Gabriel Morais Medeiros

Charlie Millar, Sunday Night, Djenne, Mali
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By GUILHERME RODRIGUES*

Considerations on the work of the poet and writer

A series of short stories by Gabriel M. Medeiros has now been published in the book Below the flag,[I] headed by two more well-known contemporary prose writers: Whisner Fraga and Fábio Mariano. With one of his narratives entitled “Os Nômads do altiplano”, Gabriel M. Medeiros makes his debut in the genre, after publishing some poetry books since 2016.

I would like to take some time to make some comments about this story, which, powerfully, narrates in the first person a peculiar situation of a teacher from a private primary education network who files and wins a lawsuit against his former employer. Furthermore, the narrator sets out to describe why this school had achieved financial success through typical fast-food advertising practices. Using an almost aphorismatic model, Gabriel M. Medeiros produces, one could say, something like a short-story essay.

1.

A company whose owner is designated by surname in a paternalistic tone; a form of exploration that has a panopticon structure as its structure; colleagues referred to by nicknames that are sometimes joking, sometimes referring to the worker's intimate and/or university life; an obscure origin of the owner's fortune: all these elements constitute the life and modes of operation and material reproduction of the world of work in the private education network in Brazil — all of them present in the short story “Os nomads do altiplano”.

The private school appears in the narrative in its brutal integrity, as a very advanced and avant-garde form with regard to the forms of exploitation in late capitalism — neoliberalism in its crudest form, in the sense of its ideological spectrum. In this regard, it is notable how the narrator's voice constantly uses a violent tone, which vacillates between the ironic and the literal — to the point that it is often difficult to discern when he is actually being ironic.

None of this is strange to the writer Gabriel M. Medeiro, already a published poet since 2016 with the book Andromache, forty semesters[ii]. Through poetic language, this writer's work structurally reduces the spirit of the time of the era of social networks, of this new time of capitalist realism: the private school environment, then, is a privileged place in this sense, so dear to the author. His language uses free association in order to construct images that are assembled as the surrealists wanted in the last century; However, there is something more there: the violence of our era is different, faster, more automated and with greater scope than in the 1930s.

This is how its language is assembled as a hybrid between the human and the violent propaganda of the algorithm; a poetry, let's say, bionic. To remember Octavio Paz, if poetic creation begins with violence over language[iii], then Medeiros' poetry characteristically unfolds this element, insofar as it is the result of a multiple crossing of the spirit of the time, and simultaneously it also reflects the attitude of disagreement between the poet and society, which is seen through a symbolic dive into the modern myths of this broken society.

A poem like “Operação Dalmácia”, from his first book, demonstrates this, but I will leave here with another poem: “Professor Rampa”, from the work Extinct pornography:

“I visited so long ago,
so-and-so's mansion,
maintainer of a wanton
large network of pre-university exams.

Complainant, the boss
raised my suspicions
that some cleaner
I would be stealing from you

          the carp
          pearly white

from your winter pond

(rustling sheets of water,
watertight under
          the backyard arbor

charcorous
in the barbecue complex
of the mansion)

The servant, the page, the servant
a little thief or a stealth, in migué,
perhaps carrying them in the lining of your pockets,
the covers were
my love.

Sometimes I imagine a dripping cat
running away with the suffocating fish

          beyond biometric ordinances”[iv]

The poetic image here, also as Octavio Paz wants, is the result of a tension with itself: when saying it the way it says it, the distance between the word and the thing expressed there decreases or even disappears,[v] since in Medeiros' poem there are points of clash between a language of creation, which detaches the words from their reality – due to their ordering and rhythm, with adjectives that are foreign to the image immediately presented (such as “white-pearly”) –, but which then also pull them back to the ground, as a very believable caricature of a situation that explains the ideologically dominant vision of the class struggle.

This poetic image, which is erudite and of poetic creations that refer to Greek and Roman poetry (“rustling leaf” even seems to come from a verse of Homer) is crossed by the brutality of the image of the servant “in the migué” passing through the entrance of a condominium closed with dead fish.

