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Sobre Antonio Miranda















by Gordon Brotherston,
University of Machester.



BROTHERSTON, Gordon.  Latin American Poetry: origins & presence.   New York, USA: Cambridge University Press, 1975.  228 p.  14x22 cm.  ISBN 0 521-09944-7  N. 08 681  Chapter: “Brazilian Modernism” p. 77-93  “ Gordon Brotherston “ Ex. bibl. Antonio Miranda. Modernismo brasileiro, Poesia modernista brasileira

Chapter: “Brazilian Modernism”: 


          Apart from their name and their apostolic role, the Brazilian and the Spanish American Modernists have little in common. The Brazilians' desire to be literarily 'modem' sprang not from nineteenth century Europe (above all France), but arose after the First World War under the stimulus of the Futurists and the Surrealists. Another difference is that while Modemism in the Spanish language can not too unreasonably be traced in the work of one writer (Darío ), in Brazil no single figure emerges, definition and story being sooner afforded by place. For the Brazilians the expanding São Paulo of the 1920s provided a focus that the Spanish Americans, dispersed over the continent, found only limitedly in Buenos Aires. ln what they wrote we get a much stronger sense of locality, of street politics even, and of the writer, like the painters and musicians of Modemism, as na artist in a immediate situation. Darío's letter to Lugones's wife, recalling shared values over inmense distance, characterizes the specifically literary context of Spanish American Modemism. By contrast, São Paulo was performance, never more so than during the famous week of Modem Art there in February 1922. ln this centenary year of Brazil's lndependence, Villa Lobos's music, Brecheret's massive sculptures, Anita Malfatti's paintings, as well as literature by Oswald and Mário de Andrade, Guilherme de Almeida, Ronald de Carvalho, Menotti del Picchia, Manuel Bandeira, Sérgio Milliet, Ribeiro Couto and others, were presented as a communal message.

          These qualities of Brazilian Modemism have encouraged critics to dwell on context: groups, tactics, manifestos, joumals, what was said and done about poetry. There are severa! histories of the movement, 1 excellently documented in these terms, which divide it into phases or stages: after the 'heroic' fervour of the modem Art week, the in-fighting between the Pau-Brasil group and their yet more nationalist rivals. And then, poets still being linked by their personal reactions to each other, the sober contribution of the Festa group from Rio; and finally the 'fourth stage' or generation of 1945, as exemplified by Cabral de Melo Neto, an important precursor in turn concrete poets of more recent decades. All this no doubt makes sense; but it has meant in practice that texts, when quoted, have tended to be illustrations of this or that event. Sometimes the consequent loss may be small, as in the case of Almeida's peroration 'Nós' (We): 2

NOS. Branco-verde-preto : simplicidades-

O quarto-de-hóspede e a pousada - a rede e o cigarro de palha - o  São Benedito e as assombrações.

          NOS. O clã fazendeiro. Sombra forte de mangueiras pelo chão:             recorte nítido de bananeiras pelo ar;

          We. White-green-black: simplicities-indolences-superstitions. [The lodging house and the inn - the hammock and the cigar - the Sanbenito and the spiritualist frights. ![We. The hacienda clan. Strong shade from mango trees on the ground : clean silhouette of banana trees in the air;

          Other times, as in the case of the first importam literary work of the Modernists, Mário de Andrade's Paulicéia desvairada (1922), the Ioss has been little short of disastrous.

          This celebration of São Paulo, translated as Hallucinated City,3 is made up of 'An extremely interesting preface', twenty one poems and a concluding oratorio entitled 'The moral Fibrature of the Ipiranga'. Because of the lively force of its insults, one of the most frequently quoted poems in the book is the 'Ode to the Bourgeois', which begins:

Eu insulto o burguês-níquel,

o burguês-burguês!

A digestão bem feita de São Paulo!

O homem-curva ! o homem-nádegas !


I insult the bourgeois ! The metal money bourgeois, the bourgeois- bourgeois ! The well-made São Paulo digestion ! The belly-rnan ! the buttocks-man !

          The message seems simple enough. True to type, the bourgeois are the dumb owners of the city, well-fed and cautious, 'guardians of tradition', not so much insensitive to art as unable to see that their idea of it excludes the excitement of modernity. Their heroes are the Parnassians, Raimundo Correia, Alberto de Oliveira, Olavo Bilac, the safe and consecrated artists of Rio de Janeiro, the political capital, who remained loyal to the idea of the Empire (which lasted under the two Pedros from 1822 to 1888) in their insistence on correct Portuguese, and who matched the ideals of the Republic with their taste for civilized clarity. These burghers thus ignore São Pauhelo as a New World city, with its amazing growth and turbulence. Their conservatism means that this hallucinated city has 'no poetry, no joy, no wings', a refrain which occurs at least four times in different poems in Andrade's collection. There can be no doubt that the Futurists' enthusiasm
for the speed and technology of 'modem capitals' provided just the right stimulus for the Modemists after Oswald de Andrade first brought back news of Marinetti from Paris in 1912. Though he felt less fetishistic about the 'externals of modem life' (and said so in his preface) Mário de Andrade crowded his poems with telephones, Cadillacs, women more purposefully emancipated than Gutiérrez Nájera's or Darío's ever were, cinemas and electric street cars sizzling through the night ('like skyrockets clicking their heels on the tracks').

