I spent a good deal of December avoiding the written arts entirely; there was this sentiment of emotional threshold, a sensation that the stacks of words I was creating were cindery distillations of ire or sadness. The purge I necessitated to convalesce informed my Art, but I thought it should be contrary, that my Art should instruct the purge, navigate the healing, become a beacon of undiluted self that extended structural fingers of beauty to raise me from any form of depth. My creative reluctance ended with this piece, a malformed narrative schematic-of-a-poem, overwrought and of painful reading, written in a about forty minutes without interruption. I returned to my methodical alcove and once more resigned to the weight of my distortions, yet I’m not ashamed, strangely, because I must herald the authenticity of my expression even when it is a shattered crystal, even when I’m met with the countenance of what I sought to exile from myself; because it is impossible to heal when we are eternally bound to the shame of hurting.
In spirit of support for Hong Kong’s recent and on-going social struggle, I decided to review one Cantonese work that had the vastest artistic influence over myself and my own creative method, and that work is, without an inkling of doubt, Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together, made in 1997. This film proved to be the deserved consolidation of Wai’s directorial style and, simultaneously, a unique insight into Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ dynamics as well as the specific emotional axioms of abusive relationships in a profound state of isolation. The film, armed with a minimalist cast of only three actors and an even more parsimonious and unfinished script that weaves itself together by means of image and sound, is a sprawling exploration about the coalescence of masculinity and the tumultuous and abashing treatment of LGBTQ+ communities in certain countries, a mixture that exacerbates a type of emotional mutism and reinforces the role of violence, both emotional and physical, in replacing the lack of communication and expressive clarity that should lie at the heart of any interpersonal relationship.
The relationship between Ho Po-wing, an airy and infantile man whose volatility proves highly obliterative, and Lai Yiu-fai, a depressive and internally unstable individual who finds himself in a perpetual performance of silent self-destruction, serves as the machine-of-war for the film’s dark existence; Ho Po-wing recurrent malediction, «Let’s start over.», made whenever the relationship felt most strenuous, was further engraved by his purchase of a lamp that resembled the Iguazu Falls, which the couple had planned to visit. This lamp acts as the central nervous system of a relatively diaphanous narrative. Both Ho’s infatuation with it and Lai’s attachment to what it represents seems to tether them both to a sense of eventual romantic actuation: as long as the luminous waters of the lamp cascade, so does the blood of the conjoined and corrupting heart of their relationship. The film then shifts its focus to the exploration of Lai’s convalescence from this deeply abusive relationship, one that left him with the sorrow of survival and confusion thereof, to survive outside and beyond a mechanism of abuse that slowly became his raison-d’être, one that left him felt alone, lost, ashamed, betrayed and obliterated, trapped in a country which wasn’t his own and unable to return.
Wong Kar Wai’s lavishly dim cinematographic aesthetics, after gaining emboss in Chungking Express (1996), are further consolidated in Happy Together; the recurrent chromatic shifts that play upon the levels of narrative magnitude, the derelict and harsh environments reverberated by a sanitised, dry usage of light that appear as a signature of both his thematic emotional acuity and as a replication of Hong Kong’s own neon-spent frigid and synthetic streets, and the instrumentation of visual punctuations, chiefly exemplified by the films opening scene, a sanguine and heaving sexual encounter whose aggressiveness is found in both the actors and the corner-angled, gradually more intimate shots; the aesthetic interludes of the film also serve as vibrant expository conveyors, and such is the case with the bird’s eye shot of Iguazu Falls which is overlaid with a low-saturation filter and backgrounded by Caetano Veloso’s Cucurrucucú paloma, a pensive song about the destructive motions of lovesickness; shots like the kitchen tango scene, or the culmination of Lai’s emotional devastation in the voice recorder scene, are made with a level of artistic direction that, as far as my experience with film goes, has no parallel in how effectively it translates the most profound and vicious elements of emotional abuse in romantic relationships.
