Political Memory in the Poetry of Guanaíra

Last night, when I was looking for a subject for this column, but didn’t know which one, I was lucky enough to receive this request from Guanaíra Amaral, on the other side of the world, from Oceania:

I am going to publish a book of poetry by Editora Terra Redonda and I would like a text from you to introduce me.

Attachments, follow some poems, different times and contexts. The book will have 40 poems. I will divide it into 4 parts with 10 poems each, illustrations between them. I send you some poems that are in these parts.

If you could write a little about me as a person, friend, companion in struggles and in losses, it would be interesting.

So now I try.

The clearest memory, the best memory I have of Guanaíra comes from the music of Paulinho da Viola. In the house where she lived with her mother, there was once a party where we drank only lemon shake, strong, sour and warm. I remember that I approached a small ( radiola) record player and discovered entire albums by Paulinho da Viola, the composer who spoke to me more closely about my disagreements. I remember that I heard many times, almost drunk, almost in a dream “In a short samba”, sitting on the floor, as if I wanted to hide there:

All I can do is follow
towards the future
right of my heart
More pure

And now we go to other points of the feeling of memory. Those who don’t know Guanaíra know that she was skinny in the 70’s, and in that particular she hasn’t changed. Short, slender, she is an energy that seems to have been born in 7 months, and that’s why she continues to be born to the world today. Imagine She is fragile in the body, but that is deceiving. She is strong and big, raised by the life of political warfare in Brazil and study. Vain in appearance, she reacts when I want to know her age: “What a question!”, she replies. But she is sincere, even to show that she doesn’t care about this nonsense, and she says that she is 72 years old. She’s right, because nobody gives her the next 73, and it’s not talked about or noticed. Most importantly, Guanaíra is a psychiatrist, she treated soldiers from the Vietnam war in Australia and those who were tortured in Brazil.

When I met her, she was the sister-in-law of Jarbas Pereira Marques, one of those killed under torture in the Granja São Bento massacre. But how to say it? Guanaíra goes through the trauma with the dexterity of someone watching a horror movie. That she lived, and that’s why she worked as a psychiatrist against infamous and cowardly violence, always.

If we didn’t know about such marks of her life, maybe we wouldn’t understand under what mystery such good poetry of human rights is made. The poetry of Guanaíra Amaral is militant without any obedience to the latest fashion. It is militant poetry because it is historical, memory of the dictatorship, of the traumas that passed through us and do not leave. If not, feel, look and reflect:

To the 68-year-olds

there was a point
on the deserted street
to a world without time.
there was no exclamation
no question mark
not even a comma
there was.
And I didn’t even know
if it was the right point
not even if the timing was right.
if there was no time
in that time
from stopped points
on the deserted street.
It was just a point.
there was fear
but a smile froze time
and the point is gone
carrying a light
and a list
inside the magazine.
In that time
there was no time
to escape the point.
And it was just a point
open to infinity.

But what a most beautiful achievement! Those who keep the memory of the dictatorship know that poetry and truth are found in the verses above. If I don’t exaggerate, I think that a poem like that can fulfill a life.

But Guanaíra, as if she knew nothing, still writes:

I don’t write poems,
I free my fears from these bonds
and casual.
And like restless moths
are waiting…

Oh yes? And this beautiful one about Father Henrique, murdered in a vile way in Recife, I highlight these verses:

There are sparkling stars that populate the square of Henrique.
Henry, the priest.
All together as in a nebula invade the square,
Like screams, shadows, in a chained dance,
Like the justice of men, slow, partially ordered.
Henry’s Square,
Henry, the priest.
It explodes in a scream, invades the deserted streets,
enters the river and walks towards the sea.
In the last will, made of pain, Freedom and justice.
Henry the priest
I miss you”.

Toward the end, I read:

“Poems, pieces of hope,
Like this love made of tomorrows
never achieved.

Poems made from open windows
And closed doors,
That make me walk barefoot
And without direction,
That winding path.
Poems, my daily food.

I don’t write poems,
I send an appeal to infinity…”.

It came to me from Australia. With 14 hours of time difference, the poetry that is a human appeal in verses has arrived, Guanaíra. Arrived yesterday, arrived today. now, tomorrow and after.

* Translation into English by Guanaíra Amaral.

Uriarano Moto is author of the novel “Never-Ending Youth.”