          Thus far, the 'hatred and execration' of the stodgy burgher in Andrade's Ode is hardly problematic. Indeed, much early Modernist writing amounted to little more than its final expletives. But the point about the Ode, as about any one piece in Hallucinated City, is that it cannot be read independently of the others, any more than the 'theories' advanced from time to time in the preface can be labelled Andrade's, in disregard of the way they are presented. There is in fact no lack of clues to how much the Ode is not 'his' pronouncement, but a kind of motif, the most obvious being the Oratorio at the end. There we find a cast of singers actually embodying the alternatives of the 'São Paulo situation', the bourgeois and their opponents alike, in dramatic balance. Variously located in the Automobile Club, the City Hall, the Carlton Hotel, the bourgeois are styled 'tremulous senilities'; their tame poets are the 'conventional orientalisms', an imposing array at the windows of the Municipal Theatre. The workers and the poor stand down below as 'indifferent pallbearers', carrying the cultural corpse of old Brazil, while 'We', the 'gilt-green youths', are further off, with feet sunk in the soil of Anhangabaú Park. As a separate entity, Andrade's own 'madness' circulares among them.

          The Oratorio might be thought silly, an objection anticipated in the final stage direction ('there grows a great cacophony of whistles, cat-calls and stamping of feet'). But any inadequacy would by no means be that of a manic manifesto : one thing Andrade unquestionably succeeds in is matching enormous verve with reflexive irony. This quality is both more pronounced and more refined in other poems in tbe book and in the preface. The detachment and elusive movements of the character 'Mv Madness' are interiorized within and between poems, to produce what Andrade half-seriously calls the effect of an arpeggiated chord. Instead of a melodie 'I' he wants polyphony, words, phrases and whole poems arranged to give 'the sarne sensation of overlay', specifically appropriate to a situation devoid of tonic or norm. This can be understood socially - the 'indifferent pallbearers' fail to provide a ground bass - or culturally, Brazil's 'Latin' heritage seeming at best evanescent. Anhangabaú Park, like bis Brazil, is:

Meu querido palimpsesto sem valor!

Crônica em mau latim

cobrindo uma écloga que não seja de Virgilio ! ...


          My beloved and worthless palimpsest !
           Chronicle in bad Latin covering    an eclogue that is not exactly by Virgil ! ...

          Excision or quotation from Hallucinated City, then, is indeed open to abuse. ln the larger context of the work, the insulting voice of the Ode is in fact a leitmotiv, part of a Wagnerian consignment from a whole 'Eldorado of the Unconscious'.

          To get this consignment across, to smuggle it past 'what Freud called censorship' [Zensur], Mário de Andrade both orchestrates it in this way, and, further, will appear to act as a censor himself by standing outside bis poem. For example, he suddenly shuts bis enthusiasm into a saloon car, along with the energetic Modernist Oswald de Andrade :

Nada de asas! nada de poesia! nada de alegria!

A bruma neva ... Arlequinal !

Mas viva o Ideal! God save the poetry !

-Abade Liszt da minha filha monja,

na Cadillac mansa e glauca da ilusão,

passa o Oswald de Andrade

mariscando gênios entre a multidão! ...


No wings ! no poetry ! no joy ! The mist snows ... Harlequinate ! But long

live the Ideal! God save poetry ! ![Abbé Liszt of my daughter the nun,

in the gentle sea-green Cadi!lac of illusion, Oswald de Andrade goes by

fishing for geniuses in the crowd.


          Phrases from the most various sources (the description of Oswald was taken from a local newspaper) succeed each other, leaving 'him' both in and out of the dream. Like Eliot's in The Waste Land (published the sarne year as Hallucinated City), his diction ranges from the impassioned to the neutral, from classical allusion to the street slogan and the colloquial, this being as much an innovation in Portuguese4 as it was in English. And like Eliot he hides in his poem, the better to see, the omnipresent eye in this case being glimpsed in a parenthetical phrase like 'So behold him on the throne of the All-seeing Crossed Eye' (previously São Paulo is said to be the throne). Though arguably he had less to hide, Andrade, too, had a similar ambiguity in suggesting a 'key' to his poem, fragmenting and concealing himself, and yet leaving an intricate pattern of clues to identity, mainly in allusion to classical myth. ln Andrade's case the all-knowing observer, Eliot's Tiresias, is Amphion: 'a new, dark and bespectacled Amphion, I shall make the very stones rise up like a wall at the magic of my song. And within these walls we shall sequester our tribe.' The echo of Mallarmé is more inebriated than Eliot's, and the tribe needs not purer words in an impure city ('donner un sens plus pur aux mots de la tribu'), but a new Thebes to resonate in.

