The poetry of Rubem Braga

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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Commentary on the book of poems by the chronicler Rubem Braga

Legend has it that Rubem Braga (1913-1990) wrote, throughout his career in the press, for six decades, about 15 thousand chronicles, broadcast in newspapers, magazines, radio and television. Only a small portion, estimated at just over a thousand, were published. Soon, right here at the earth is round, I hope to dedicate myself to the analysis of the writings of this magnificent chronicler, which I have been reading since I was fifteen.

Today I comment your Book of Verses, small, bringing together only 14 poems written between 1938 and 1963 – he who, as the preface by Affonso Romano de Sant'Anna informs, “around 40 was considered a leap poet. This is how he appears with three poems in Anthology of Contemporary Leap Poets collected by Manuel Bandeira. Forty years later, the leap year returns now in a marginal edition from Pernambuco [Edições Pirata, Recife, 1980]. Leap and marginal. And yet, everyone knows that he is one of the greatest poets in the language, only in prose”.

This Book of Verses was republished in 1993, a beautiful commemorative edition of the 80 years of old Braga, with illustrations by Jaguar and Carlos Scliar, preface by Lygia Maria Moraes, commentary on the author's chronicles by his son Roberto Seljan Braga, in addition to the aforementioned preface.

In fact, Sant'Anna sees in Rubem's verses a dialogue with friends and with modernist poetry, which was elaborated in Brazil between 1920 and 1960, especially with Bandeira and Vinícius de Moraes. In addition, Drummond, Bandeira, Paulo Mendes Campos and other poets spoke of poetry when they spoke of Braga – Bandeira says that the capixaba from Cachoeiro de Itapemirim was perhaps not a “poet from a mounted workshop”, but that he was also a poet, there is no slightest doubt.

Sant' Anna considers Vinícius and Bandeira “literary brothers” of Rubem, exploring themes such as “the fascination for women, the dialogue with death and the apprehension of everyday life through an endearing Carioca quality”. Examples of these poems are:

(1) “Sir, I want to walk down Rua do Catete/ I would see girls without socks, disheveled and agile,/ The eternal popular, democratic girls/ From the eternal Rua do Catete,/ (…) I am poor and superficial like Rua do Catete ./ I want the small and beloved bustle,/ The restless corner, birds and eggs, boarding houses,/ The trams and dry cleaners, the lampposts,/ The passers-by, the orange bus/ The only one in the world who has the honor of stepping onto Rua do Catete ” (“Lord! Lord!”, 1938).

(2) “A tall, beautiful, unknown woman (…)/ In her body was the sweet essential dignity/ Which is the supreme mark of a woman’s beauty./ I gazed at her, I held her eyes with mine,/ It was just a second./ She didn't turn away from her eyes,/ She just continued on her meek walk/ She didn't feel in my eyes the dazzled affliction (…)/ I felt in an instant all her long, long,/ Mortifying melancholy” (“That Woman” , 1941).

(3) “God keep Blanca Diana/ Dita La Negra Vergara,/ Beautiful and serious!/ A dream of Santiago/ That I never dreamed of/ But it stayed in my heart/ Like something in the air/ (…) Come to Rio de Janeiro / Where a former household / Commercial / Had the useless fantasy / Of doing, thinking of you / On a summer afternoon / This banal poem” (“Para Blanca Vergara”, 1952).

(4) “You have the eyes of a boy/ Sweet, handsome and cunning/ And you are a fine chap:/ You only want love and leisure./ Cappadocio (…)/ Despite what, I miss / Your presence, that the crowd / Do Rio asks aloud / God give you life and health / In Hollywood” (“Ticket to Los Angeles”, 1949).

(5) “Turn your face back, take a closer look/ Your face, your real face,/ Oh Braga aged, degraded” (“Ao Espelho”, 1957).

(6) “The crooks smile at the Bank and Power/ And are received by the Embassies./ They really like Thanksgiving Masses/ And on Fridays they eat fish” (“Ode às Calhordas”, 1953).

(7) “I know that Zina is going to die./ Zina will scream in despair./ The boy is not born. I sleep. I'm 16 years old/ (…)The doctors take her to Rio de Janeiro (…)/ Days go by. The boy was born./ But I open a telegram with Zina's death./ I spend the night on a bench at the station waiting for the train./ I smoke/ (…)Here we are burying Zina./ (…)I didn't pray or cry (…)/ Carmozina died/ (…)I remember Zina. She's thin / Neither pretty nor ugly./ She has a kind of sad grace./ I see her old hairstyle, friend./ her style. She was my godmother (…) / she looked at me seriously./ In her serious eyes there was / A clear affection./ (…) I don’t have any portrait of Zina at home (…) / Her dry throat. I collapse / On the table. I cry / Like a boy. In the bedroom./ The water fills my eyes/ Bathes my face. It's a relief./ I'm going to sleep. These tears/ Are a blessing from Zina. I fall asleep./ She is in the bedroom./ Not pregnant. Thin, serious, sad / Looking at her brother ”(“ The Death of Zina ”, 1946).

In “Lord! Sir!" (poem 1), the daily life of urban Rio de Janeiro in the 30s is present in a vigorous and humorous way; the seductive women appear in “Aquela Mulher” (2) and “Para Blanca Vergara” (3); friendship sets the tone in “Bilhete para Los Angeles” (4), in the farewell of Vinícius, who was going to work in the United States; the passage of years, aging and the loss of sweetness appear in “Ao Espelho” (5); the boçality of the Brazilian elite at the time is found in “Ode os Calhordas” (6); the long and painful work of mourning, carried out 13 years later, is in “A Morte de Zina” (7), his sister and godmother Carmozina, who disappears at the age of 30, when Rubem is only 16, traumatizing the whole family.

In short, I can even understand that the poetry of Rubem Braga, when compared to his production as a chronicler, in which he was a true master (see, in this regard, two brilliant essays by Davi Arrigucci Jr. – 1979 and 1985), does not experience the same brightness; however, ugly she does not. Affonso Romano de Sant' Anna wrote in his preface to Book of Verses that such poems “perhaps belong to the lineage of Pocket Viola, by Drummond and Mafuá do Malungo, de Bandeira” – which, let’s face it, is not easily discarded.

*Afranio Catani He is a retired professor at the Faculty of Education at USP and is currently a senior professor at the same institution..

 

Reference


Ruben Braga. Book of Verses. Rio de Janeiro: Record, 1993, 60 pages.

 

REFERENCES


David Arrigucci Jr. Where will the old Braga go? In: Lost and found: critical essays. São Paulo: Polis, 1979, p. 159-166.

David Arrigucci Jr. Braga again this way. In: The best short stories: Rubem Braga (Selection: Davi Arrigucci Jr.). São Paulo: Global, 1985, p. 5-28.

 

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