Poesia concreta / Poetry on fire: From Brazil to Tangier, to Paris & Melbourne & back again


A short bright live set from the Overload Poetry Festival closing night, September 2011 in Melbourne:

[mixcloud http://www.mixcloud.com/LAPKAT/lapkat-on-fire-poesia-concreta/ width=660 height=360 /]

While this is in part me having some fun with Bruce Springsteen and cumbia from El Güero Único (John Newell, Phoenix - he writes for the Generation Bass Sexxy Saturday Cumbia blog, btw) and Tremor (Buenos Aires, Argentina)) it also serves as an intro to my current explorations in the concrete poetry/art/activist movements through the 50s -70s in Brazil (Tropicalismo) and also the European artists, who inspired the Beats.

Beginning with Augusto De Campos, a founding member of the "poesia concreta" movement in Brazil. Along with his brother Haroldo and Décio Pignatari De Campos published the literary mag "Noigandres"  - in one of these editions their 'manifesto' of concrete poetry talks about the “tension of word-things in space-time” which is a nice image for me. There is a nice essay about this movement by Claus Clüver here on the Ciberletras pages. I've used De Campos' poem "Pulsar" in previous mixes. "Cidade-city-cité" is I think one of the loveliest concrete poems ever made ...

"atrocaducapacaustiduplielastifeliferofugahistoriloqualubri mendimultipliorganiperiodiplastipubliraparecipro rustisagasimplitenaveloveravivaunivora cidade city cité"

All are prefixes i.e. atro-, capa-, simpl- added to each suffix: cidade, city, cité form words with the same meaning in three languages, Portuguese, English and French (for example: Simplicidade, simplicity, simplicité) It all has meaning about the compression of language, replicating the compression of 'cosmopolitan' cities.

Here is a later live performance of the poem with Cid Campos (psicodélico!)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7AOGvHj6T4]

This Lapkat mix starts with the work of crazy beautiful outfit Freak Out Muzik:  their 'Lua Que Me Livra' featuring Beatriz Bajo, from "As Flores do Fim do Mundo (remixes poéticos para precedentes)" a collaboration with MaickNuclear. Here is another favourite: [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/9802071" params="showcomments=true&autoplay=false&color=ff9000" width="100%" height="81" ]


The man featured in the middle of this set, Brion Gysin, has also inspired my recent wanderings through the early history of recorded surrealist poetry. What a rich, great character he was ... The picture below is of his "Calligraffiti of Fire" - his last great, big, work, "testament to a visual art which had been an illustrious vocation rather than a glittering career" ..click on this picture to go to a site dedicated to him.

... Credited with the 'creation' of the cut up technique made famous by William S Burroughs (and later Bowie, Laurie Anderson et al) Gysin was 19 in Paris at the height of Surrealism, almost exhibited with Dalí, Ernst, Picasso, Breton and others in the Surrealist Group (Breton kicked him out of the exhibition, apparently, for "insubordination" ...!!) After the war he opened a restaurant in Tangier, Morocco with Mohamed Hamri called "The 1001 Nights" which became a hub for Bowles, Burroughs and that lot ... while there, he fell hard for the ancient Sufi trance music of the village of Jajouka and had the musicians play at the bar every night, introducing them over the years to Brian Jones and setting off a legacy of cultural "absorbtion"..? meta-infusion? Absorbed by the likes of Ornette Coleman, Timothy Leary, Bill Laswell with many continuing expanding and contracting links ...(video below from the film about the 40 year anniversary of the Brian Jones recording, at the Master Musicians of Joujouka Festival - this is also Burrough's "panic music".)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5bVR-zPYZ8&w=520&h=415]

Later in Paris Gysin lived in what became known as the "Beat Hotel" where, "working on a drawing, he discovered a Dada technique by accident..." He also made a CD Self-Portrait Jumping which takes all this into some crazy jazz territory (can I draw links here to "uncle" Ken Nordine as well?) Seems to me Brion Gysin was one of those "catalyst" people, rather than being successful in his own right as an artist he linked people to people, places, concepts, techniques. Then again, that all depends on what you mean by success. The word-tensions in this poem middle of the set, "No Poets" is funny, musical and timeless. His other poems are favourites too, for e.g. "Pistol poem" (gunshot music!) is sure to make an appearance soon.

Also in this set, three sound poet/artists from closer to "home", following and expanding these traditions. Peter Murphy, ' The talk about excellence" (Melbourne) recorded at Overload Poetry Festival in 2009 for Going Down Swinging 29 - Peter Murphy is a Melbourne sound poet who continues the tradition of poets like Brion Gysin, particularly with pieces like this one.

A very short taste in here of Warren Burt, composer, performer, video artist, sound poet, writer, instrument maker from Melbourne, Aus - a short excerpt from his Kaoss pad performance also from GDS29. Burt brings cut-ups into the technical arena, using the Kaoss pad as well as many machines and programs he has made himself, randomizing of texts, re-mixing meaning. Click this link to listen to Burt's computer opera of the Gertrude Stein text 'Miss Furr and Miss Skene' - on the Ubu site:  4. Miss Furr and Miss Skeene - Warren Burt.  (If you like)

Finally, pieces of L E Scott's ‘collage’ - also something I recorded at Overload 2009. Lewis is a jazz poet from the States living in New Zealand. His poetry performance can truly be called syncopated. Watching his gestures, his hands, the way he carves his words and sounds into space, it's completely music. He was very hard to record, as he kept moving in waves, left to right of the microphone - though he'd promised not to before the performance, obviously he can't do what he does without. Luckily I'd set up an omidirectional mic down near his knees, for the audience sounds, for when the moods took him and he left the vocal mic. You can get the full recorded poem on the CD accompanying GDS 29 - it's worth multiple listens. I've unfortunately lost contact with Lewis and there doesn't seem to be much to link to on the 'webs. I'd be keen to hear of any connections.

A word about the clip image: it is Caetano Veloso (musician, activist, part of the Tropicalismo movement with Gilberto Gil, imprisoned) holding 'Viva Vaia' by Augusto De Campos - the poem of De Campos' dedicated to Veloso, for his facing of boos and hisses from the audience when he presented his song 'Prohibiting prohibited" with Os Mutantes at the International Song Festival in 1968 - and ended up firing back at the audience...

... So here is where I'm up to on this journey, I'm hunting for the recording of that 'speech' by Caetano .... I'm also trying to lock down Miguel and Byra from FreakOut Muzik for a chat, to feature on Dialectic Radio - as soon as we can get a Skype chat room!

One more link just because it's really really nice: Caetano's version of De Campos' "dias dias dias" ... [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpXwgmMQu5c&w=520&h=415]