imperiously, the cards, but because we share our differences, our knowledge, our flavours, and we throw the darts of utopia and of life, like Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, to the other margin, differential and anti-Euclidian, as well illustrated in the poem “Áporo”, from A rosa do povo (1945):
An insect digs/digs without splurge/ perforating the land/ finds no way out/ what to do, exhausted, in a blocked country,/night link/ root and ore?/ and the labyrinth/ (oh reason, mystery)/ presto unties: / in green, alone,/ anti-Euclidean,/ an orchid forms.
Highlighting the fact that, although áporo is the name of a hymenopteran insect, in Greek, in turn, it means a problem difficult to solve. To me, Carlos Drummond de Andrade is the poet of the forthcoming insect, who, in his poetics, digs the underground of the collective unconscious of a cultural tradition, Iberian (and since its mediaeval beginnings, of the religious crusades to expel the Arabians), arising as a rather complicated problem, intricate, apparently insoluble, but bringing, within it, its own solution, under the sign of an utopic orchid, that of the auriferous symbiosis underlying in the imaginary of a Catholicism, which, when expanding by the planet, however much suffering it would impose, pain and guilt, didn’t succeed in withholding the messianic promise of the resurrection of the quixotic letter, that of those who do not fight against, but for windmills, those of the errant petals of the flowers of a biblical history played not by kings, nobles, clerics, bourgeois, but by thieves, prostitutes, fishermen, sailors, children, the poor.
That’s the real People’s Rose of Drummondian poetics, his way of inscribing his some poetry, his clear enigma: that of a poetics which dialogued with the obscure darkness of the Iberian legacy, finding a non-predicted gain, “the underground and coruscating prize, / reading of cyphered lightning,/which, deciphered, nothing else exists anymore” (“Amor e seu tempo”), once what has existed, does not simply exist, but resists, it is before, now and then, a loving is achieved by loving.
On the other hand, if Carlos Drummond de Andrade weaves his intertextual web, with the Iberian-Catholic tradition, throwing it at the bottom of his labyrinthine river of dream, in his flow and intestine whirlpools, marked by the weight, in the world, of being and making oneself as multiple, with impurities in the white (in forgetfulness) of a non-selective memory, because peripheral; João Cabral de Melo Neto does it by exteriority, luminosity, solarity, of outside and visibility, which, as I understand it, already becomes patent in “Auto de Natal” which inscribes the titles of his first books, Pedra do Sono (1942), Os três mal amados(1943), O engenheiro (1945), Psicologia da Composição (1947), O Cão sem Plumas (1950), O Rio (1954), Quaderna (1960).
In the two first titles, Pedra do Sono and Os três mal amados, besides the influence of surrealism, there is, in João Cabral, a clear relation of paraphrasal debt with Carlos Drummond de Andrade, for his poetics hasn’t yet found his externalizing diction, in respect to the relation with the Iberian culture, theatricalizing it by the Drummondian bias of the inside, of the inner and of guilt.
Engenheiro and Psicologia da Composição are transition books, from the Iberian inside to the outside, hence resulting, in my judgment, their being metapoetic texts, since metapoetics, in them, constitutes a kind of rite of passage, by means of which (although they do not yet incorporate the exteriority of the Iberian cultural landscape, with its characters, its geography) Cabral gradually incorporates the horizon of solar luminosity, as metaphor of a poetics that will unveil, as geographic-cultural visibility, starting from O Cão sem Plumas.
As metapoetics discursivity, the Cabralian insistence, in words like objectivity, like blade, like anti-lyricism and anti-ode, is nothing but, as I see it, other names for the epiphany solidarity of his Iberism, endowed with potency to show, not by realistic representation, but by that one headed by the focuses of culture, Iberian, which expanded towards the solar overture of the world, Brazilian Northwest, the Spanish landscape, the luminous savannah of the African territories.
Previously, though, it was necessary to cross the desert, like in the Fable of Anfion; “In the desert,/ among the landscape of his /vocabulary, Anfion, /to the mineral exempt air/ even from the winged / vegetation, in the desert (…) How to anticipate / the tree of sound / of such seed?
João Cabral de Melo Neto travels the desert of his metapoetics to, eventually, discover “the landscape of his vocabulary”: the epiphany presentation of the solar Iberian explosion, even that, as in “Morte e Vida Severina”, it is an explosion, like the race;/ even when it is thus small/ even when it is an explosion/ like the one late, frail;/ even when it is the explosion/ of a life severina”.
This explosion of luminosity, as scenario of Iberian dramaturgy, through times and spaces, clearly happens in O cão sem Plumas, which, despite having been written in Barcelona, puts the poet at once in the pernambucano landscape, that of a river, whose unconsciousness becomes exteriority of “a not knowing but knowing”, because “that river/ was like dog without plumes./ Knew nothing about the blue rain,/ about the pink fountain,/about the water of cantharis,/ of the water fish,/ of the breeze in the water”, because it knew, fundamentally, the unrestrained beauty and institutionally not representing another world, that of the ordinary Northeastern, cultural subject, economic, political and poetic of an underground universe which, once exempted from guilt of its indifference, and from the weight of the inquisition of powers (as Drummond’s poetics dramatizes), reveals, epiphany, in the poetry of João Cabral de Melo Neto, as “a febrile woman who inhabits oysters” (O Cão sem Plumas) of a history that is past and is future, but is mainly solar visibility, besides all, in the present.
In my point of view, exceptionally, Carlos Drummond de Andrade and João Cabral de Melo Neto are the two Brazilian poets, by excellence, of the Iberian-Catholic worldwide tradition, and they both compose, in their poetics, both sides of this cultural forthcoming, which is our, Latin-American, African, autochthonous, Asian, European, planetary, for, if João Cabral de Melo Neto outlines and presents, poetically, the objective and laminar corporeity of Iberism, Carlos Drummond de Andrade configures his soul, his subjective sphere, as a cabalistic “poem of seven faces”, and whose profession of faith is yet announced, as destiny, in his first book, Alguma Poesia (1930): “Go, Carlos! Be gauche in life.”
To be Iberian.
Luís Eustáquio Soares (Brazil, 1966). Poet, writer and essayist. He published Paradoxias (1999), Cor Vadia (2003), José Lezama Lima, anacronia, barroco e utopia (2008), El evangelio según Satanás (2010). Translated to English by Luiz Leitão da Cunha. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. Page illustrated with works by Floriano Martins (Brazil), guest artist to this issue of ARC.