          ln any interpretation, Mário de Andrade commands respect as one of the first urban poets of Latin America, as someone who attempted (like the New York school of more recent decades) to register the discontinuous complexity of any modem urban 'story'. He differs from Eliot (and so from Mallarmé, and above all Baudelaire, with his 'immonde cité') simply in not wanting to think a 'new spirit' necessarily and quite dead: 'liberation' never means there might be somewhere else. If he says 'futility, civiliza-
tion', it is as an ironic remark after stanzas like this:

Central. Drama de adultério.
A Bertini arranca os cabellos e morre
Fugas ... Tiros ... Tom Mix !
Amanhã fita alemã ... de beiços ...
As meninas mordem os beiços pensando em fita alemã ...
As romas de Petronio ...
E o leito virginal. .. Tudo azul e branco!
Descansar ... Os anjos ... Imaculado!
As meninas sonham masculinidades ...
— Futilidade, civilização.

Main jail. Drama of adultery. Bertini tears her hair and dies. Getaways ...
Shots ... Tom Mix! German film tomorrow ... gratis ... The girls bite their lips thinking about German films ... The remes of Petronius ... And the
virgin's bed ... AII blue and whíte ! Rest ... Angels ... Immaculate ! The
girls dream masculinities ... - Futility, civilization.

               In geography the walls of the main jail ('Central') are coincident with the possibly resonant walls of Thebes. The extravagance and dispersa! of the poems is continuously matched by a movement back to this base (which, ideally, might itself be transformed). At the height of the insulting 'Ode to the bourgeois', the burghers are marched two by two back to the sarne prison, to 'the Main Jail of my inebriating rancour'.

          In Hallucinated City we become aware of an agonized, inextricable involvement in urban society of just the kind that animates the novels of Machado de Assis. And it is no accident that Andrade, in his preface and in more than one poem, refers to this brilliant citizen of late nineteenth century Rio. For, as Amphion (who, besides raising the walls of Thebes, avenged his mother by killing Lycus, ruler of the town, only then to kill hímself); as Watteau's 'L'Indifférent'; as Harlequin or the happy clown; or even as 'a Tupi lndian strumming a lute', he strongly resembles the Braz Cubas whose 'memoirs' constitute Machado de Assis's best work. 5He is mesmerized by the beauty of the burgher's woman yet cannot authorize a new love for himself and her, cannot fully authorize his 'illusion' or his 'hallucination', and instead plays its dazzling possibilities against what is. He is enmeshed and knows it. The 'triangle' (of adultery) which enhanced and wasted Braz's life is alluded to again and again: 'Triangle. There are sailing ships for my shipwrecks'; 'There's no more room in this triangular belvedere', and so on. Agaín, the extraordinary agility with which he proposes and withdraws theories in his preface unmistakably recalls Braz's (compare: 'A little theory?' and 'I think I shall withdraw the analogy'). The main difference between them is that Andrade is not writing 'Posthumous Memoirs', but would express, however helplessly, 'this supreme pride
of being paulistamente (in São Paulo fashion)'.

          As the most articulate poet of early Modernism Mário de Andrade was, then, not the wholly blank enemy of the burgher. For all his rhetorical iconoclasm he did not altogether renounce the idea of a civil (1919), for example, emphasize this. ReFerring to it as an apogee, he speaks of the Modernists' efforts as a new phase, on the sarne graph. And insofar as he hinted that his energy was suicidal, harlequinate, in a bootless conflict with Lycus, he left very much open to question what he meant by his 'shocking' remark in 'The Modem Artist': 'in reality we are primitives'.

          ln his role as agent and friend, Oswald de Andrade made something of a response to it in his Pau-Brasil (Brazil Wood, 1925). Here we find the desire to be less rigorously civilized, to be more in touch with the grass roots of Brazil. Oswald even went back on his enthusiasm for such earlier mentors as Marinetti, Apollinaire and Breton beca use they were too 'European', and first adopted the more-national-than-thou attitude which carne to characterize the poetry of the la ter 1920s. Of course the Modernists had shown some local atavism from the start. At one with the ordinary citizens of São Paulo they had urged that Brecheret's statue of the bandeirantes (the 'banner bearers' who had founded São Paulo and won so much land to the west for the Brazilian language) should be sited in Anhangabaú Park, in the centre of the town. And the manly race (raça heril) of the past which it commemorated was acclaimed more than once in Hallucinated City:

Revivei, oh gauchos paulistas ancestremente !

e oh cavalos de cólera sanguínea !


