from Brazilian Nights in Rome

By Dacia Maraini

Rome is a city that doesn’t know to decide between a cosmopolitism and a dreamy and short sighted provincialism.(…)
The "carelessness" of Rome with regard to its most prestigious guests is at the same time comic and scandalous(…). It is enough to read the memories of the travellers of XVIII and XIX century, to recognize that also at that time things were like thus. Goethe (…) wrote, him too, about the lack of interest and curiosity for a foreigner.
There is some sort of elegant inattention, a fine, hasty intolerance for the guests with a “baggage” and for baggage I mean talent, genius, prestige, expressive vigour, fame. (…)
These were the thoughts I had, from reading the book of a Brazilian poet who is for many years a guest of our city, all these years busy interweaving an important web of exchanges between hers and our country, without arousing the interest which she deserves. I’m talking about Márcia Theóphilo, in Italy since 1971 (…) who at the moment she’s publishing a poetry book by the title I sing the Amazon.
In this book the names, according to Roland Barthes, have an initiatory value. The names have different powers: they can let us “make essential the ideas” they can give us the capacity to say the infinite and they can let us explore the past. The name is, in a certain way, the "artistic form of the memory".
In Márcia’s poetry we don’t see names vague and common which everybody can recognize, but dense names, never heard, unmistakable, far and marvellous. Are the names of the great divinities which protect the forests, the rivers, are the names of the inhabitants of the Brazilian nights, the names of the benignant and malignant jinn that, still nowadays, scour the peripheries of the big Amazonian cities.
Somebody may talk about exoticism. But exoticism presupposes a world far and unknown crowned by impossible desires. In Márcia Theóphilo’s case, the exoticism is excluded because these names belong to her by right, are names of her mnemonic universe, of her daily life as a Brazilian in voluntary exile.
Mandú, Sarará, Uruparí, Ubirajara, so many names that sounds like unknown music to our ears! Also comes to our minds that the name, according to Barthes, is a "voluminous sign", a sign "always gravid", rich of significances that nobody can flatten or reduce.
These names that we meet on the path through the Amazon world have, this significance of maternity, nutrition. They stir up in the reader, through the masterly use of the syllables and of the vowels the feeling of the rhythm and of the waiting. A poetry of memory? Also. It is born from a strong primitive memory that knows the ghosts of the nights without moon and the fear of the future, the invocations of the magic and the airy fairy creatures which lives the prayers of the morning. The Pixote, the Buruti, the Yanoa, the Mpinguarì who sing in our ears with the voice a bit disquieting of the mysterious tropical birds. Yet, coming closer to the city, we have the impression that the same birds that yesterday were terrifying, today are themselves terrified.

"The bulldozers invade
advance, lights dazzle him
fierce thoughts pierce him…
Night falls, Urutáu
chooses his new ground
no longer eternal, he will live day by day.
Uratáu, dispersed bird
your wood is among the skyscrapers
between the cement walls your nest."

This one of the Amazonian poetries, is also a book which we can say of the great natural changes: from bird to dog, from jaguar to rat, from creature of the night to desperate inhabitant of the city gorges. The world of Amazon seems to dissolve, to scatter under our eyes even if maintaining the enchantment of its ancient names, remain by now only a daydream.

Iuruparí God of the dream
the dreams that are within us
are not inventions of our fantasy
they are concrete
have colours
dreams terrify us
dreams make us happy
they teach us to live
play with us torment us
they show us the way
dreams open doors
and we fly through unknown lands
I want to fly on the wings of Iuruparí…

Dacia Maraini
L’Unità 4/1/1993

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