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Poesia Concreta in Brasile

Augusto de Campos - Haroldo de Campos - Décio Pignatari

Milano: Archivo di Nuova Scrittura, 1991. 32 p.



Pilot plan for concrete poetry

1953 /1958



Concrete poetry : product of a criticaL evolution of forms. Assuming that the

historical cycle of verse ( as formal-rhythmical unit) is closed, concrete poetry begins by being aware of graphic space as structural agente. Qualified space: space-time structure instead of mere linear-temporistical development. Hence the importance of ideogram concept, either in its general sense of spatial or visual syntax, or in its special sense (Fenolosa/Pound) of method of composition based on direct - analogical, not logical-discursive -juxtaposition of elements. "II faut

que notre intelligence s 'habitue à comprendre synthético-idéographiquement au lieu de analtico-discursivement" (Apollinaire); Eisenstein: ideogram and montage.


Forerunners: Mallarmé (Un coup de dés , 1897): the fírst qualitative jump:

"subdivisions prismatiques de l'idéé"; space ("blancs") and typographical

devices as substantive elements of composition. Pound (The Cantos ); ideogramic method. Joyce (Ulysses and Finnegans Wake): word-ideogram; organic interpenetration of time and space. Cummings: atomization of words, physiognomical typography; expressionistic emphasis on space. Apollinaire (Çalligrammes ): the vision, rather than the praxis. Futurism, Dadaism: contributions to the life of the problem. In Brazil: Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954): "in pills, minutes of poetry." João Cabral de Melo Neto (bom 1920 - The Engineer and The Psychology of Composition plus The Anti-Ode): direct speech, economy and functional architecture of verse.


Concrete poetry: tension of things words in space-time. Dynamic structure:

multiplicity of concomitant movements. So in music-by definition, a time art- space intervenes (Webern and his followers: Boulez and Stockhausen; concrete and eletronic music); in visual arts-spatial, by definition-time intervenes (Mondrian and his Boogie-Woogie series; Max Bill; Albers and perceptive ambivalence; concrete art in general).


Ideogram: appeal to non verbal communication. Concrete poem comunicates its own structure: structure-content. Concrete poem is an object in and by itself, not an interpreter of exterior objects and/or more or less subjective feelings. Its material: word (sound, visual form, semantical charge). Its problem: a problem of functions-relations of this material. Factors of proximity and similitude, gestalt psychology. Rythm: relational force. Concrete poem, by using the phonetical system (digits) and analogical syntax, creates a specific linguistical area-"verbivocovisual "- wich shares the advantages of non verbal communication, without giving up word's virtualities. With the concrete poem occurs the phenomenon of metacommunication: coincidence and simultaneity of verbal

and nonverbal communication; only-it must be notes- it deals with a communication of forms, of a structure-content, not with the usual message communication.                                                     .


Concrete poetry aims at the least common multiple of language. Hence his

tendency to nounising and verbification. "The concrete wherewithal of speech" (Sapir). Hence its affinities with the so-called isolating languages (chinese): "The less outward grammar the chinese language possesses, the more inner grammar inheres in it" (Humboldt via Cassirer). Chinese offers an example of pure relational syntax, based exclusively on word order (see Fenollosa, Spair and Cassirer).


The conflict form-subject looking for identifícation, we call isomorphism.

Parallel to form-subject isomorphism, there is a space-time isomorphism, which creates movement. In a first moment of concrete poetry pragmatics, isomorphism tends to physiognomy, that is a movement imitating natural appearance (motion); organic form and phenomenology of composition prevail. In a more advanced stage, isomorphism tends to resolve itself into pure structural movement (movement properly said); at this phase, geometric form and mathematics of composition (sensible rationalism) prevail.


Renoucing the struggle of "absolute", concrete Poetry remains in the magnetic  field of perennial relativeness. Chronomicro-metering of hazard. Control. Cybemetics. The poem as a mechanism regulating itself: feed-back. Faster communication (problems of functionality and structure implied) endows the poem with a positive value and guides its own making.


Concrete Poetry: total responsability before language. Thorough realism. Against a poetry of expression, subjective and hedonistic. To create precise problems and to solve them in terms of sensible language. A general art of the word. The poem-product: useful object.


Translated by the authors


Augusto de Campos

Décio Pignatari

Haroldo de Campos


Augusto de Campos
caracol" = "snail" (1960) 

key for lecture:
colocar = put
máscara = mask
caracol = snaial


Haroldo de Campos
silencio"= "silence"  (from the  series PHENOMENOLOGY OF COMPOSITION,


Décio Pignatari
femme" = "woman" (1984)


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