          Revive, oh ancestrally Paulista gauchos ! and oh horses of blood-red rage !

          Here the civilized modemity of the Modernists is being tempered not by the self-doubt of Amphion but by a motif of fairly crude atavism. lnterestingly, this is just what happened in Buenos Aires at the sarne period,7 among the 'Ultraists' of the Martín Fierro and Proa groups (among whom the young Borges was prominent): though 'avant-garde', the Ultraists carne to admire a writer like Ricardo Güiraldes who made a mystique of the gaucho and old creole values in Don Segundo Sombra (1926). And both theseAmerican developments, Brazilian and Argentinian, might illuminatingly be compared in tum with Mussolini's fascism in Italy at the sarne period, when the Futurist Marinetti tumed to evoking the grandeur of the national past. However here it is enough to say that the bandeirismo (as it was called) of the Brazilian Modernists, the primitivist, historical and regional enthusiasm provoked by Pau-Brasil, was a complex and symptomatic event, and was intricately linked to the extreme, perhaps excessive urban consciousness of Hallucinated City and the early 1920s.

          The Modernists' bandeirismo led among other things to the defiantly Brazilian journal Verde amarelo, which took its title from the colours of the national flag, green and yellow. Those associated with it, Menotti del Picchia, Cassiano Ricardo and others, chastized the Andrade of Pau-Brasil for not going far enough, for being too dependem still on writers like Breton, and on 'European primitivism' generally. (They no doubt resented the fact that Andrade published his book in Paris.) Picchia's unambiguous title República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil (1928), and Ricardo's Martim Cererê of the sarne year, carne to celebrate a nationhood confirmed by fixed frontiers not many years previously, by relating in would-be epic fashion the native particularities of the place and the grandeur of the Discovery:

A convite da História Universal

que havia marcado a festa para 21 de Abril,

o almirante Pedro Alvares Cabral

veio com uma frota de luzidas caravelas

num séquito naval de mastros e de velas,

de estandartes e de cruzes,

de sotainas, alabardas, couraças e arcabuzes

inaugurar a futura República

dos Estados Unidos do Brasil.

(Menotti del Picchia, 'A Inauguração')


          By invitation of Universal History which had marked the festival for 21 April, admirai Pedro Alvares Cabral carne with a fleet of resplendem caravels in a naval procession of masts and sails, of banners and cresses, of cassocks, halberds, armour and harquebuses, to inaugurate the future Republic of the United States of Brazil.

          Coming after the exploratory eff orts of the Modernists, including Picchia himself at an earlier stage, this kind of public bombast recalls the worst of the 'New World' mode which José Santos Chocano developed out of Spanish American Modernism. More engaging were the Pan-American eff orts of Ronald Carvalho in Toda a América (1926) with its continental sweep. (Carvalho was as unusual in his attention to Spanish America as Neruda was later in his to Brazil, and it is not impossible that at this level at least the Chilean poet learned something from the Spanish translation of Carvalho's book.)8 Even so, and despite the constam echoes of Whitman, old problems of identity and location remained unresolved, with the result that the best parts of the book are mosaics of landscapes from various areas of the continent, with thoughts about what America's poet might one day be like:

Teus poetas não são dessa raça de servos

          que dançam no compasso de gregos

          e latinos,

teus poetas devem ter as mãos sujas de

          terra, de seiva e limo,

as mãos da criação!

Teu poeta será ágil e inocente, América!

a alegria será a sua sabedoria,

a liberdade será a sua sabedoria,

e sua poesia será o vagido da tua própria

          substância, América, da tua própria

          substância lírica e numerosa.


Your poets are not of that race of slaves who dance to the rhythm of

Greeks and Latins, your poets rnusr have their hands dirty wíth earth, wíth

sap and mud, hands of creation ! ... !fYour poet will be agile and innocent,

America ! Joy will be his knowledge, liberty will be his knowledge, and

his poetry will be the birth-cry of your own substance, America, of your

own lyrical and numerous substance.


          For a deeper awareness of the problems of being an American poet, even if only within Brazil, we have to tum again to the Andrades, who formulated them in terms interestingly similar to Neruda's, though neither of them went on to produce anything like Canto general. The first premíse of Oswald de Andrade's cannibalistic manifesto in the Revista de Antropofagia (1928) was that Independence had not yet been won, that economically and culturally Brazil still depended on Europe. Addressing the rubbertapper from Brazil's deep south in Clã do Jabuti (of the previous year ), Mário agreed, saying :

Fomos nós dois que botamos

Pra fora Pedro II ...

Somos nós dois que devemos

Até os olhos da cara

Pra êsses banqueiros de Londres ...


