Marginal Poetry of the Atlantic Corner

Lubaina Himid, Three Architects, 2019


Commentary on the book by Alexandre Alves

The book Marginal Poetry of the Atlantic Corner, by Alexandre Alves, contributes to thinking more broadly about poetic production in Rio Grande do Norte and Brazil, by approaching its problematic from a mixed nomination to “Alternative Generation”.

It would be worth explaining the criteria for these designations: Outside of dominant aesthetic values, in terms of styles? On the margins of institutions of consecration and dominant dissemination, with regard to entities such as Academia de Letras e Imprensa, in addition to government cultural policies? On the margins of the dominant publishing market? On the margins of regional cultural hegemonies? A mixture of these ways of being on the margins, with regard to styles, institutions, market and regional hegemonies? Whatever the answer, we are facing disputes over poetic power.

Similar problems manifest themselves in relation to the “Alternative Generation”. What does a generation mean? I suppose she refers to style traits, consecration and dissemination in common and in time. Does this refer to the dates of birth of the Poets, the simultaneous release and reception of works? Poetic production is linked more to the mix between times (Homero, Dante, Camões, Bocage, Dias-Pino) ​​than to their segregation: the past is a reference for the present, the present interprets the past through its experiences and projects futures; no present, past or future is homogeneous, rather it harbors disputes for those powers – Policies.

Any answer will refer to power relations in the literary and cultural field, as well as in society more broadly considered. In a country like Brazil, names and works that became classics were or are on the margins of multiple forms – Joaquim de Sousândrade, Afonso de Lima Barreto, Orides Fontela… margin? And that some more, prestigious today, lose spaces of power in the future?

There is a facet of this problem that deserves to be highlighted: the so-called Marginal Poetry, in Brazil, was so designated in the context of the 1964/1985 dictatorship, joining the alternative press, opposition political parties and other groups critical of that dictatorship. Although individual books and poems from such a marginal universe may have achieved good print runs and even expressive sales, how many Brazilian poets, to this day, make a living from their literary production? What editorial policies for poetry are in force in large companies that publish books in Brazil and in cultural and artistic government agencies in the country, including universities? Does all poetry have something marginal, in Brazil and in the world? But it is important to preserve the historicity of poetry that was designated and designated as marginal.

The classic banner by Hélio Oiticica, with the couplet “Be marginal, be hero”, suggests another title for the work of Alexandre Alves: Heroic Poetry, given the multiple marginalizations suffered by different Poetry. Being on the sidelines is not a simple option for poets, it is also being marginalized by different instances of power, it is also showing the power of the marginals.

It would be possible to reflect more on Postal Art, a production at the confluence between marginal poetry and poetic vanguards, briefly mentioned in the book, which faces some resistance in literary studies – some university critics avoid its discussion, claiming that they do not master its language resources, a surprising argument from those studious scholars.

It should be remembered that marginal poetry and the avant-garde formed their own instances of dissemination and consecration, as can be seen, for example, with the Poema Processo, which had Moacy Cirne as an important theorist and analyst.

Focused more on the potiguar experience, edited in Natal, RN, by a publisher called Sol Negro (in the past, Natal was renamed, for tourist purposes, as Cidade do Sol...), Alexandre's book lacks more reproductions of poems so that the Readers who have not previously had access to commented works better understand what is being presented and reflectively respond to the questions it raises. Instead, the work goes overboard in listing the names of authors and titles of works, with the exception of some poems by João Gualberto Aguiar, Carlos Gurgel, Jóis Alberto, João Batista de Morais Neto (João da Rua) and Antonio Ronaldo, appropriately reproduced and commented.

This vast panorama suggests that marginal poetry distinguishes itself from the avant-garde when it thinks about rearguards, without losing its present, disturbing characterization, by Haroldo de Campos, of being on the margins of the margins, running the risk of a dangerous homogenization of poetic making that this book can avoid.

Alves is an example of criticism and literary history that focuses on this less canonical universe of literature (marginal poetry from a state that is not very visible, in cultural terms), an important achievement of academic work, deserving of continuity.

* Mark Silva is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP.



Alexandre Alves. Marginal Poetry of the Atlantic Corner. Christmas, Black Sun, 2019, 68 pages.


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