25 May 2010
by Justice Putnam
Black Kos, Tuesdays Chile Poetry Editor
Jorge Mateus de Lima was considered by many to be the most complicated of the artists who took part in the Semana de Arte Moderna (Week of Modern Art) in São Paulo in 1922; that has come to mark the independence of Brazilian literature and art from its European models. Inspired by an iconoclastic insurrection against the Parnassian ideals of the past, with their limiting views of national reality, modernist writers initiated a poetic rediscovery of Brazil and sought a new identity through popular language set in regional and folkloric detail; rich in music and magic, dance and myth. The movement aimed to produce a literature for export to replace the dominant imported literature. Characteristic of Brazilian Modernism as a whole is the promotion of a critical consciousness of national reality, accompanied by an incorporation of its most diverse elements; the Indian and the Portuguese, the piano and the berimbau, the jungle and the school, the religions of the descendents of African slaves and the Landowner Elite.
Though few of de Lima's critics were as enthusiastic about his so-called Christian Phase; when he converted to Catholicism and used its many icons and images in his poetry; he remained true to the ideals of the Semana de Arte Moderna; where myth and reality are not two opposites; but an intermingling that is emblematic of the Brazilian Soul.
Poem To A Sister
(translated by Mariza Góes)
now that the nights come early
and an immense sadness
hovers above everything
and the silence lingers for so long
turning the dogs insane on the streets,
sister, come to remind me
that we grew up together
when the days were long and different.
Sister, if you know the signs
to change the time, come.
Come because I want to leave
to other places
where seagulls are less useless
and where a heart can be found at each harbour;
and the seabirds
so cleansed and white
and so slow and aware of journeys
come to flap
above my pipe
where the comets of the sky faded.
Sister, on my rhythms
are friends who shout:
Daubler, Ehrenstein, Stramm, suicides,
vagabonds, lepers and prostitutes who
still remember their family prayers.
There are, somewhere, other air, other hills,
other limits...farewell sister.
O, what a long night,
o what such a long night!
What cries outside?
The humanity, or some fountain?
-- Jorge Mateus de Lima