It was we two who kicked out Pedro II...It is we two who are up to our eyes in debt to those London bankers...

          ln Pau-Brasil Oswald de Andrade had spoken of the country as a place where 'blood runs and gold is crated up', and now turned against the whole 'social reality, dressed up and oppressive', and centred in the capital Rio, which allows just this capitalist modus vivendi to go on. He urges that it was Brazil that provided Europe with its seeds of liberation in the first place : 'The contract with Carib Brazil. Ou Villeganhon print terre, Montaigne. Natural Man. Rousseau. From the French Revolution to Romanticism, to the Bolshevist Revolution, to the Surrealist Revolution.'9 Further: 'We already had communism. We already had surrealist language. The age of gold.' So that Brazilians would only be being true to their heritage by wanting the 'Carib Revolution', in which the strong avenging Jabuti, the hero of Mário de Andrade's collection of 1927, and brother of Neruda's subsequent Araucanian, asserts his presence. Rather than the inoff ensive paragons, the toothless heroes of Alencar and the nineteenth century bourgeoisie (representatives of a hopelessly compromised Brazilian-Indian heritage) he proposes cannibals, ingestion of the enemy body and spirit in the name of a new American golden age :

Absorption of the sacred enemy. To transform him into totem. The

human adventure. The terrestial finality. And so, only the pure elites will

manage to effect carnal anthropophagy, which bears in itself the highest

sense of life and avoids ai! the evils identified by Freud, catechismal evils.

What you don't get is a sublimation of the sexual instinct. That is the

thermometric scale of the anthropophagic instinct. From being carnal it

becomes elective and fosters friendship. Affective, love.


Oswald de Andrade was well-read, witty and relished his own contradictions. He speaks of the Brazilian jungle-men as if they were one among themselves and with him. The Tupi of the parody of Hamlet's speech (see p. 11) who are also represented in the manifesto by a song quoted in their language, are freely identified with their native enemies. And even so, they emerge as a less likely 'alternative' than the bandeirante João Ramalho, first citizen of his beloved São Paulo. And furthermore, as someone preferable to 'Christian sentimentalists' like Anchieta, Alencar or Gonçalves Dias, Ramalho is made into just the patriarch Oswald de Andrade himself never wholly ceased to be, for all his 'progress' and left-wing commitment.10 He was keenest precisely as a parodist, exposing bad faith elsewhere perhaps, but loyal, finally and after all, only to his urban( e) paulista style, as in his version (in Pau-Brasil) of Gonçalves Dias's song of exile: 11

Não permita Deus que eu morra

Sem que volte pra São Paulo

Sem que veja a Rua 15

E o progresso de São Paulo



          The last quatrain of Gonçalves Dias's poem runs:


Não permita Deus que eu morra,

Sem que eu volte para lá;

Sem que desfrute os primores

Que não encontro por cá;

Sem qu'inda aviste as palmeiras,

Onde canta o Sabiá.


May God not permit that I die without going back there, without  enjoying the perfection thar I don't find here; without glimpsing the palms where the Sabia sings.

Camp or paradoxical as ít may seern and may have seemed, Oswald de Andrade's anthropophagy Ieft its mark, on Mário, who took it much more to heart, and Raul Bopp. Contriving initially to avoid moral and social embarrassment by writing an 'inoffensive book for children', Bopp plunged deep ínto the Brazilian interior in Cobra Norato. ln an atmosphere of fairy-tale suspense and in language rich with phonetic eff ecrs and indigenous words, the snake-like hero goes in search of the magic daughter of a distant

queen. Bur even in the maturer revised version of 1931 he never emerged from the realm of jungle fantasy 'on the left bank of the Amazon'. This was also the home of the hero of Mário de Andrade's novel Macunaíma (1928), who is however brought back to São Paulo, the considerable humour of this 'rhapsody' '.probably bis besr work) deriving from this cultural clash. ln his

poems he agonized more directly abour bis own identity, as he had done in Hallucinated City, and would do untíl, once again like Eliot, he returned to the Christian faith. ln the two poems in Clã do Jabuti dedicated to Ronald de Carvalho he faces himself in São Paulo like a blank page, ín a 'discovery' notably different from Picchia's:


Abancado à escrivaninha em São Paulo

Na minha casa da rua Lopes Chaves

De sopetão senti um friume por dentro.

Fiquei trêmulo, muito comovido

Com o livro palerma olhando pra mim.
Não vê que me lembrei que lá no norte, meu Deus !
  muito    longe de mim
Na escuridão ativa da noite que caiu
Um homem pálido magro de cabelo escorrendo
    nos olhos,
Depois de fazer uma pele com a borracha do dia,
Faz pouco se deitou, está dormindo.
Esse homem é brasileiro que nem eu.