Many of the quatrains that make up the book Organ trafficking in Brazilian poetry also bring something of this nature, such as:

“Did you dream that I spent the night
in underground chambers
and found you smoking
some commands-in-action”[vi]

These redondilhas bring precisely this bionic element, of the dream organically crossed by the force of the cultural industry, and, above all, of a world in which destruction took the mind to bunkers, gated communities, armored trucks, shopping malls. The expression in the second person of Portuguese, as well as the classic rhythm of the medieval poem-song, detach the language from reality, but it is suddenly dragged into its opposite – profoundly real, to the extent that it can only be said as it appears there – with this surrealist image of a toy – a childish object, but also warlike and ideologically committed to the figure of false war heroism in video games – being smoked – an experience that bridges the gap between the teenager and the adult, between the subversion and resignation.

This violence dismantles and assembles Medeiros' poetry, right down to its language core. And in this desert of buzzwords, in the aggressiveness of marketing and in the phantasmagoria that is typical of social networks – the thanks to more destructive appears in the stories, our tweets, in messages forwarded by messaging apps – poetry forces itself to create a bionic language: a poetic cyborg, if you will.

2.

The author's prose debut is an extension of this experience of literature in capitalist realism. Like a social media feed, the images appear there crossed by the violence of a cybernetic language. The narrator – a teacher who, it can be said, has a command of the language – does not fail to resort to banal vulgarities while using an analytical-aphorismatic form to describe the functioning of a pre-university course.

And see that the story unfolds through a classic anguish: faced with desire and its ghostly object (the money from the lawsuit; the possible death arising from a subject with a criminal history), the narrator vacillates between school and the environment of prostitution, bringing the two professions together in a revealing way – a topic already addressed by Medeiros in his book Extinct pornography, with touches of Walter Benjamin.

The language that tensions the modern experience of the poetic exile and the cultural industry can be seen lucidly in passages such as: “One day, I passed by a counterfeit Persian carpet store, cheap and empty; by a pharmacy that sold prosthetics and bullet-proof vests, and by the pastry shop where the prostitutes were, playing on their cell phones and smoking, sitting on plastic chairs, with their torsos in the shade of the awning and their legs in the sun, with impressively standardized tattoos on the thighs: carps, skulls, Valentinas, Katrinas, carps, skulls, dragons, Chinese dragons, Saint George, skulls, Quintralas. That afternoon, as was obviously going to happen, one of the girls came to discuss an idea with me. She said her name was Maria Vitória. A half hour ('or a cumshot', she emphasized) cost one hundred reais, 120 if it was in the little room at the pension next door, 1 hour two hundred reais. There was no option of three hours: 'then it would be the night's stay'. I said I didn't have any money, I politely thanked him, and reinforced that, if I weren't so poor, I would definitely accept the invitation. She laughed, said goodbye and walked away. She had a piercing in her gums and a micro-brooch on her canine, sparkling, like outer ice. As if two small sheets of glass had pressed a fragment of a Saturn ring, and now offered you this frame as a gift.”[vii]

At the end of the story, therefore, the tension leads to a revelation that is almost sacred, as if the gaze changed drastically with a ride to a prostitute. There is no ghost there, but as a sacred form, the fire of the torches at the sewage treatment plant seem to provide the narrator with another mode of affection that he does not see (and in fact does not exist, due to the very structure of the private-school-form -cram) at the school itself. The short story, finally, marks this advanced station of capitalist realism very well: the prep school, and, without a doubt, the entrance exam. It's no wonder how each of these schools could easily be confused with a bunker, or a gated community.

* Guilherme Rodrigues He holds a PhD in Literary Theory from Unicamp's IEL.

Notes


[I] MARIANO, Fábio; MEDEIROS, Gabriel M.; FRAGA, Whisner. Below the flag. Campinas: Ofícios Terrestres Edições, 2023.

[ii] MEDEIROS, GM Andromache, forty semesters. São Paulo: Patuá, 2016.

[iii] PEACE, Octavio. El arch and the lira: The poem. The poetic revelation. Poetry and history. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1990, p. 38 (https://amzn.to/3Zh78vk).

[iv] MEDEIROS, Gabriel M. Extinct pornography. São Paulo: Patuá, 2019, p. 86 (https://amzn.to/468ZdCg).

[v] PEACE, ibid. pp. 109-12.

[vi] Id. Organ trafficking in Brazilian poetry. Cotia: Urutau, 2022, p. 49.

[vii] MARIANO; MEDEIROS; FRAGA. ibid. pp. 61-2.


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