Inspiration and nationality: a brief overview of Brazil as described by Brazilian poets.

Poetry was introduced in the 17th century in Brazil by the Portuguese people who had settled here. Our first poets date back to that time, but there wasn’t an organized movement and it wasn’t really focused on Brazil.The first approach to Brazilian culture in poetry as an organized literary movement occurred in the beginning of the 19th century, during the first generation of Romanticism, a movement called “Indianism”. This generation is known for the exaltation of Brazil and its nature, and valued the natives as national heroes. One of the major exponents of this movement is Gonçalves Dias, famous for his poem “Canção do Exílio” (“Song of Exile”), which has the widely known verses “Minha terra tem palmeiras/ Onde canta o sabiá./ As aves que aqui gorjeiam/ Não gorjeiam como lá” (“My land has palm trees/ Where the thrush sings/ The birds that sing here/ Do not sing as they do there.”) and also for his epic narrative poem “I-Juca-Pirama”, the history of a Tupi warrior.

Later in that same century, still within Romanticism, there was the movement called “Condorism”, or the third generation, which received this name for having adopted the condor as a symbol of freedom. This movement was highly influenced by the political ideas which were appearing in Brazil at that time. Castro Alves is one of the most famous poets of Condorism, and he is also known as “The Poet of the Slaves” for his participation in abolitionist movements. He’s well-known for his poem “O Navio Negreiro” (The Slave Ship).

Romanticism in poetry was followed by the Parnassianism. It appeared in France and strongly influenced Brazilian poets to the extent that it became the “official” Brazilian poetry. Its most notorious poet is Olavo Bilac. His participation in civic activities and his strong defence of mandatory military service led to his nomination by the Brazilian Army as the “Patron of Military Service”. His most notable works about Brazil are the Brazilian Flag Anthem (Hino à Bandeira do Brasil) and the poems “O Caçador de Esmeraldas” (The Emerald Hunter) and “A Pátria” (The Homeland), and he’s widely known among military people for his poem “Ardor do Infante” (The Infantryman’s Ardour).

The next literary movement in poetry to focus on Brazil was Modernism, which started in the beginning of the 20th century. Its first phase is characterized for its endeavour to establish a national poetry, rejecting European influences and adopting the free verse. It’s considered that it started in 1922, during the “Semana de Arte Moderna” (Modern Art Week), held in São Paulo. This movement is marked by the “Manifesto da Poesia Pau-Brasil” (Brazilwood Poetry Manifesto), the “Verde-Amarelismo” (“Green-‘yellowism’”) movement, the “Manifesto Regionalista de 1926” (Regionalist Manifesto of 1926) and the “Revista de Antropofagia” (Anthropophagy Magazine). Famous poets from these movements are Manuel Bandeira (and his poem “Os Sapos“, or “The Frogs”) and Mário de Andrade. Its second phase starts in the 1930s and lasts until about 1945. The poetry of this time is more focused on religious and philosophical unrest, and some poets wrote socially critical-oriented poems. The major exponents of poetry in the second phase of Modernism are Carlos Drummond de Andrade, Vinícius de Moraes, Jorge de Lima and Cecília Meireles.

Vinícius de Moraes was also a musician, and I personally consider him one of our greatest poets. He was able to perform with both singers of “old guard” movements and young and prominent poets/musicians, like the great Toquinho, Miúcha and Chico Buarque, and he is one of the founders of the musical movement Bossa Nova in the 1950s, along with Tom Jobim and João Gilberto. It was through Bossa Nova that Brazilian culture spread intensively among foreigners, although it reinforced the stereotype that Brazil is just Rio de Janeiro.

The post-Modernism has been the current literary movement since the 1950s and it is marked by the art of word, thus diminishing the social, political, philosophical and religious focuses which were recurrent in the previous movement. The most known poets of this movement are Ferreira Gullar, João Cabral de Melo Neto, Haroldo de Campos, Décio Pignatari and Augusto de Campos. I especially recommend the three latter ones for being part of the movement Concretism, which values visual poetry and different displays of words around the poem.

This is an attempt to introduce you, readers of this blog, to Brazilian poetry. I hope it’s worked. Any questions and concerns? Feel free to comment here or  e-mail us at thisbrazilianlife@gmail.com

— João Paulo

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