Installed at my desk in São Paulo, in my house ín rua Lopes Chaves, suddenly I felt a bitter cold inside, I shook, most moved, with the stupid book looking at me. It doesn't see that I remember that there in the north, dear God, very far from me, in the active blindness of the night that fell, a pale thin man with hair falling across his eyes, after making a cover from the rubber tapped during the day, went to bed a short while ago, and is sleeping. That man is Brazilian just like I am.

          The phrase 'Brasileiro que nem eu' comes back like a refrain in theother poem (quoted above) to the rubber tapper of the jungles in the south, haunting and enclosing him. Again, in 'Improviso do Mal da América' (1928), looking around him in São Paulo at the skyscrapers, the immigrants and Oswald de Andrade's 'progress', sensing that there may be another country 'in the impenetrable jungle of my being"? (the Indian praying in a stone temple, the feats of the Chim communist guerrilla), he as it were gathers his Modernism into suff ocation and a final suicide :

Mas eu não posso, não, me sentir negro nem vermelho!
De certo que essas côres também tecem minha roupa arlequinal,
Mas eu não me sinto negro, mas eu não me sinto vermelho,
Me sinto só branco, relumeando caridade e acolhimento,
Purificado na revolta contra os brancos, as pátrias, as guerras,
    as posses, as preguiças e ignorâncias !
Me sinto só branco agora, sem ar neste ar-livre da América!
Me sinto só branco, só branco em minha alma crivada de raças!

But I cannot, no, feel black or red ! Certainly these colours also weave my

harlequinate clothing, but I don't feel black, but I don't feel red, I feel

only white, exuding charity and welcome, purified in the revolt against

the whites, fatherlands, wars, property, sloth and ignorance ! I feel only

white, without air in this open air of America ! I feel only white, only

white in my race-riddled soul !


          Few poets associated with the Modernists in the 1920s avoided this  impasse. Those that did manage to by reverting to cleanly 'universal' concerns, like the Rio group in the early 1930s (one of them, Schmidt, said he no longer wanted anything to do with 'Brazil' or with 'geography'); by politicizing themselves more thoroughly, like Carlos Drummond de Andrade; or by shifting the weight from São Paulo to less demandingly 'modem' parts of the United States of Brazil, by making a profession of regionality. This last course was especially favoured by the poets of Bahia and the north-east: Jorge de Lima who, as we saw, adopted the black idiom of that area; Manuel Bandeira, and in his way, João Cabral de Melo Neto. The best known poem of Bandeira's collection of 1930, Libertinagem, is in fact an evocation of his native Recife:


Não a Veneza americana

Não a Mauritsstad dos armadores das Indias Ocidentais

Não o Recife dos Mascates

Nem mesmo o Recife que aprendi a amar depois -

Recife das revoluções libertárias

Mas o Recife sem história nem literatura

Recife sem mais nada

Recife da minha infância


Recife, not the American Venice, not the Mauritsstad of the outfitters  of the West Indies, not the Recife of the Hawkers nor even the Recife that I learnt to love later - Recife of the libertarian revolutions. But the Recife without history or literature, plain Recife, Recife of my childhood.

          The mood is openly nostalgic, for a Iost childhood, a lost town, and even a lost Brazil :

Recife ...

            Rua da União ...

                                    A casa de meu avô ...

Nunca pensei que ela acabasse!

Tudo lá parecia impregnado de eternidade

Recife ...

             Meu avô morto.

Recife morto, Recife bom, Recife brasileiro como

                                          a casa de meu avô


Recife ... Rua da União ... My grandfather's house ... I never thought that

it could end ! Everything seemed impregnated with eternity. Recife ... My

dead grandfather. Dead Recife, good Recife, Recife Brazilian like my

grandfather's house.


                    As if sensing the insidious attraction of just such feelings Mário de Andrade had once warned the 'modem artist' in Brazil strongly against them, saying they were inappropriate to that 'constructive period of Brazilian poetry. 13 And he attributed such states o cisma (or reverie) to intellectual fatigue, exemplified in the Old World even in a work like 'Panama' by Cendrars (at any event an important poet for Bandeira). As Andrade himself evolved so he softened his critique of the mood of Libertinagem, whích Bandeira, always an ambiguous Modernist, had worked towards from his first mournful Rio collection A Cinza das horas (1917), through his crepuscular interest in Musset and Lenau and the latter-day Pierrots of Carnaval (1919), and then the 'place' poems of O ritmo dissoluto (The Untied Rhythm, 1924). For 'Evocation of Recife', if nostalgic, achieves a trueness of tone, a unanimity of voice, which it is hard to find precedents for in modem Brazilian poetry.