With a soundtrack that includes Astor Piazzolla’s Tangos, Frank Zappa’s I Have Been In You, and a cover of Happy Together by The Turtles (which inspired the English name of the film), Wai assures not only that every scene receives and apposite sound, but also that all the themes intertwine seamlessly, something he was already famed for after the release of Chungking Express and its memorable usage of California Dreamin’.
Lastly, I would like to express my support for the Cantonese people; their culture and heritage is not only thronged with beautiful works, it also had a magnificent impact on the cultural productions of today, on and beyond Cinema. One such example is Nicholas Wong’s Crevasse, a guttural poetry collection about growing up LGBTQ+ in Hong Kong that I could not recommend more.
Again, not quite as potent as I would have it; writing compositions over days (or, at times, weeks) allows for a more refined method of writing, but some assaulting sensations end up becoming elements of works where they don’t necessarily belong, which makes the process muddy. Sieving said sensations, percolating them, becomes a bit of an exercise in taste more than anything else. If only this had a science (it wouldn’t be half as interesting if it did). I also realise that merely saying these are translations doesn’t do much without access to the original texts, so, I’ve provided it here. If you do happen to know Portuguese (olá), and would like to offer translation feedback, I would be immensely grateful of such, since my translation skills are rather primal.
I’m always on the prowl for ambient sounds apt for concentration, quest which led me to some of the most endeared songs of my library. Recently, I came across Ensō, by Fort Nowhere, followed by my procurement of what Ensō meant, the discovery of that Japanese spiritual practice, along with Japanese aesthetics, which I explored through various sources until I came upon this article, which features a series of Japanese aesthetic principles along with an Ensō ( which completed a full circle in my quest, interestingly). Inspired by the various principles presented in the article, I attempted to create seven compositions related to how those principles interact (although at times a bit loosely) with my own ontological views. I paired each principle with a material or substance, to have both a thematic and a cosmetic focus for each poem. They are simple, very simple poems, some plangent, some more delicate, all of them written in the same style but independent of one-another, which means you may read only the one you feel most drawn to, or read all in the hope that you might like at least one of them. They are ordered as follows:
Needless to say, they are more modernistic than oriental in tonality and form, but my primary attempt was to coalesce the two in my own style. I don’t feel that I was fully successful, but I decided to heed to my most oriental principle: just to let them be. I produced them in two hours, in Portuguese, and did not edit them. I still hope you managed to extract something valuable or, at least, be entertained. Thank you much for reading, João-Maria.
Writing poems has, slowly, become a ritualistic exercise of hindering the velocity of my mind-dialectic, give it a shape, try to understand what it is I’m trying to reach. I rarely ever reach it. Various elements go missing, and I end up scouring a wreckage more-so than exploring an inner architecture. That is the thing, though, things don’t often come out as they are, and less often come out as they should, but it’s still important that they do.
The “you” element is not something I ordinarily use in English poetry, I don’t always like the form it takes in English, as it feels more dual than I believe it should. This poem, however, as all of those I’ve recently published, is translated from its Portuguese original. Don’t judge it too harshly, he is not from here, you see…
I haven’t been writing poetry quite as much, often opting instead for prose or even the marvelous lassitude of notes and aphorisms, and that is mostly due to this strange bout of ineffective thought. I contain the outlines, the emboss and image of a poem, but my mind is rather accelerated and disperse thereafter, it creates these arabesque and disjointed blocks of paltry expression. I’m sure this poem ought to mean something, and I could make a case for what that might be, it is the form that seems oddly disconcerting, an etiolated flower, the white patch of a limestone shatter. I’m hopeful it is one of those problems that fixes itself, a phase of sorts. Otherwise, I might need to invest in writing novels.
Thank you so much for reading, if you’ve done so, — joão-maria.
