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By AFRANIO CATANI*

Commentary on the collected poetry of Chacal

Lately I have already written, here and there, that due to a series of personal circumstances, a large part of my library is not with me. So, I turn and move, I come across books that are either in closed boxes or inside cupboards or, still, piled up in piles of dubious balance. It's normal not to find what I'm looking for and to find what I no longer imagined was nearby – or even still belonging to me.

That's more or less what happened a few days ago, when I was unsuccessful in the search for an anthology bringing together the best that the poet and literary critic Valerio Magrelli (1957) produced; meanwhile, with the swiftness of a coyote, came the volume of collected poetry by Ricardo de Carvalho Duarte, known literarily as Chacal.

I confess that I only knew one or another of his poems, not least because the dispersion of his written production has always been a basic characteristic. A member of the so-called “mimeograph generation”, so-called for disseminating his verses in unusual media for the publishing market at the time, he was engaged, between 1975 and 1979, in the poetry collective Nuvem Carioca, which brought literature and the public together in recitals. In addition to Chacal and Charles Peixoto, among others, the musicians Ronaldo Bastos and Bernardo Vilhena participated in the group. “In the same period, marginal poetry emerged, which revealed names like Francisco Alvim, Cacaso and Ana Cristina César in the collections Frenesi, Vida de Artista and Capricho” (p. 407).

In addition to literary activities, Chacal collaborated with the theater group Asdrúbal Trouxe o Trombone, the band Blitz and Circo Voador, also making musical partnerships with Jards Macalé, Lulu Santos, Fernanda Abreu and other artists. From 1990, with Guilherme Zarvos, he started to coordinate the Centro de Experimentação Poética CEP 20.000, at Espaço Cultural Sérgio Porto, in Rio de Janeiro.

The collection of poems by Chacal contains “Much Pleasure, Ricardo” (1971), “Preço da Passagem” (1972), “América” (1975), “Quampérius” (1977), “Red Eyes” (1979), “Nariz Aniz” (1979), “Boca Roxa” (1979); “Drops de Abril” (1983), “Comício de Tudo” (1986); “Letra Elétrika” (1994); “Life is Short to Be Small” (2002); “Belvedere” (2007), “Murundum” (2012), “Seu Madruga e Eu” (2015); “Alô Poeta” (2016), as well as “Uma História À Margem” (2010), a theatrical version of his autobiography, presented in Rio de Janeiro (2013), in other Brazilian cities, in Frankfurt (2013) and in Harvard University (2014)

Chacal's poetic work has ups and downs. It’s hard to single out what’s good (and there’s a lot…), but I’ll risk some passages, in particular, short verses, like “Alô Poeta (8)”, from 2016 (“first you write well/and see what happens/if you will know what to do with it”); “Palavrório” (“the role of the word: profanity/the word on paper: cardboard”), 2002; “Te Miro” (“I let my eyes slide/randomly over you/and found only satisfaction”), 1979; “Ministério do Interior” (“thought is the fleeting fragment of the structured chaos/the word is the stage immediately after of sensation/which is part of the necessary stage of human improvement…”), from 1983; “Dear Citizen” (“collaborate with the law/collaborate with Light/keep your own light”), from 1971.

There are excellent and provocative poems in Quamperius (“Lorotas”, “Baralho”, “Abracadabracabradapeste”, “Satira Satânica”); in Rally of Everything (“Voyeur”, “Andreia Androide”, “Anatomia”, “Birmuda Larga”, “Camarim”); us April drops (“Steel Tooth”, “Cândida”, “Número da Paixão”); in Belvedere (“Seven Proofs and No Crime”, “To Be and Not to Be”, “New York”, “Where the Sense”); in Murundum (“Active Voice”, “Individuals”, “Images of Childhood”, “The Digital Poem”, “Motim”, “Poema é uma Carnage”); in anise nose (“Fogo-Fátuo”, “Intolerância”, “À Fiat Lux”; in Electric Letter (“Chinese Chess”, “Piscina Revisitada”, “Sócio do Ocio”, “Vendo Tudo”, “A Voz”); in Life is too short to be small (“Dogs”,”The Cat”, “Body Word”, “Opera of Birds”, “Vamp”, “The Purse or Life”).

There are exactly 382 poems, plus the 16 acts (or paintings) of A story on the sidelines, which is excellent, practically constituting an alternative history of some countercultural manifestations that started in the 1970s. It is worth writing a little about it.

Chacal says that it was his friend Guilherme, a history teacher, who encouraged him to publish his first verses, which were printed on the mimeograph machine at the school where he worked. Alcohol, paper and a stapler were the basic inputs to publicize Nice to meet you, Ricardo (1971), with a print run of 1.000 copies, distributed from hand to hand “in college, on the street, in bars, at concert venues, on the beach, that is, on the Pier” (p. 354). Guilherme had a watchword: “May it not be the fear of madness that makes us lower the flag of imagination” (p. 352).

