Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho (1942-2023)



Rubens was a great philosopher and a great poet, an authentic virtuoso of word

The great philosopher and poet, authentic virtuoso speaking, Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho. Instead of illuminating Rubens' philosophy, a rigorous and fruitful reading of German philosophy from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, I would like to shed light on the poet Rubens, unfortunately little read by literary critics.

In 1981, Rubens published The circumflex flight, edited by Massao Ohno, in joint release with Gardens of Provocation by Claudio Willer (1940-2023). It is, as someone said, a game-book, more precisely a game that circulates in the songbook of meaning and in the nonsense. In this book, Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho follows to the letter, in our view, Carlos Drummond's imperatives: “don't write verses about events”, “don't sing your city”, “don't dramatize”, “don't invoke” and, most importantly , which is synthesis and foundation: “deafly penetrates the realm of words”.

This resulted in poetry that is largely a sign of, and not so much a sign for. In other words, it is a poetry that tends to be solely and exclusively of the sign, as a concrete element of making and elaboration in solidarity with other signs. The title of the book, in this sense, is not gratuitous: the circumflex flight is already a sign that points to another – that inverted circumflex that, when seen from afar, is the prototypical flight and childish drawing of any bird. Therefore, this apparent reference of one sign (the distant arrival that reminds us of the flight of birds) to another (the circumflex accent that we place on other signs, like a bird that flies inverted) is important.

Let us not confuse this poetry with concrete poetry, created shortly before, although the poetry of Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho gives great emphasis – like that of João Cabral and Orides Fontela (also a poet and philosopher) – to the concrete dimension of the word. Look:


Let the verb shine
                            and the light dove,
but fixed, trans-
Clear lamp, it's just a target
the whiteness. Saved
this perennial future suture.

And we haven't mentioned yet that the article's introduction to the flight forces the reader to see, in The circumflex flight, an “egg”: the sign that is, unintentionally, pregnant with another. Not surprisingly, in the same book, Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho publishes the poem “ab ovo” (p. 49) and, a few pages later, the poem “puxa-palavra”. The sign being pregnant with another is, in other words, the word that pulls the word, but not at random, as in the infantile cacophony, but in a conditioned way to find, in the other, another meaning that contaminates the first:

Word pulls word,
sadness pulls sadness
and the world, so round,
it becomes a dam
closed to the top,
word brings sadness. […]

The essential thing, what matters, again, is “deafly penetrating the realm of words”. They are the “raw material” of poetry, the primacy of the poem:

This word contains
a poem
this poem does not
contains words. One
dancing around
composing the
to paste […].

In the following book, from 1985, the procedure is explained: The Barefoot Letter: poems. Time to go further: strip away the word, insist on a striptease of the verb, to get to the structures of the poem, to see if there is a pair between the verb and the real. As in the “waning” poem, in which the letter, beyond the word, becomes the image of the referent, not in imitative harmony, but in pictorial imitation:

meager lyricism
O souls of the third world:
the word MOON
        a crescent, if that
already MOON,
                         and floods

I suppose that this procedure has a lot to do with certain philosophical choices made by Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho. The poet, once, when investigating the relationships between our codes of reading the world and the world itself from the Kantian transcendental, asked himself: “I read, finally, the flight of the dove [could this be a Rubensian obsession with flight? ] – but is it really me or are these codes that, after all, they are reading?” (In: A virtus dormitiva by Kant).

Rubens Rodrigues Torres Filho highlights, then, the impossibility of leaving the sign, the relationship of signification, to see the thing, itself, pure, face to face, without our codes of signification falling upon it. If this is impossible, let's try to take seriously what we have: the sign, alone, human construct and bridge to reality.

*Eliakim Ferreira Oliveira is a poet and master in philosophy from USP.

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