An author is a company to the nothingness, indigent because it is company to nothing, and possesses that nothingness, imperious, impermissible, obedient to the reasons of things, bled-out in the salts of colours while assuming itself king and progenitor of them. It is a whimsy, being an author, authorise the creation of nothingness and gift it the vehemence of being; if I was prohibited of writing as soon as the following dawn, I would not see it as an act of injustice. I would simply say that I have nothing to write, that the particles of water scintillating in my breath exist as towers, as trees, streams, which collect within me in murderous stance yet refusing to kill me (being that the ultimate trick), constituting nothing more than the nothingness I accompany, otherwise written there, in lithology, where earth whispers with impenetrable force, or there, in walls made goldener with the torpor of times, or there, in a book, in any book written, in any book unwritten. It is a nothingness which is unique only while it is nothingness — because nothing is unique — and soon collapses within the banality of conveyance. One who writes of nothingness has nothing else to write about, and is, truly, creatively hindered, for it only receives a casuistry in assemblages of casuistries laid upon an arid ground; we are of philosophies while we rehearse interrogations, of cement in the architectures of fiction, of soundly banisters in poetry (and only of banisters), and we inflate nothingness with leagues of meanings, of personal mythologies, images of dragonflies in the thawing boughs, pine-cones floating over the equatorial seas, the lugubrious quality of facts which soon cease to be facts under the gravity of other facts, and noble horses, beaten, hungers and terrors and pestiferous qualities of loving, of what we intend to love, of what we intend to understand in the qualities of loving, all laid as flagstones to be danced upon as a divine coalescence of what is because it is and what it is because we generate it being so by measure of feeling it. Enumerations, many, all within the same nothingness, an infinite parenthesis that fits perfectly in the spiralled-hole made by a closed fist; but let me revise what-is, if truth is creative and dream its destruction, let me revise the subterranean of things, because all of them bubble with the meaning of everything, seethe as a compass of light in an interminable condensation of phenomenon, and not seeing the crushing dimension of everything but only the replica of a constant reductive exercise — a simulation of essence — is a wound extended to the horizon, because we are fragile, our bones cinders easily turned to dust, and because all which contains meaning is perfidious in that meaning, and that ash penetrates our lungs, within nothingness, within all, within meaning which is nothingness of all, a panic, a neurological tuberculosis, a paralysis. And then, there is a destruction which isn’t reduction, olive oil over the sting of a bee, the youth and the regeneration which takes itself in such an unstinting and clear meaning, which is akin to the glisten of a tear in immense darkness. We return home. The world regains sense, and is absent of meaning and nothingness and everything, resistant to such adornments, and we are made-whole by the levity of the air itself, the stark colours of florets, and all light resounding in shaded walls. There is, perhaps, a mother and a father, siblings, or the limpid memory of them, of where they stood, where they observed this domain with endless complexities which not even dream purports to understand. There is a dog, perhaps a cat, a canary, and their phlegmatic enthusiasm bleeding from their spirited eyes. There is that foolish night and the ill-starred end of that antiquity, which I did not see pass, because I never stopped being anything that I was, and I shall never not be anything that I was.
We return home, where world and language live in profound reciprocity, and we may contain libraries within, we may have never written anything leather-bound, we may have written twenty meticulously woven narratives, but here, we are not authors, we are not writers, we do not accompany a nothingness which is yet to be described. Here, we are that nothingness, that meaning, we are the shadow the author plies to accompany.
Long before physics and psychology were born, pain disintegrated matter, and affliction the soul.
All Gall Is Divided, Emil Cioran.
