Total Particle Notes

Juan Davila, Love, 1988


Commentary on the book by Sílvia Saes

Ezra Pound wrote that poetry is closer to music and the visual arts than to literature. Paulo Prado, more emphatically, stated that literature and philosophy are enemies of poetry. The distinction between poetry and literature is always a controversial topic, but we can agree with the North American and Brazilian authors in the sense that, in poetry, whose most remote origin is singing, the narrative, the presence of characters, are not so important. or even of a political, philosophical, religious, existential or any other nature; What matters in poetry is poetry, that is, sounds, images, shapes, the materiality of the poem as a semantic body (which makes us think of an erotography or poetic erotica, based on the insertion of words into the skin of the paper).

These are just the immediate references that come to mind after reading the book of poems Total Particle Notes, written by Sílvia Saes, a work divided into three parts: the first, with the same title, consisting of five pieces numbered with Roman numerals; the second, titled While memory burns; and the third, which has the rubric of Affects.

Right from the initial pieces of the volume we become aware of this semantic materiality, not only through the substantive language and exclusive use of lowercase letters, without punctuation, but also through the concise diction and visuality, obtained by the spatialization of the lines, as happens in the initial piece: “within a stone / has another stone / and inside this / there is another / that also / has a stone / inside / of it”, verbal cells that fracture the syntactic-discursive discourse of the verse and refer us, in an intertextual way, to the well-known stone in the middle of Drummond's path.

The author also uses, somewhere, the sign of parentheses, braces or ellipsis mixed and repeated several times, no longer having a grammatical function, but as graphics, in the manner of an icon, to speak according to the terms of Charles Peirce's semiotics. In this poem, we also see something mysterious, undefined, enigmatic, as if it were a gap – or several gaps – to be filled by the reader's imagination, which takes us back to Umberto Eco's “open work”.

This opening poem is divided into nine sections; the last, clashing with the set, in the form of an unexpected anticlimax, is a prose text that in a way provides a reading key for the entire book: “The idea thought of as a focus imaginarius of reason, which provides a direction, a possible unity or meaning (Kant) is still a tincture we throw on things. This is also how it floods abysses and allows wide navigation.” In other poems in this first part of the volume, the author also inserts, at the end of the poems, small prose texts, including small narratives, some with a historical background, as happens in the text that refers to the Convent of São Francisco de Paraguaçu, where enslaved Africans were punished, just over a century ago.

In the second section of the book, While the memory burns, we find poems with longer verses and certain fables, which may refer to the memory of scenes experienced by the author or simply imagined by her (in this case, we would have invented memories). So, for example, in this piece: “January 30, 1965, at around 17 pm, a woman with curlers finds a photo of her in curlers and then looks at her shape, her head full of empty circles”. The prosaic tone and the everyday theme could easily lead the author to fall into the trap of certain recent poetry, in which ease is taken to the extreme, removing any artistic value from the poetry; This is not the case – fortunately – because Sílvia Saes knows how to incorporate and transform the most diverse technical and thematic elements that she mixes in her creative feijoada, in which there is no shortage of seasonings and flavors.

Everything that is assimilated becomes something else, through a vocation of metamorphosis, which binds us to reading the book, as we are presented with successive verbal transfigurations. In Brumadinho, for example, what could be a trivial piece of circumstance takes on almost expressionist contours, as happens in the lines: “they look for their missing people / on a crazy blind patrol”, “brown with dead matter / the world in waves of slime / the mouth tells one more body / hollow arithmetic ditch”.

Finally, in Affects, third and final part of the book, the lyrical self appears more emphatically, without, however, being narcissistic; is a speech that is still vague, enigmatic and mysterious: “and how this anticipated the sinister / death rattle of the mountain / (tearing the air) / stuck in the tree trunk / and I alone were all matter / and succumbed / to the duration of the mountain / that I didn’t feel the tree / that I didn’t feel the pain / (I felt for her)”. Sílvia Saes is a consistent, inventive poet who masters her instrument and it was the first relevant poetic reading she did in the year that began.

*Claudio Daniel He is a poet, post-doctorate in Literary Theory from the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). Author, among other books, of Bestial notebooks: breviary of Brazilian tragedy (light).

Originally published on Banquet newspaper.


Sílvia Saes, Total Particle Notes. Rio de Janeiro, 7 Letras, 2023, 92 pages. []

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