The twentieth century appears to have bestowed on us a legacy of constant and seemingly irreparable disaster. It left us with the aporia that poetry, as the synthesis of intellectual and creative activity, has become incapable of dealing with stupidity and barbarism. This is evident in the Nazi and Fascist crimes as well as in the institutionalization of economic violence in a world that is becoming both global and disorganized at the same rate, with catastrophic consequences in the form of local, ethnic conflicts moved by hate, sectarianisms, and private tragedies. What remains of the nationalist projects has become a strategy to strengthen corporate interests; at the same time, internationalism, rather than opening up to pluralistic and democratic human experiences, has boiled down to a strategy of exploitation — economic, touristic and for the sake of legitimizing racial and social prejudices.


In the beginning of this century, a new form of such violence has begun to emerge, one derived precisely from its continued existence: it is the muffling, the dampening down of the scene of destruction. An impotent creation — trailing behind technology, the market and a voracious media and communications industry, lacking any political impact or liberating aesthetic —, it survives by shrinking of poetic goals or the audience for poetry. Skepticism vis-à-vis revolutionary transformation, the consistency of the avant-gardes or ideological dogmatism has not resulted in actions that are freer, as we would like to think, but, instead, has given us more garrulous production in increasingly homogeneous environments. Joint property of peers, corporate genre practices — all these fragment and render poetic production banal. Parochial activity takes offence at criticism and deabate. Condescendence, pusillanimity, a pact of peers, mutual forgiveness make evident the lack of  seriousness accorded to poetry, as well as the disbelief in its transformative power. But what type of real production could relinquish the power to transform?


An impressive consequence of that legacy of catastrophic continuities (which precisely dampens down and absorbs disaster as a normal occurrence) is the conformity poetry displays with an average production. In that environment, writing becomes an inconsequential habit, a "hobby" — i.e., a childhood or juvenile activity one abandons once one reaches adulthood, or is continued merely as a weekend activity--, or instead, a professional occupation, as any other, a modest way to earn a living alongside other editorial or university-teaching activities. In such times, there is no more reason to expel the poets from the Republic — as Plato would have it — which does not mean a lack of spiritual progress: apparently, no poet is perceived as dangerous anymore, as incongruous or rapturous, to the point of affecting the disorderly order of contemporary uncivil life.


How to respond to such a lack of vision and of urgency peculiar to poetry, a realm that by definition is hostile to mediocrity? How to resist that barbarian shrinking of horizons, proportional to the redundant proliferation of garrulous writing? Or, at least, how to denaturalize disaster and reconquer the pain emerging from it? Can poetry still be more than an affirmation of frivolity, arrivisme, and intellectual affectation or — on the opposite end of the spectrum —  of loutish modesty and a hopeless remainder? If we don't already have plans for the future, it's important to say that the present also does not belong to us: the dampening down of expectations produces indifference, alienation and routine, not the enjoyment of a pleasant life. What can poetry do against this state of things which seems to have no end? And if it can do nothing, can it be more than frivolity?














Poetry in a Time of War and Banality

International Meeting



May-June, 2006



Espaço Cultural CPFL

Campinas, São Paulo, Brasil











CPFL-Sala de Imprensa | Press Room











março, 2006