Poems not to miss

Eliezer Markowich Lissitzky, Proun 93. Floating spiral, 1924


Commentary on the book by Golondrina Ferreira

“In the interstices of this gray slide, I glimpse a war of usury of death against life and of life against death. Death: the gears of the assembly line, the imperturbable sliding of cars, the repetition of identical gestures, the task never finished […]. What if we were told that none of this matters, that we just need to get used to making the same gestures in an always identical way, at an always identical time, aspiring only to the placid perfection of the machine? Temptation of death. But life rebels and resists. The organism resists. Muscles resist. The nerves resist. Something, in the body and in the head, defends itself against repetition and nothingness. […] Everything that, in the men on the assembly line, silently screams: “I am not a machine!” (Robert Linhart, Factory strike).

“The proletariat goes through different stages of development. Its struggle against the bourgeoisie begins with its existence” (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto).

At the end of last year, a new edition – the fourth – of Golondrina Ferreira's book was published, Poems not to miss. The book is illustrated with drawings by Marco Antonio. Poems not to miss It is a work that could perhaps be included in the new marginal literature. After all, the book is from an independent publisher, its author is a worker and its verses address the lives of the exploited in this country. In the presentation, the author admits to being in the “poetry trench” of those poets “who never had the spotlight, nor never pleased those who had something to lose”.

Or even, the book would integrate the new forms of realism that today place the proletariat at the center of literary efforts, for example with Luiz Ruffato. A contemporary proletarian literature that uses prose and verse to narrate the memories and current experiences of workers in Brazil.

But the best summary and characterization of the book was given by the author herself, in a recent interview for the website One Hundred Flowers:[I] “fight poetry”. This is because the description of situations of oppression typical of proletarian life that run through the poems, organized into distressing days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday…), are not only interspersed with protests formulated in verse.

Simple protests, by the way, representative of the current moment of retreat in the workers' struggle, but which speak of the class struggle being waged “without interruption, although in a silent way and not visible from the outside, as it is not consecrated by existing legality, in all moments of production practice and far beyond this practice” (Althusser, 1999, p. 130). Acts of protest that are the meaning of all the verses together, thus composing a unique political manifesto, an art as a mobilization tool. The aesthetic, in Golondrina Ferreira's work, is only achieved for and through the political. As the poet says again, in an interview already cited: “poetry is what weaves together the struggle and the lack thereof, it populates the second of the first to see where it leads”.

Golondrina Ferreira's poems, therefore, not only serve to talk about the lives and pains that are forged in the production of goods and the valorization of capital. Poems forged in this very terrain, kept in pockets “so as not to be lost”. The capture of this reality is concomitant with its attempt to destroy it – for the working class to be capable of another production and reproduction of life, no longer based on “wage slavery”, a system already dissected by Marx.

Golondrina Ferreira's book, whose first edition is in 2019, appears in yet another historical period in which the working class is muzzled, as Edelman (2016) says. Both abroad and here, it suffers the devastating effects of continuous technological transformations in production and economic crises and their respective packages and “reforms”. Along with the other working classes, they see their working and living conditions worsening on several levels. To the point of not knowing exactly what is worse: suffering from unemployment, poverty, or the maddening pace of work that sickens, maims and kills.

Although important and valuable, there have been few rebellions in recent years, under weak or almost no organization. The majority of workers' movements, unions and so-called workers' parties are not at the service of anything approaching a revolution, but rather at the service of endless rounds of illusions and agreements with capital – agreements summarized by Maiakovski (2001, p 135) more than a century ago: “For one – the thread, for the others – its hole. / This is where the democratic republic reveals itself.”

It is under this rubble of the life and struggle of the proletariat, in its old and new landscapes, that Golondrina Ferreira dares to sing. Exercise of authorship that does not come from oneself – an identity that refuses to be enclosed in just one name. As she says in the Presentation: “I thank and dedicate the beauty and strength to everyone who produced them indirectly: to the militancy that has survived the last decades of decline […]. To intellectuals inside and outside organizations […]. To whom she dared not to give in to the invitations for conciliation […]. What it can still be, I offer to the characters in this book, the workers in my factory, in my country, and to so many others in Shanghai, Singapore, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Berlin…”.