O autor é a companhia do nada, indigente porque nada acompanha, e possui nada, imperioso, impreterível, obtemperando as razões das coisas, sangrado nos sais das cores enquanto se assume rei e progenitor das mesmas. É uma veleidade, ser-se autor, autorizar a criação do nada e dar-lhe veemência de ser; se me coibissem de escrever já na próxima manhã, não seria um desvario. Diria apenas que nada tenho a escrever, e que as particulas de água que rútilam na minha respiração existem como torres, como árvores, regados, aquilo que se colecciona em mim a poste de me matar mas que não me mata (sendo essa a sua manigância), constitui apenas um nada que acompanho, que outrora fora escrito ali, na litologia, onde a terra tuge uma força impenetrável, ou ali, nas paredes douradas na modorra dos tempos, ou ali, num livro, em qualquer livro outrora escrito, até ainda por escrever. É um nada que é único enquanto é nada — porque nada é único — e deixa de o ser quando deixa de ser nada. Quem escreve sobre o nada é o autor que nada tem sobre o que escrever, e está, deveras, criativamente estropiado, pois é-lhe dada uma casuística que coaduna com as outras casuísticas de viver num campo calvo; somos da filosofia quando ensaiamos as perguntas, do cimento nas arquitecturas das ficções, dos balústres do som nas poesias (e apenas dos balústres), e vamos entumescendo o nada com léguas de significados, de mitologias pessoais, imagens de libélulas no gelo das árvores, de pinhas flutuando sobre os mares equatoriais, a qualidade memorial dos factos que logo deixam de ser factos sobre o peso doutros factos, e cavalos nobres, espancados, ludismos, lajedos de fomes e terrores e qualidades pestíferas do que amamos, do que pretendemos amar, do que pretendemos entender na qualidade de amar, uma coalescência divina do que é porque o é e do que engendramos ser por medida de sentirmos que assim o seja. Enumerações, muitas, todas dentro do mesmo nada, num parêntise infinito que assenta perfeitamente no buraco-espiral dum punho cerrado; mas deixem-me rever o sí-mesmo, se a verdade é criativa e o sonho a sua destruição, deixem-me rever todo o subterrâneo das coisas, porque todas elas borbulham com o significado de tudo, fervem no compasso de luz numa condensação infinita de fenómenos, e é uma ferida que se estende ao horizonte de não ver a dimensão esmagadora que têm, é a réplica de um exercício redutor constante — uma simulação de essência — porque somos frágeis, os nossos ossos cinzas que se esmagam com a maior facilidade, e porque tudo o que significa é pérfido no seu significado, e essa cinza de ossos penetra-nos os pulmões, dentro de nada, dentro de tudo, dentro do significado que é um nada num todo, um pânico, uma tubérculose da mente, uma paralisia.
E depois, há uma destruição que não é redução, o azeite sobre a picada da abelha, a juventude e a regeneração que se toma por um significado tão concreto e claro, que é reflexo de lágrima numa escuridão imensa. Voltámos a casa. O mundo faz sentido, e não tem significado nem nada nem tudo, nem se resigna a tais adornos, e somos preenchidos pela leveza do próprio ar, as cores das próprias flores, e toda a luz retumbada nas paredes sombreadas. Há, talvez, uma mãe e um pai, irmãos, ou uma memória límpida deles, de onde se postavam, de onde observavam o mundo com infímas complexidades que nem um sonho suporta entender. Há um cão, talvez um gato, um canário, e o seu entusiasmo fleumático que sangra no espírito dos seus olhos. Há aquela noite estouvada e o fim malogrado dessa antiguidade, que não vi suceder, porque nunca deixei de ser nada do que outrora fui, nunca deixarei de ser nada do que já fui.
Voltámos a casa, onde o mundo e a linguagem vivem em profunda reciprocidade, e podemos conter bibliotecas cá dentro, podemos nunca ter escrito obra, podemos ter escrito vinte. Aqui, não somos autores, não somos escritores, não acompanhamos um nada ainda por descrever. Aqui, somos o nada, o significado, a sombra que o autor acompanha.
I could probably write as many poems of anxiety as there are poems of anxiety left to be written, or, better yet, I could likely claim that every poem I have is, at least partially, a poem of anxiety. I’ve also resigned to my dread of giving titles to compositions; unless they come naturally to me while conceiving a poem (or, in other words, before I’ve written said poem) I never feel as if my titles are adequate in approximation. So, I suppose I’ll be a titular minimalist, see if it suits me, perhaps it might.
