What are the edges between crisis, chaos and art? For the poet Maurício Simionato, the three things are mixed, at the same time they instigate those who see in the social and political disorder of the moment an opportunity to produce art and inspire reflections in other restless people who watch this historical moment in Brazil.
It is in the midst of this debate that the author’s new book is born, Odara’s Plow – a tropical dystopia, what Simionato describes as “poetic testimony” of these times.
The poet’s third literary work, the work features 92 poems that travel through recurrent themes of the moment, such as the issues generated by the pandemic, the institutional crisis, death and survival, all duly captured from a sensitive look that invites the reader to an experience of social engagement through poetic art.
In conversation with the Brazil in fact, Maurício Simionato brought details about the inspiration process that generated the new work. Confirm the interview in full below.
Brasil de Fato: You have already taken other flights in the field of literature. In 2012, he released the book Impermanences; five years later came the title About Auroras and Twilights; and, now, you present this title, with an interesting sound, Odara’s Plow – a tropical dystopia, published by the publisher Patuá. What do you bring that is unique, different in this work now?
Mauricio Simionato: This book has a historical context of our human life and was completed in 2020, so it caught the whole beginning of the pandemic. It is quite crossed by issues related to the pandemic, silencing, and also by the political issue that we pass from denial, hatred, fake news.
So, he passes this reality to the surface. Poetry becomes this saying that portrays this moment of pandemic that we are experiencing, of a lot of social change, of increasing social inequality. This book is a poetic testimony of this era.
And I think writing poetry is persisting in existence. He has this resistance, he brings the persistence to exist. Despite everything, I’m going to keep writing poetry, I’m going to keep making art, and it’s a way of showing that we’re resisting. This is an age of resistance.
His work focuses on different themes of the moment, such as isolation, quarantine; death and survival; the debate about impunity and, at the same time, the leniency of Brazilian institutions, a very present discussion at this moment of crisis, etc. Amanda Vital, poet and editor, classified her new book as a “current socio-political-poetic manifesto”. Do you feel included in this description? Is that what you wanted to achieve when you outlined the horizon of this book?
Yes, I tested the potency of poetic writing to the fullest against this picture that we pass from denial, to genocide. I have tested it to the max. And it wasn’t an intention to make a manifesto, but it ended up becoming a manifesto because the poems have characteristics that fit into two chapters, the of the tropics it’s the dystopians.
So, it ends up becoming a manifesto in the sense that there is a protest there, there is a sense of us trying to reposition ourselves. There’s a phrase by Drummond in which he asks a question: is it possible for us to make a revolution without taking up arms? I think so.
I answer that to Drummond. It’s with poetry, making verses, making art. So, in this sense, the book becomes, yes, a political, social manifesto. Amanda is perfect in the assessment.
By the way, I thank the poet, who wrote the book’s ear perfectly, and I take this opportunity to thank the staff of the publisher, Patuá, who managed to transform this manifesto, the visual concept of the book into a true manifesto. So, I really liked the work that the people did in editing, Edu Lacerda, the people from Patuá. They managed to transform this poetic manifesto into a real work, which turned into the book.
We need to write poetry as much as possible. There are people who don’t like it, they think it’s a bum thing. We are at this very moment and we have to provoke more and more, we have to write poetry, publish as much as possible, make art, make music, go against this tide, because we will pass this phase, which is almost ending.
Let’s get rid of these deniers out there, and my poetry goes in that sense of confrontation.
We have been living in a national scenario in which artistic initiatives to contest the dismantling of the country and, more especially, the context of withdrawal of rights and attacks on democracy are increasingly pulverized. There are artists, whether from the world of music, dance or literature, who prefer to remain a little more aloof from these debates, at least in terms of avoiding the spotlight. But you, apparently, follow a different path because you draw from the source of this political turmoil to produce art and its reflections. Can you somehow imagine your work in a way dissociated from all of this?
I can not. I think the artist is called to manifest himself. I think that, at the moment we live, those who are neutral are on the wrong side, they are supporting this ultra-right, pro neo-fascism.
When you stay neutral in an extreme situation like this, where we see neo-fascism taking over the streets and social networks, with hatred, with fake news, you are helping this side that is out there trying to destroy things, destroy what was done in the country all this time, social policies.
We notice – it’s on the streets – the people going hungry, the deaths, Brazil regressing. How are we going to stay neutral in a situation like this? More than 550,000 people have died because the vaccine was not purchased as it should have been. There was complete neglect. It’s impossible for us to stay neutral in a situation like this. There’s no way. You have to position yourself.
Talking a little about your verses, there’s an excerpt from chapter 1 that you titled love by default, that is, “to love in spite of”. Based on this, I ask: in this social scenario of so much spread of hatred, of so much political intoxication, where is it possible for you, as a poet, to perceive the manifestation of love? Where did you get inspiration from this chaotic setting to realize love?
We see a lot of people scared, right. I see this and see that making art is also rejecting fear. To write poetry is to reject fear, and my poetry has this background of bringing dreams, hopes, in spite of that.
I made sure not to leave love out of my poetry. We really need to talk about love and share love as much as possible, because that’s the only way we’ll be able to resist. Without love we can’t resist, and without art either.
So I insisted. It is a political-social manifesto, but love is also a form of political and social manifestation. So, by giving love to others, we can help people to get out of this hole we’ve gotten into.
And then I’m not just talking about love [no sentido de] relationship, but I’m talking about love in the humanitarian sense, of feeling solidarity and trying to help others. It’s in that sense too, so let’s love by default. That’s the point of the book as well. It brings this cut of the moment we are going through, but it also brings hope. This poem is one of them.
There are other poems in which I also speak of love. It runs through the entire book. It’s as if I wanted to say that, without love, we can’t get out of this. I tried to join the anger with the moment we are going through and also give this message of love, of hope, that there are possible dreams to be fulfilled.
We are going through an Olympic moment, which is bringing emotion again, bringing out this emotion of feeling the next again, winning an important Brazilian medal. This is also a form of love, it is for us to like and feel happy for the accomplishment of our brothers.
And how is it possible to convince and hook the reader so that he is able to perceive this sensitive world – which is so present in your perspective of the world when you speak and write – so that this reader also feels the manifestation of love, despite the weight and of the emotional intoxication of these times? What is the strategy?
It’s a little ant job. We pass it on to a friend here, then the other friend speaks. We talk all the time about poetry, about new authors that are appearing in Brazil all the time. On social networks we manage to spread a little more poetry.
So, we gather other authors, groups, workshops. This, we realize that art is boiling even in Brazil. Several poets are getting together in groups and making poetry, soirees, poetic anthologies, digital poetry magazines. So, it’s also a time for us to show that we have strength and will continue to resist with poetry.
So, hooking these readers is a little ant job, with some friends. It has several poetry contests, several magazines. I have been trying to publish all the time in poetic anthologies that are open and participate in programs, workshops, courses. More and more trying to learn and evolve in relation to poetry.
We will, little by little, each one conquering a new reader and showing the importance of poetry for Brazil. Historically, you see that many great authors end up being remarkable in human history, they end up configuring the time in which they lived. and this time [de hoje] will have a very strong historical record in poetry. Future generations will read the poets who are writing poetry today and will understand a little more what we are going through.
Edition: Leandro Melito