Marco Buti, Higher Education


Commentary on the book by the poet Armando Freitas Filho

There are those who think of the poetry tradition as a race in which the offspring are always lagging behind; others prefer to seek in it models for an austere demand for creative value, supposedly in disuse. In an age when the future is felt to be blocking, it is understandable that poetry is always measured against data that has already been cast.

It is difficult to read the poetry of Armando Freitas Filho without asking this question. After all, the book Home, it requisitions tradition and qualifies it – not without irony – as a perfect marble, against which the imperfection or sterile dissonance of the present is debated. The book disappoints horse racing and qualitative comparison. This is because deception is his material, his formulation, his art. The obsession with the past lack, by the verse lack, the drama of the difficulty of giving form, is what discredits form and at the same time constitutes it, instructing the reader in the experience of its rules. Home, asks to be read under the sign of disharmony, homeless loneliness.

If the book is explicitly a memoir, a book of experience that exposes itself as autobiographical, the autobiographical in itself is a false question. Although the poems, more directly those of the first part, do not fail to organize a chronological path, from the family to the school universe, the very misery of the “facts” suggests that what is at stake is not the mere biographical narrative, but the experience that is at the same time situated and displaced from a subject. The relationship with parents, with religion, with sex, but also metalanguage and negotiation with the idea of ​​finitude, are occasions in which the noise of memory and the dirt of intimacy are exposed. What matters in biographical facts is not so much in the contents of the past as in the “groaning of the wood” that holds old papers. If there is confession here, it is first and foremost a confession of the body.

The lack of possible interiority, which the comma linked to the word “home” in the title suggests, points to a theme already known in Armando’s poetics: the dramatization of the surface of the body (of senses such as smell, taste, touch, explored to exhaustion), or rather, the “rubbing” of bodies, which removes them from immanence and puts them in relationship, or in friction. It is necessary to take this into account, regarding Armando's closeness to Drummond or Cabral, but also to the criticism he directs at them: the former, due to its symbolism, its assumption of interiority, albeit dissonant; to the second, for the “cleanliness” of the poetic situation.

There is no opposition to the kind of solution that the modernist totem poles carried out, but to the requirement of the solution itself; “killing the father in secret / of the body”, poetry reaffirms its uniqueness, but does not relaunch it as it was foreseen. The “secret of the body” is not exactly the space (alusive, ironic, or postmodern) where a hygienic sacrifice takes place, but it has an almost adverbial function, of a by-means-of-what which contains its own embarrassment, its damage, its sinisterness.

An honest paraphrase of Home, would lead us to something like a poetics of disappointment, not only because the body is never beyond its secret, but because the rubbing of bodies is not rejoicing either. The body creaks, rather than shivers. The body teaches us to read disappointment as a function of the verse, which stumbles, which overflows, which spills over in conjunction with the dramatic imminence of prose; which negotiates with the randomness of the cut, prescribing a discourse on the verse as an interruption. To interrupt is to expand the meaning of a word, of a phrase, lost in the flow of the world's prose. If this expansion may seem to some readers devoid of reason and effect, and precisely for that reason, it is nevertheless a faithful portrait of the historical disappointment that characterizes its time.

The art of desolation, as Armando practices it, has coherence and perspective. It teaches us how it should be read, but it needs time to show its requirements. To the point that he ends up becoming involved with a certain didacticism, which is never separated from the act of teaching, and which in Armando's poetry seethes in the insistence on the weakness of repetition, the compulsion to write that does not close, the reiteration of failure of the “repeater”, of reckoning with his ghosts. Learning to read is learning to deal with the repeated disappointment, the rewriting, the correction, the postponement of the self contained in the voice recording – this is what the book seems to tell us on every page. Home, (“I rewrite, I correct, making / pressure with the blunt pencil / to mark my dissent”).

Throughout the texts, the loss, the rust, the mismatch, the unfinished, the corroded, the piled up, the whole logic of damage contained in the left-hand (“sinister”) that rubs against the left drummondiano, are indexes of a poetics that is commented on, that expands its metalanguage. The drama expands, assuming the risk of referring “non-stop”, compulsively, to its own unfinished state, to its situated “punishment”. The poem teaches the sinister so abundantly that it makes it its own scourge.

But what seems to be excessive in Armando's poetry it is still the answer to what is required of it, of poetry in general: a coherence, an attitude, a function – always contradicted or disappointed by the voracity of the very demand that requests them. The epic of our time is so often one of disappointment, of the mismatch between what is sought in poetry and what it offers, even if we don't know exactly what. The “guilt” expressed by the poem is not without parallel with this other, which is to prolong such embarrassment, because we do not know or do not want to recognize it.

What the poetics of disappointment in Home, ends up suggesting is a shared responsibility in the face of the sinister: that of demanding the right of form and granting it, for example, to poetry.

* Marcos Siscar is professor of literature at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of poetry and crisis: essays on the “poetry crisis” as topos of modernity

(Unicamp Publisher)


Armando Freitas Filho. Home,. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 134 pages.

Originally published on Journal of Reviews no. 6, October 2009.


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