If you, too, suffer from this ailment (which in this modern world of ours, seems inextricably woven into our fabric of being), I can’t provide a pyre or tell you that you’re not alone; you are not alone, but our caltrops of loneliness are not ones we can dodge merely equipped with the knowledge of companionship, but one we can bear the pains of by cultivating a veritable motion of hearing, of communicating individually, within and without. We are not alone in others, we are alone within ourselves; the only pyre, the only voice which is worthwhile in exiting that artificial solitude, is your own within yourself, and if it stands sincere and kind, it shall too reverberate in others, which shall return the same measure of sincerity and kindness; if not, they are undeserving of your pain, and you still hold yourself firm. This is, of course, my experience.
My communications are always open if (hopefully exempt of vaticination) those pestiferous ghosts of anxiety come to plague you. I will help as I best I can.
Luís Carlos Patraquimlives, but I read him as if he never lived. When I cogitate of his life, I sight odd coppery faces and calcined terrains, the hollowing of plasters in the decrepit walls and fences of Lourenço Marques, a sublimation spawning the vividness of Mozambique in memory, a Mozambique that can only wound memory akin to the rattling of trains; we primp the man, he has no pulse, but acacias bloom and fade within; we primp the man which primps itself by his own labour, and a parsonage remains, history, a seamless image. The image-of-man is defenseless, exists only in exposition, in row with other images inasmuch as one cannot probe the colour of irises, begginings of laughter or threads, one cannot see sortileges that aren’t extenuatingly pestiferous, nor loves without the clatter of taking steps with a shattered heart; nothing lives in these men, nor is there will to give them such textures, as we are not soothed by seeing such images as articulated flesh, we do not care for the mensuration of their days, or the instances of vitreous fear for time: a first kiss, a first flight, the ontology of a motherly caress, or the satin fever of nights. There is so much to being, so much that refuses to be transfigured in narrative movements, so much matter centred in itself, held in a tattered cloth which is twisted, and twisted, twisted tirelessly for some droplets of varnish. In my manufacture of symbols, I see swollen ossuaries, bronze wheat-ears and cans of castor-oil, and there, I see Patraquim, scanning the acacia’s thirsty leaves. I see him distantly, cindery, as an ornament of my youth when I would grip any poem whose language allowed for my understanding, before I balanced myself with the rabble of cities, before I was an image-of-man; that, perhaps, goes mostly unspoken. Some speak of machinery, filters and filtering, of means and censorship, vilifying aesthetics and the gelid action of refining a countenance, some speak of calculating innocuous improbabilities while calculating the probability of being understood. Lesser, it seems, speak of the editing of people, of the being made, created and formed by fictions, and I can say without contesting that I know more of those that never lived than I do those that live; I know myself more in the I which never lived, the I in constant persiflage towards improbabilities, the I in a barrage of dreams and quests and pretensions tinted of the same coppery faces, engineered by books and almond-trees, seeing in them a more veritable texture than in the spent colours my eyes still receive. Patraquim, the image-of-man, gushes in me those droplets of varnish — as if my image-of-man took form of an ewer — and so gushes Stevens, bleeds Hatherly and Sebald, gushes the lad from the subway that crossed my eyes and timidly retracted his own, and I gush, outside, within, impish droplets that inflame me, small blades from a barbershop, small threads of faces petrifying slowly beneath the stepping noises. Is there an autochthonous child, a storm’s prelude, a fleeting seagull that can cast a linen string over men and images-of-men, a life-saver that rescues them as they were, before they were images of lives? If there is, I fear that remembering that nude version of being may be more maddening than swallowing mercury.
(…) And your silence, your silence, where they bloom, bloodied, the acacias of Lidemburg Street and Lagos shivers in blue and spawns a styled solitude and a bull which recoils in the labyrinth of an inflamed aorta,
your mouth, your mouth and your silence and no longer the inquiry, none, and your wonderment and that of stars, lightly the torpid mist submerging your profile,
in the afternoon where I thread, and the stone registered in a snowing sun.