The effort is to say what has been faced in the daily struggle in the current situation, and also to transform into poetry what is experienced by those who work.

In Golondrina Ferreira's poems, the first dimension of the struggle that appears is between dead capital and this strange variable capital that wakes up early to earn its daily bread. The machinery, animated as it is by the infinite hunger for appreciation, becomes a character. As it is said in the poem that opens the book: “The factory is hungry, / spent the whole day / with an empty stomach. / Then open your ratchet mouths / and we pass through your teeth / one by one.” Or even in the poem Thursday, where the worker, in front of the machine, “surrenders / to its power and regularity, / submits / to its demands and time”.

The process of intense consumption of the workforce is portrayed in several poems. Or rather, brooded over, in its materiality. Be it denouncing the brutal and cynical “freedom” that underlies “free” hiring and wage employment – ​​ultimately, the boss’s freedom to replace the worker like someone changing a part.

Whether addressing the fallacy of so-called labor rights for the vast majority, who cannot complain, cannot fall ill, sometimes not even talk, in the unhealthy dictatorship called production. Whether in the verse description of the assembly line (“One more / One more / One more” or “Connect / adjust / feed”), or even the situation of workers, as in the poem Patricia, where physical and psychic exhaustion at work is portrayed: “Only eyes and hands and the tendons between them, without stopping, without closing, without falling, burning into us indissoluble, without us…”. 

In fact, the feeling of physical, psychic and moral limits, and of their daily crossing, in the factory, on the street, in the house, is what characterizes the proletarian condition itself, as Golondrina Ferreira's poems show. “Living / is technically unviable”, she says in the poem Constancy. The thoughts of the lyrical self and his verses appear almost as a spontaneous bodily reaction in astonishment and resistance to such a situation of tiredness, poverty and risk. Thoughts and verses that ask the question: until when? The poem End of shift dialogue says: “Is it gone? – asks the German. / It would be better, German, / it would be better.”

This same drive that arises and then disappears, which sometimes finds a voice, sometimes remains silent, is treated as poetic and political material by the poet. This insistence of a living body, despite the process of mutilation and desubjectification imposed by capital, is the starting point from which we try to construct more explosive verses. Verses that not only speak of pain and the need to endure, but of the strength and hatred that can be weapons, of the struggle that can move something forward and of the possibility of another tomorrow. In the poem Wednesday, summarizes the joy and power that arises when hitting the enemy: “Notify the supervisors / – more out of excitement than because of the agenda – / we have stopped production!”.

The dominance of capital, as has long been known, is contradictory. The daily and collective war for survival can also be the kickstart to build another war, which builds something new; the struggle of the bourgeois class against the proletariat also feeds its reverse. This fight from below is small today, with practically no victories, after all “the enemy is still sovereign”. But it is from this time that we start, and not from others. Today “the task is silent, underground / without glory”, says the poem Pamphleting I.

Golondrina Ferreira's fighting poetry is a simple relief to those who have not yet abandoned the banner of the “definitive abolition of the wage labor system”, as Marx said. To those who have endured the last few years of barbarism in this one-note country, as the poet Marighella said. Simple, but germinal, it reminds us of the poem Pamphleting II.

To those who are discouraged, Golondrina insists:

I would like to comfort you with a hug
and good news,
but you're right
– we are few and we are tired,
however no one,
if not us,
you can do it.

We, with all our faults,
with our tiredness,
with the marks of defeat,
with our dead to avenge.

*Alexandre Marinho Pepper is a PhD student in Education at UnB.


Golondrina Ferreira, Poems not to miss. São Paulo, Editora Trunca, 2019, 126 pages.


ALTHUSSER, Louis. about reproduction. Petropolis, Voices, 1999.

EDELMAN, Bernard. The legalization of the working class. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2016.

FERREIRA, Golondrina. Poems not to miss. Brazil: Trunca Editions, 2022.

MAIAKOVSKI, Vladimir. Mystery-Bufo. São Paulo: Musa, 2001.


[I] https://cemflores.org/2023/01/06/entrevista-com-a-operaria-poeta-e-militante-golondrina-ferreira-por-cem-flores/

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