          In his poem, Bandeira first appears, after the verbless invocation, as a boy telling things as he might have told them then, assuming general recognition for remote proper names :

A Rua da União onde eu brincava de chicote-queimado
                    e partia as vidraças da casa de
                    dona Aninha Viegas
Totônio Rodrigues era muito velho e botava o pincenê
                    na ponta do nariz
Depois do jantar as famílias tomavam a calçada
                    com cadeiras, mexericos, namoros, risadas
A gente brincava no meio da rua
Os meninos gritavam:
          Coelho sai!
          Não sai!

The Rua da União where I played crack-the-whip and smashed the
windows of dona Aninha Viegas's house, Totonio Rodriques was very
old and wore his pince-nez on the tip of his nose. After eating, the families
would take to the streer wíth chairs, gossip, flirtation, laughter. People
leapt abour in the middle of the streer, The children cried: Rabbit comes
out ! Doesn't come out !

          The choral voices affirm a regular rhythm, 'socialize' the poem's atmosphere, as Mário de Andrade put it, referring to a later stanza, where Bandeira explicitly takes the popular spoken language of Brazil as his subject. There, with treacherous courtesy, Bandeira speaks of himself and his fellow poets as 'we', while in fact separating himself off from them. He states their popular inadequacy, in the most popular of rhythms and speech:

Vinha da boca do povo na língua errada do povo
Língua certa do povo

Porque êle é que fala gostoso o português do Brasil
               Ao passo que nós

               O que fazemos

               E macaquear

               A sintaxe lusíada


It carne from the mouth of the people in the incorrect tongue of the people,
the certain tongue of the people, for it is they who so relish Brazilian
Portuguese. While we, what we do is copy the syntax of the Lusiads.

          This chant yields to the 'boyish' arrogance and the gangling length of the next line: 'Life with a portion of things that I didn't understand well.' ln the person of the boy in Recife, by this and other means, Bandeira acutely conveys nostalgia for a particular self that is his and bis old community's: a sense of 'being alone intime' and yet part of something larger. One night there is a fire and he is too young to go and see it : the men who 'put on their hats' and go out, smoking, are thus both domestic and mythical.
Again, into the story of bis seeing a girl naked in a straw bathhouse
near Caxangá, his first 'illumination', private and mystic, Recife
itself is intercalated, at its most tangible :

Cheia ! As cheias ! Barro boi morto árvores destroços
                      redomoinho sumiu
E nos pegões da ponte do trem de ferro os caboclos
              destemidos em jangadas de bananeiras

Flood ! The floods ! Mud dead ox trees debris submerged in the eddies.
And between the pillars of the railway bridge the fearless mestizos on
banana-wood rafts.

          ln his 'Poetica' (as a whole one of the loosest poems in Libertinagem) Bandeira rejects 'all lyricism that capitulates to all that wants it to be outside itself'. 'Evocation of Recife' (where the town is origins, time and language) is the most capacious example of a lyric 'self' otherwise contented with smaller though more 'cbaracteristic' expression. He wrote of the love he bore for the guinea pig he had as a child; in six lines and with a local newspaper as a source, of João Gostoso who danced, sang and drowned himself. Even such minimal pieces reveal a sly prickliness which
had been associated more than once with the cactus of another poem, perhaps first of all, and slily, by Bandeira himself, the cactus being from the north-east and 'enormous even for that region of exceptional fecundity' :

Um dia um tufão furibundo abateu-o pela raiz.

O cacto tombou atravessado na rua,

Quebrou os beirais do casario fronteiro,

Impediu o trânsito de bondes, automóveis, carroças

Arrebentou os cabos elétricos e durante vinte e quatro

horas privou a cidade de iluminação e energia:

- Era belo, áspero, intratavel.


One day a furious gale tore it up by the roots. The cactus fell across the

street, broke the eaves of the house opposite, stopped the movement of

trams, cars, cut the electric cables and for twenty-four hours deprived

the city of light and power: lt was beautiful, harsh and intractable.


          ln this outlandish assault on the modem city there is a kind of 'knowing innocence', a naturalness that is in fact worked for, which he drew attention to in a telling remark on Carvalho's Tôda a América. With his continental pretensions, Carvalho, he said, could at best do no more than echo Whitman : these echoes might be perhaps more harmonious, but would always be 'less naíve, less "innocent" than Leaves of Grass' .14 ln other words,politely criticizing Carvalho, Bandeira was again subtly pointing out the problems of being an 'American' poet in Brazil, and, by putting 'innocent' in quotation marks, was alerting us to just that ambiguous quality in himself: (It is not wholly misplaced to see him as Andrade's hero Macunaíma speaking as a poet.) A constant danger for him was allowing his naívety to become sentimental, a danger he avoided less well in later collections, in fond poems to Alencar and in certain apparently pious religious pieces. That is, when he failed to allow the boy from Recife also to be gruff and abrasive, or to match pure regional delight with an awareness of the modem adult and urban world. Such an awareness certainly sustains his evocation of Recife. More cunningly yet, it becomes in tum the source of humour for itself in 'Vou-me embora pra Pasárgada' ('I'm off now to Pasargada'), a most modem city from half remembered childhood reading of the classics: 15

