Poetics and Visuality: A Trajectory of Contemporary Brazilian Poetry

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Philadelpho Menezes's Poetics & Visuality offers an account of the development of extreme poetic practices in a country known for its commitment to experimentation. This richly illustrated history begins with spatialism, to which concretism comes as a corrective ordering in the early 1950s. The "visual poetry" of the last decades is cogently theorized as intersign poetry (collage, package, montage poetries), a movement that has drawn international attention. (Source: publisher)

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The goal of this study is to furnish a theoretical framework for reflections on the pathways taken by experimental poetry in Brazil. At the same time, I hope to suggest that these increasingly intricate formulations might map out their own zone, thereby allowing the method herein elaborated to be applied to other kinds of cultural experimentation. The reader of poetry today all too frequently is confused by a body of material that seems to be little more than a collection of formal exercises that take their origins ex nihilo. I will try to undo this error by showing the inverse: in the apparent chaos of avant-garde Brazilian poetry, there is a backbone that structures a trajectory in the direction of an incorporation of visuality in the poem, a depositing of the poetic function in the visual image.

This introduction of visuality into the sphere of the poetic function disarticulates the divisions among languages, sectioned up and individualized by the ideological system to reflect the conception of the world. This disarticulation is not absolutely intended by the processes of multimedia and interdisciplinarity: these, on the contrary, produce a reinvigoration of the parts, disguising them in an experimental mess where each sign is kept within the limits of its semiotic nature; they share the same space but do not blend or fuse. The nature of signs (visual, verbal, or sound) determines -- even though these are multimedia and interdisciplinary processes -- their function within the system of languages. In intersign montage poetry, the disarticulation is given by the deprivileging of the nature of sign in order to consider as central the question of the functions of language. Thus, what determines language (poetic in this case) is not the nature of the sign (if this is verbal, visual, or sound), but the function it exercises. What defines language of poetry is the poetic function that can be produced by words and also by visual signs, in the case of intersign poetry. Thus words, evacuated of their semantic aspect, can realize graphic work, as collage-poem proves. A final conclusion should be elaborated through the questions raised by the cinema. From its first years, cinematographic language was revealed as a hybrid, where various functions are present, including the poetic. But the predominance of the narrative aspect (inherent to the temporal discourse of film) and the strong capacity (heritage of photography) to "thematize" reality and the life it animates make the cinema realize an "intersign prose." From its comparison with intersign montage poetry, a glaring fracture appeared in the totalizing way of experimental poetry: the loss of the sound aspect. The significant density which the visual image achieved ended up banishing sound from poems.

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Luciana Gattass