Some pages are dedicated to Vladimir Palmeira's lightning demonstrations in downtown Rio de Janeiro in the 1960s; “the wave of the summer of 1972 was Píer” (p. 355), the beach of the counterculture, where dating was discussed, where sex, drugs and rock and roll set the tone: “More people practiced than discussed . There everything could. Less prudence (…) I am not, never have been, an intellectual. I liked to read but it was television and lysergy that shaped my fragmented, discontinuous understanding, without beginning, middle or end. A poetic perception” (p. 355).

He says that one of Waly Salomão's books reached him. “Waly was a pile. A verbal incontinent. Listening to him was fun, a privilege. He carried the stage in his pocket. Where he was, he made the scene” (p. 355-356). Required reading in those times? The “Geleia Geral”, chronicle by Torquato Neto in the newspaper Last minute. He wrote: “Those who do not take risks cannot scream”. Chacal praises Torquato: “radical to the core, he knew like no one else what Mayakovsky meant by 'without revolutionary form, there is no revolutionary art'. and like Vladimir, Torquato killed himself too soon” (p. 357).

Prison, exile, London, Allen Ginsberg – before, carnival in Bahia, magazine Navilouca, bringing together the cream of experimentation: Torquato, Waly, Hélio, Décio, Haroldo and Augusto, Ivan, Lígia, Caetano, Rogério and Duda (p. 357). He got out of prison because his friend and poet Charles summoned Chacal's father, Marcial Galdino, “a Rio de Janeiro champion for Fluminense in 1936, who had already resolved everything with the police chief” (p. 360). Return from exile: “In Brazil, the queue had moved. Mimeographed books, pirated newspapers and magazines, T-shirts with printed poems crossed the country from top to bottom, in the backpacks and bodies of wanderers, in a pre-internet network” (p.362). He talks about the meeting with Antônio Carlos de Brito, Cacaso, “a great articulator of marginal poetry. He had liked our little books and the informal way of distributing them. Cacaso was hitting a round ball. We made friends. And we organize the collection together artist's life” (p. 362).

Fun is the creation of Gypsy Cloud, “a block of poets, architects, funambulists, photographers and hooligans”, which from 1975 to 80 edited more than 10 poetry books, calendars and almanacs. “It gave consistency to that fragile movement of poets” (p. 363). In full dictatorship Gypsy Cloud circulated through the city's arteries, spreading “artifice, carnival and delirium” (p. 363). Ronaldo Bastos, one of the founders of the group, proclaimed: “As long as there is bamboo, there is an arrow”, accompanied by the poet and artist Luís Eduardo Resende: “Stay at the helm, the straight is crooked” (p. 363). Spoken presentation of poetry at Livraria Muro with Chacal, Charles, Bernardo, Ronaldo, Lobato, Paulinho, Guilherme and others. I found out at that moment that all I wanted in this life was to live on poetry” (p. 365).

Engagement with the Asdrúbal groups Trouxe o Trombone, Circo Voador, Blitz, publication of his anthology April drops, with two editions sold out and 6 books sold: “I rented a bedroom and living room and bought a telephone” (p. 371). With Blitz he met success, accompanied the group on trips, on recordings. “We made songs, vignettes, comic books, sticker albums, promotional kits, gold, silver and platinum records (…) After 3 years and 3 records, Blitz imploded. Staying at the top bursts anyone's neurons” (p. 371).

Very crazy, in a crisis, he had an accident in 1987, falling from a height of five meters, almost losing the movement of his lower limbs, being plastered from waist to neck, in the middle of February, in Rio de Janeiro. At the time, he ran the nightclub Barão com a Joana, in Ipanema. “A Senegalese warmth. Me paralyzed on a bed at my parents' house, regression. Father, mother, heat, plaster. Immobilized, he received visits. Faust Fawcett took me The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Father, mother, heat, plaster, massacre, chainsaw” (p. 375).

The narrative moves towards the end, with the poet directing CEP 20.000, at Espaço Cultural Sérgio Porto, “a place of experimentation in a culture that is increasingly guided by the manual of good market conduct. All very suitable. not in zip code. Al is delirious. There poetry explodes at the top of its lungs” (p. 376).

Chacal concludes with the item “Cantando Pra Subir”, saying: “Sixty-five years pass quickly. I saw a military dictatorship come and go. I saw the tyranny of the market set in. I saw Rio's street carnival come back. Ban-ga-la-fu-men-ga. I run the CEP, I make books, I live on poetry. For the academic world, I am a disposable poet, with few resources and a low repertoire. For the pop world, a writer, an intellectual, a skull. And everyone is right. Except me. Except me. Today I no longer worry about how I'm going to live. I just live” (p. 378).

*Afranio Catani, retired full professor at USP and currently senior professor at the same institution.

Reference


Jackal [Ricardo de Carvalho Duarte]. Everything (and then some): collected poetry (1971 – 2016). São Paulo: Editora 34, 2016, 408 pages.

 

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