Dirty Poem (Vol. 18) (New Directions Poetry Pamphlets)
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Considered the greatest long poem in 20th century Brazilian poetry, Ferreira's Gullar's Dirty Poem was written as a response to the Brazilian dictatorship that put him in exile and murdered thousands.
Written in 1975 in Buenos Aires when Ferreira Gullar was in political exile from the Brazilian dictatorship, Dirty Poem is an epic poem that amid life events traces the author’s political and artistic evolution and is by most accounts the most important long poem of contemporary Brazilian literature. Scholar and critic Otto Maria Carpeaux wrote: “Dirty Poem deserves to be called ‘National Poem’ because it embodies all of the experiences, victories, defeats, and hopes in the life of the Brazilian citizen.” It is a hypnotic work that draws on the poet’s memory of adolescence in the seaside city of Sao Luís do Maranhao during World War II and deals openly with the “dirty” shamefulness of a socio-economic system that abuses its citizens with poverty, sexism, greed, and fear.
And words are living things that tremble with the joy of the body that shouts them, each with its own perfume, the taste of flesh that is never really given even in bed unless to oneself to one’s own vertigo or likewise talking or laughing within the family circle while like a mouse you can hear and see from your hole how those voices bounce against the walls of the empty patio on the iron grating where a grapevine dries on wires in the afternoon in a small Latin American city
Ferreira Gullar.” Discurso Literario 5 (1987), 26–41. DIRTY POEM muddy muddy the muddy hand of the wind against the wall dull less less less than dull less than soft and solid less than a well and a wall: less than a hollow dull more than dull bright like water? like a plume? bright more than bright right: nothing at all and all (or nearly all) a creature conceived by the universe has been dreaming from its belly blue the cat was blue the cock was blue the colt was blue
Voiceless world, opaque thing. Neither Olavo Bilac nor Raimundo Correia. Blatant tuba, artless lyre? Neither tuba nor Grecian lyre. I learned later: human speech, people’s voices, dark sounds of the body, bracketed by lightning. The body. But what is the body? My body of flesh and blood. Invisible bones, jawbones, ribs, flexible framework that suspends me in space that keeps me from collapsing like an empty sack that keeps all my organs working like tubes and retorts making the blood
of those people —his heart pounding— in the forests of Maioba or Jordoa but he finds only the sound of wind in the trees) Unless he sees a red-and-blue bird perched in the leaves —the breeze spreading its feathers like a fan like the plume of a warrior who became that bird to continue living in the forest And even if the bird is not the warrior it was, no doubt, watched by him and therefore strangely he is present there watching it again maybe now just behind the child just
forever. But the orchard on Cajazeiras Street? The Shits and Bones Cistern? The Bishop’s Fountain? Newton Ferreira’s grocery store? The hypothetical Braniff passenger flying so high cannot see any of these things Leaning on the countertop Newton Ferreira reads his detective stories He knows nothing of the meteorological conspiracies plotted in the lofty spheres above the Atlantic In his grocery store time doesn’t flow but instead piles up in bars of Martins soap slabs of dried