Am continuing to make notes for my talk at EFA on Wed., Dec. 7. The topic now includes consideration of "whether the concrete poetry movement of the 1950s anticipated the mechanics of the Internet, as some have said, or whether the movement still exists in a 'street' form on websites such as Tumblr.com and Dump.fm."
Augusto de Campos, Lygia, 1953
Marjorie Perloff, Stanford U: This love poem juxtaposes the “red” title word with green, yellow, blue, and purple word groups to create a dense set of repetitions with variations and contrasts. The need for translation is minor here, since Augusto himself has invented a multilingual poetics that oddly anticipates what is sometimes known in poetry circles today as “The New Mongrelisme.” Lygia contains English, Italian, German, and Latin words and phrases, bristling with puns and double entendres. Thus finge (“feints” or “tricks”) in line 1 becomes finge/rs (line 2). Do Lygia’s fingers play tricks? The third and fourth lines confirm this possibility with the anagram digital and dedat illa(grypho). As Sergio Bessa has explained, in lines 3-4, Augusto deconstructs the Portuguese verb datilografar (“typewriting”) in order to insert his beloved’s name into the scene of writing: grypho, moreover, can be read both as ”glyph” and “griffin.” By the time we reach line 5, Lygia has morphed into a lynx, a feline creature (felyna), but also a daughter figure (figlia), who makes, in a shift from Italian to Latin, me felix (“me happy”). Note too that Lygia contains as paragram the suffix -ly (repeated five times, twice color coded so as to stand out from the word in which it is embedded)—a suffix that functions as teaser here, given that the adjective it modifies (happily? deceptively? treacherously? generously?) is wholly indeterminate. The German phrase so lange so in line 8, puns on Solange Sohl, whose name Augusto, as he tells it, had come across in a newspaper poem and had celebrated as the ideal beloved in the Provençal manner ses vezer (“without seeing her”) in his 1950 poem O Sol por Natural. In line 10, the second syllable of Lygia morphs into Italian to give us gia la sera sorella—“already evening, sister,” where sorella may be addressee or an epithet for sera, the longed-for evening. The poem then concludes with the English words so only lonely tt- and then the solitary red letter l, recapitulating the address to Lygia, but this time reduced to the whisper or tap of tt- and a single liquid sound.