Thursday, July 28, 2016

POETICS AND VISUALITY: A Trajectory of Contemporary Brazilian Poetry

An in-depth study by Philadelpho Menezes, professor of Semiotics and Communication at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, on the evolvement of experimental poetry in Brazil is a worthy read for poetry lovers. Take advantage of the fact that it has been translated into English by Harry Polkinhorn, currently an editor for SDSU Press, and order a copy today

POETICS AND VISUALITY: A TRAJECTORY OF CONTEMPORARY BRAZILIAN POETRY is a survey how visuality was incorporated into and formed experimental Brazilian poetry throughout the course of 40 years from an insider's understanding. Part I examines the spatialization of the verse and the concretism that followed in the 1950s. He takes readers through a close look at three versions of concretism: Noigandres, Dias-Pino, and neo-concretism. 

"ruasol" by Ronaldo Azeredo, 1957
Concretism was an attempt to break away from a tradition of verbal expression to begin exploring communication that tapped more into the verbal senses. The differences between the versions of concretism were mostly based on how they perceived space in a poem. In the Noigandres vein, words were arranged geometrically and there was no linear syntax. Dias-Pino concretism prioritized symmetry and mathematics, and neo-concretism was a fusion of the previous two that created an active experience for spectators that was meant to go beyond contemplation and that formed meaning based on the spectator instead of the signs and their positioning according to the poet's taste.

The following sections of POETICS AND VISUALITY look at subsequent movements that expanded the ideas of concretism. Part II is a study of the wordless poetry of the 1960s, and Part III is one on visual poetry. Menezes classifies visual poetry as collage poetry, package poetry, and montage poetry. The creation of such poetry during Brazil's repressive military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985 was an additional factor that influenced the development of the country's experimental poetry. The social function of art as a critique of the status quo came through in a movement that in itself was inherently a statement against conventional modes of expression. 
"Sick transit" by José Paulo Paes, 1973

Particularly in the last sections of the book, Menezes provides examples of poems that fit into his analysis and he goes into detail about the construction, meaning, and tradition from which each poem stems. POETICS AND VISUALITY, another goodie from SDSU Press, has the perfect combination of direct examples, theory, and chronological organization that can lead readers to appreciate experimental poetry in Brazil and its impact on the international poetry scene. 

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