ME de Melo e Castro (1932-2020) – II

Image: Antonio Lizárraga (Jornal de Resenhas)


Commentary on the work and five poems, three unpublished by the Portuguese bard

Ernesto Manuel Geraldes de Melo e Castro (Covilhã, Portugal, 1932 – São Paulo, Brazil, 2020) who signed his works EM de Melo e Castro was a sculptor of the word. He treated it always aware of its plasticity, in all dimensions, in its spatial, visual, sound, static reality in books or dynamic in his video poems; and also in his temporal reality, as an intellectual engaged in the Portuguese Experimental Poetry movement and in the struggle for freedom of expression, going through the Salazarist dictatorship and flowing into the vicissitudes, setbacks, achievements and contradictions of his country's reunion with democracy after the 25th of April 1974.

I met him when he visited the University of São Paulo, after the Carnation Revolution, accompanying the mission of Portuguese intellectuals who had come to Brazil to explain and spread the values ​​of the movement that freed the country from the dictatorial yoke. We were living through the delicate and complicated moment when the first steps of the “slow, gradual and safe distension” of the Geisel government were being rehearsed, which would involve erratic movements between the vague promises of a democratic opening and the concrete realities of prior censorship of the press, of the prohibition of countless books, the appointment of bionic senators and the threatening movements of the more right-wing wing of the Armed Forces, dissatisfied with the prospect, albeit distant, of a possible return of the federal government to civilians.

In this troubled context, the presence of that Portuguese mission brought a double hope. In the first place, he valued the tenacity and perseverance through the example of those intellectuals who, faced with one of the longest dictatorships on the planet, which lasted 48 years, from 1926 to 1974, maintained the dignity of their duties and performance under extremely harsh conditions of censorship and repression. Secondly, it allowed us to visualize a glimmer of hope for social movements, workers and opponents of the Brazilian dictatorial regime, which was evident in the reversal of the meaning of the verse by Ruy Guerra and Chico Buarque in the play Calabar, banned in 1973: “This land is yet to become an immense Portugal”, reversing its first meaning, which was to confirm Brazil’s colonized vocation, to become a libertarian libel.

Each of those writers had their own watermark. José Cardoso Pires, for example, with whom I had a long and memorable conversation about the days of the Revolution, had something torrential about him. As for Ernesto, who semi-hided half of his name behind the initials EM, he had something of the nascent thread in the rock. Despite the fact that he was already the owner of a voluminous work, which later grew even more, every drop of it was painstakingly extracted with the chisel of a delicate explorer in search of the central vein. My intention is not to privilege the style of one over the other. On the contrary, in their way of writing and being, both were geniuses, indispensable. Nor do I want to despise the equally valuable and valuable work of other intellectuals. But that of those two were the ones that, perhaps because of the contrast, were indelibly impregnated in my memory of those days of a voracious and happy coexistence.

M. de Melo e Castro, who ended up moving to Brazil, continued his work as a dedicated jeweler, continuing his trajectory of being one of the founders of Portuguese Experimental Poetry, fraternal to that of the Campos brothers, Décio Pignatari and others in the new land that he now constantly discovered, rediscovered and covered with his poetic discoveries.

Here we present some of this work. First, we bring six of his poems. Three published in his book Neo-Pagan-Poems, published in São Paulo, in 2010, through Selo Demônio Negro. And three others, still unpublished, that are part of his book late poems, to be published by Editora Patuá, also in São Paulo.

poems from the book Neo-Pagan-Poems.


the practical truth
these places are not places
these houses are not houses
these seas are not seas
these wings are not wings

these places are not homes
these houses are not seas
these seas are not wings
these wings are not places

these places are not these places
these houses are not these houses
these seas are not these seas
these wings are not these wings

the houses that are places
the seas that are houses
the wings that are seas
the places that are wings

are the places that are places
are the houses that are houses
are the seas that are seas
are the wings that are wings

it's not the houses that are places
it's not the places that are wings
it's not wings that are seas
it's not the seas that are houses

it's the wings that are houses
it's the seas that are places
are the places that are wings
it's the houses that are seas

it's these airs that are places
these are the houses that are wings
these are the places that are seas
it's these wings that are shallow

and these places are those places
and these houses are those houses
and these seas are those seas
and these wings are those wings


visual poetry
all poems are visual
because they are to be read
with eyes that see
out the letters and spaces
but there is nothing new
in everything that is written
it's just the repeated alphabet
by different orders
letters words shapes
as hollow as walnuts
cut into curves and lobes
of the vegetable brain: nuts
the eyes see in the lyrics
and in their combinations
fantastic references
voices mainly from the absence
which is the full image
that writing ignites
fire of the senses
and that the writings claim
to call themselves what they are

illusions closed to
open eyes see



poems from the book late poems



They won't see me
in the verses I've done
and others that I invented
in the corner of agony
when everything flew
how it disappeared.

You won't see me from me
in what I was not
not even what I wrote
to recognize
what I lived.

poetry rises and shouts – FIRE!
where there is no fire
and sing LOVE!
where there is no love
and shouts Water!
where there is no thirst
spreads the horror
where beauty dominates
and the powerful feelings
of the raging tigers
the poetry rises
and screams LIFE!
where death rules

of the sad evidence
only the ashes remain
and oblivion
of wild gestures
of lost men



beautiful is to see
to see

death is not scary
scares the pain

the tissue of pain
it's invisible wires

the vision dresses
I sell

if a line is born
from a moving point
where does the movement come from?

only the eyes know
what the brain ignores

if i see
I can't leave
to consider

if I feel what I think
what is the end?

the experience is where it ends
to start?

who is alive
you know you live
but the dead
ignore death?

the ingenuity does what it can
power undoes all it can

do not say

the decay
for yourself?

poetry unsays the poetic
thinking is contradictory

the synthesis
one mask only

to see
close the eyes


* Flavio Aguiar is a writer, retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP and author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo).

PS.: I am grateful for the collaboration of my colleagues from the Literature course at USP, Nádia Batella Gotlib and Elza Miné.



See this link for all articles