Luís Carlos Patraquim in “O Círculo”
Lúis Carlos Patraquim vive, mas leio-o como se jamais tivesse vivido. Quando cogito que lá terá vivido, vejo semblantes de estanho e terra calcinada, o escorchar do reboco lá nos muros e nas grades de Lourenço Marques, uma sublimação que engendra as forças de Moçambique na memória, um Moçambique que apenas fere a memória como o estertor dos comboios; ataviamos o homem, não tem pulso, tem acácias florindo e morrendo, ataviamos o homem que a si próprio se atavia em seu labor, e resta-nos personagem, história, uma imagem inconsútil. O homem-imagem é inerme, existe apenas numa exposição, a renque com tantos outros, e não se dedilham cores de olhos, príncipios de risos ou traços, não se vêm sortilégios sem os mesmos serem extenuantemente pestíferos, nem amores sem o ruído acutilante dum coração em cacos; não há nada de vivo nestes homens, nem há vontade de lhes dar essa textura, não nos afaga saber dessas imagens como carne articulada, não nos interessa a mensuração dos seus dias, das instâncias de medo envidraçadas p’lo tempo: o primeiro beijo, o primeiro voo, a ontologia do desvelo materno, a febre acetinada das noites. Há tanto em ser, e tanto que não se transfigura em momentos narrativos, tanta matéria ensimesmada num trapo velho, que é torcido e torcido, torcido infindávelmente por umas quantas gotas de lacre. Na minha manufactura de símbolos, vejo os ossuários entúmidos, espigas de bronze e nas latas de rícino, e existe Patraquim, a perscrutar a sede das acácias. Vejo-o na distância, cendrado, como um ornamento da minha juventude em que perfilhava qualquer poesia cuja língua me permitia que a lesse, antes de me sopesar na turba das cidades, antes de ser homem-imagem; disso, talvez, poucos falam. Falam da maquinaria, dos filtros e filtragens, dos meios e da censura, aviltam a estética e a forma gélida de editar o rosto, falam-nos do cálculo das improbabilidades inócuas, calculando a probabilidade de os enterdermos. Menos falam da edição das gentes, do humano crescido, criado, formado pela ficção, e posso dizer sem barganha que sei mais dos que jamais viveram do que sei dos que estão vivos; e sei-me mais no eu que jamais vivera, eu no chorrilho dessas improbabilidades, eu na torrente de sonhos e demandas e pretensões pintadas de cobre, um eu engendrado por livros e amendoeiras, vendo-lhes uma textura de realidade mais sincera que as cores exauridas p’los meus olhos. O homem-imagem de Patraquim jorra em mim as gotas de lacre — como se o homem-imagem que sou fosse em forma de caneco — e jorra Stevens, sangra Hatherly e Sebald, jorra o miúdo do metro que se acanha por me cruzar o olhar, jorro eu, lá fora, cá dentro, pequenas gotas que me inflamam, pequenas lâminas de barbeiro, pequenas linhas de rosto que se petrificam lentamente ao passo dos ruídos. Haverá uma criança autóctone, um prelúdio de tempestade, uma gaivota fugitiva, que lança sobre as gentes e imagens de gentes um cordão de linho, um salva-vidas, que as salve como elas eram, antes de serem fotografias de vidas? Se haverá, temo que rememorar essa versão nua seja mais enlouquecedor que beber mercúrio…
(…) E o teu silêncio, o teu silêncio, onde florescem, sangrentas, as acácias da Rua de Lidemburgo e Lagos estremece em azul e punge uma solidão ática e um boi se recolhe no labirinto da aorta que infla,
A boca, a tua boca e o teu silêncio e não mais a pergunta, nenhuma, e o teu pasmo e o das estrelas, ao de leve a cacimba lenta submergindo-te o rosto,
pela tarde onde caminho, e a pedra se inscreve no sol que neva.