Pra me contar as histórias

Que no tempo de eu menino

Rosa vinha me contar

Vou-me embora pra Pasárgada

Em Pasárgada tem tudo

E outra civilização

Tem um processo seguro

De impedir a concepção

Tem teléfono automático

Tem alcalóide à vontade

Tem prostitutas bonitas

Para a gente namorar


To tell myself the stories that at the time I was a child Rosa carne to tell me, I'm off now to Pasargada. !)ln Pasargada there is everything, it's

another civilization. It has a sure method of contraception, it has automatic telephones, it has alkaloid for the asking, it has pretty prostitutes for the people to love.


          Beyond a certain point it is not very helpful to think of Bandeira, or of the other poets who rose to prominence after about 1930, in terms of the Modernism elaborated, revised, propagated, and in part practised by the Andrades and others in São Paulo. Those historians of the 'movement' who proceed as if it were rightly observe a common tradition linking the Modernists with modem poets. Cecilia Meireles and other members of the Festa group in Rio (Schmidt, Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Vinícius de Moraes) admitted precedent by consciously reacting against it. And a poetas abstract as João Cabral de Melo Neto, at least in his earlier collections, can as a north-easterner be seen to develop the regionalist manner originally and paradoxically stimulated by the paulistas of the 1920s. ln the smaller arena of Brazilian poetry, the Modernists of that language were still more crucial and provocative than their namesakes in Spanish America, being of course also nearer to us in time. Y et Brazilian poets of more recent decades are perhaps better understood in a larger than national context; and for that reason they are discussed in a later chapter.



1     J. Nist, The Modernist Movement in Brazil, University of Texas Press, Austin/London, 1957; Mario da Silva Brito, História do Modernismo brasileiro, I, Antecedentes da Semana de Arte Moderna, São Paulo 1958; Wilson Martins, The Modernist Idea: A Critical Survey of Brazilian Writing in the Twentieth Century, translated by J. E. Tomlins, New York 1971. Mário de Andrade, O Movimento Modernista, Rio 1942 and Raul Bopp, Movimentos Modernistas no
(1922-1928), Rio 1965, are both first-hand accounts. Manifestos from the main magazines of the Modemists, laxon, Terra Roxa, Antropofagia, Verde Amarelo, Anta and others, were reproduced in Revista do Livro, Rio, no. 16 (1959). An easily available anthology with an introduction in English is G. Pontiero's An Anthology of Brazilian Modemist Poetry, Pergamon Press 1969.

2 From the volume of that title published in São Paulo in 1917 after early collaboration with Oswald de Andrade, and before the founding of the review Klaxon. Subsequently in ltaly, Marinetti and the Futurists issued a manifesto with the sarne title ('Noi') to the fascist govemment there in 1923.

3 By J. E. Tomlins, Vanderbilt University Press 1968, a bi-lingual edition.

4 The Modemists' desire to register spoken Brazilian in poetry, especially marked in the later collections of Manuel Bandeira (see below), is discussed by L. C. Lessa, O Modernismo Brasileiro e a Língua Portuguesa, Rio 1966.

5 Translated into English as Epitaph of a Small Winner, Penguin 1968.

6 ln the preface to Paulicéia desvairada, and in the series of articles Mestres do passado published in the Journal do Comércio, São Paulo 1921.

7 The connection is noted briefly by G. de Torre in Historia de las literaturas de vanguardia, Madrid 1965, p. 579. 8 A Spanish translation by Francisco Villaespesa, Toda la América, was published in Madrid in 1930 and would have been easily available to Neruda during his stay there.

9 The manifesto is also reprinted in A. Cándido and J. A. Castello, Presença da literatura brasileira, São Paulo 1967 (2nd edition), III, pp. 66-72.

10 Much of his writing was explicitly opposed to what he considered the crypto-fascism of Modemists like Picchia. II 'Canção do exilio, 1843', which has an epigraph from Goethe's 'Kennst Du das Land'. lncidentally, Goethe figures as a bête noire in Oswald's Manifesto, along with Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, and João VI (father of Pedro I of Brazil).

12 As, in his way, had Oswald. An idea of the depth of the traditional conflict between cities like Rio and São Paulo and the interior is given by Euclides da Cunha's classic Os sertões (Rebellion in the Backlands, 1892).

13   For example, in his 'Nota preliminar' to Libertinagem in Manuel Bandeira, Poesia completa e prosa, Rio 1967 (2nd edition), taken from his Aspectos da literatura brasileira, Rio 1943.

14 Quoted by J. Nist, p. 80.

15 He talks about this and other poems in 'Itinerário de Pasárgada', Poesia completa, p. 102.  









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