ghost engineer

Image: Soledad Seville


Commentary on the book by Fabrício Corsaletti

The first aspect that draws attention to ghost engineer, by Fabrício Corsaletti, is its portal, the story that opens the book. In it, the poet tells that he dreamed of being in Buenos Aires on a family trip and that he found the real Bob Dylan, exiled in Buenos Aires thirty years ago. “Porteños looked down on his musical legacy, but loved a volume of sonnets set in Buenos Aires that he had published during his early years in the city”.

Before managing, in the dream, to obtain a volume of these 200 sonnets, the poet woke up and began to write the poems of Bob Dylan's book. In ten days, he wrote 56, which "means a hundred and forty-four are still lost out there." These 56 sonnets are the book ghost engineer.

The story is rich in the treatment of the elusive personality of the composer (first and only Nobel laureate as a popular music author) and of a supposed double of his living in the Argentine capital; in capturing the autonomy of porteños, capable of liking or not what the rest of the world likes; in the constitution of a perspective that is at the same time a “horse of saint” of the American composer, but of a specific American composer, who only exists in the dreams of the poet himself – what makes the poet, after all, possessed by himself or possessed of yourself -; and in the open ending, which reveals the intense work of 56 sonnets in ten days, but recognizes that there are still 144 sonnets left for those who venture to find the other Bob Dylan in their dreams (there is something challenging, bravado, in revealing the existence of these lost poems).

The Borgean tone is present, whether in the game of exchange between original and copy, or in the Alephian, enigmatic glance, which, in summary, points out that there are hidden mysteries in the universe – in the story of the Argentine writer, perhaps Beatriz Viterbo is a greater mystery than that the Aleph; already in ghost engineer...

It is in the balance of these two forces, trance and work, that I propose a reading of Fabrício Corsaletti's book. Through the trance: the dream, the incorporation, the obsessions (Dylan, Argentina, Miss M.). For the work: the sonnets, the rhymes, the historical, biographical, social material, etc. that appears in the poems. This reading will go a little deeper into aspects of these intertwined forces and then ask about the possibility of balance between them, generally seen basically as opposites (Dionysus, Apollo and their respective franchises), but which in ghost engineer find a certain arrangement.

The fluency of the poems, for example, is of the order of trance, but produced by work. As in “after I entered the beautiful mansion / and played lightly on the piano / a blues older than any ghost” (sonnet “10”), in which verses of different lengths, but of the same meter, are conducted by liquids, nasals and plosives.

The Dylanian imaginary that runs through the sonnets, within a Buenos Aires geography, also seems to me to be tranced by someone who has walked through records and streets. Trance, however, is based on the experience of the poet, who has made Buenos Aires a favorite stop since he lived there for a semester in 2005, and on his constant listening to the work of the American composer. That is, it is trance, but it is accumulation.

The sonnet is, of course, in the order of work, the fixed form, in the words of Olavo Bilac: “work, and stubborn, and file, and suffer, and sweat…”. But the sonnet in ghost engineer it's not the end of the road, the value in itself, the fetish, but a way to say what you mean, like someone who has the melody of a decasyllable in his head, more by the pulse than by the meter, and here it is the trance. “the sun does not know that the day is over / and, like it, I remain lit / with that love in me, which has no weight / or has, perhaps, the weight of joy” (sonnet “46”) are exemplary verses of that we find throughout the book. Seeing, from the tradition of the Brazilian sonnet, these are sonnets that do not have the face of the usual sonnet, of the ordinary sonnet made to fill the form of the sonnet (incidentally, as in the best cases among our sonnetists).

Another aspect of the order of work is rhymes, the effort to find repetition in a way that is not obvious but at the same time not artifice. On the one hand, quartets such as: “I am always in front of the mystery / when I meet you, Miss M / your eyes rhyme, your mouth trembles / the village nose, the empire hair” (sonnet “18”), in which the rhyme scheme proves challenging from the start. On the other hand: “the future has arrived, it came broken / the postman seems depressed / my breakfast is a pill / and the current newspaper from last month” (sonnet “36”), in which the rhymes seem given, but the sound proximity remits to a kind of… trance.

In any case, rhymes do not appear as a duty, but as a pleasure, not as an obligation to conform, but as fun, if not even as pure fun, as if the sonnets entered the same desiring orbit as Buenos Aires and Bob Dylan. Is it possible to have fun making sonnets? Is it possible to have fun making poems? Is it possible to have fun with the task of recomposing the sonnets that that other Dylan published in Buenos Aires?

Summarily, I sought to recompose the way in which the two forces, trance and work, intertwine in the set of sonnets. Perhaps this combination suggests other structures beyond the one we see superficially in the reading and rereading of the 56 poems. Is it possible to think of the verses as streets of Buenos Aires that find representation there? Is it possible to think of the verses as an embodiment of the multiple traits of Dylan's complex song work?

If we answer “yes” to any of these questions, we find explanations for a certain sensation of mist that accompanies us from the beginning of the reading and the dreamlike suggestion of the opening is replaced, as if we were advancing, on the immediate level, amid the poetic constructions, while, on a mediated level, we accessed this combination of two fixed ideas from the book: Buenos Aires and Bob Dylan. (There is a third: Mari, Miss M. or M., which is transversal in the work of Fabrício Corsaletti and comes, if I am not mistaken, from Eskimo (2010).)

If I was able to satisfactorily recompose the form, it should be noted that the result obtained is impressive and far exceeds a trivial set of poems. For those who follow the poet's production closely and from the beginning, even though there are other high points in his production, ghost engineer it is certainly a point of arrival of the work (of the trance?) of Fabrício Corsaletti until here. His style traits are discernible and maturing, his thematic universe thickens and expands.

The limits of the book are beyond what it could encompass with its proposal, which is coherently carried out throughout. The fact that they are sonnets still exposes the fracture of our community of readers with tradition and the avant-garde. The poet's distance from what is, programmatically, the revolution (work) or the ritual (trance), allows him to combine the two without constraints, and sustains the autonomy of the work. The title of the book, by the way, refers to concrete work (engineer) and haunting (ghost).

If I'm interpreting it correctly, a chapter closes in the work of Fabrício Corsaletti. Let the next ones come!

* Guto Leite, writer and composer, he is professor of Brazilian literature at UFRGS.


Fabricio Corsaletti. Phantom Engineer. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2022, 128 pages.

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