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Haroldo de Campos

from Galáxias

"Circuladô de fulô"


by A.S. Bessa

Listen to Caetano Veloso's version of "Circuladô"

In 1959, at age of 29 and accompanied by his wife Carmen, Haroldo de Campos left Brazil for the first time to travel through Europe -- a trip which included among other things, visits with Karlheinz Stockhousen, in Cologne, and Ezra Pound, in Rapallo. On his way back, Campos made a stop in Recife, a city in the Brazilian northeast, and from there he proceeded to other cities until finally reaching São Paulo. In an autobiographical sketch written in the late 1980s Campos recalled this last leg of his trip as "rediscovering Brazil via the world. The hybrid and the ecumenical. The multi-devouring baroquism of aerial roots. Diaspora-disseminating." The memory of his incursion into this "other Brazil" was later evoked by Campos in one of his most endearing texts, "Circuladô de fulô," the fifteenth text in Galáxias, his book of prose-poetry written between 1963 and 1976.

Galáxias, a collection of fifty texts written in stream-of-consciousness style, is a long unpunctuated meditation on writing, world literature and the elusive nature of the book. "Circuladô de fulô" is Campos's tribute to the popular art of minstrelsy as practiced in the Brazilian northeast. The text, inspired by a song that Campos heard in a state fair possibly in the outskirts of Recife, was written between February 21 and 24, 1965. Its first two lines ("circuladô de fulô ao deus ao demodará que deus te guie porque eu não posso guiá eviva quem já me deu circuladô de fulô e ainda quem falta me dá") seem to be a direct quote from the original song, which to my knowledge has never been recorded or printed. There is no information either on the song's author. Fortunately we do know enough about that tradition, for the literature on it is extensive, to infer what triggered Campos's interest.

The tradition of troubadours, or minstrels, in the Brazilian northeast is believed to have its roots in the Provençal tradition by way of Portugal and the poet king Dom Diniz, with his "cantigas de amigo e de amor" (songs of friendship and love). Like their European counterparts in the Middle Ages, the Brazilian troubadours are itinerant performers highly admired and respected by the communities that guarantee their survival. Some of the works of the earlier poets, going back to the seventeenth century, still survive through apocryphal texts that to this day circulate as "literatura de cordel" ("cordel" is Portuguese for a rope or yarn, and the expression denotes a kind of book that is displayed in fairs hanging from a yarn).

Campos's interest in this kind of literature is both affectionate and intellectualized. In a sense, he is "rediscovering Brazil" via Pound. Consider the fact that the Brazilian troubadours are referred to in their area as "cantadores," and their performances as "cantoria." One is reminded that Campos's 1960 book of translations of Pound's Cantos (together with Augusto de Campos and Décio Pignatari) was titled Cantares, although the word "canto" carries the same meaning in Portuguese. Campos also compares the handmade instrument used by the cantador to a shamisen, the classic Japanese instrument used in Kabuki. Pound's ghost is more directly invoked by an allusion to "il miglior fabbro," from Eliot's famous borrowing from Dante in his dedication of The Waste Land. Furthermore, the indeterminacy of the expression "circuladô de fulô" also brings to mind the quandary regarding the word Noigandres — "Noigandres, eh noigandres, / "Now what the DEFFIL can that mean!" (in Pound, Canto XX, v32). Although both "circuladô" and "fulô" are misspellings, there is no doubt that "fulô" means "flôr" (flower). But "circuladô" can stand either for "circulado," the past participle of the verb "circular," meaning "surrounded," or for the noun "circulador," meaning "the spinner," as in "the one who makes the flowers spin." In my translation, I opted for the first solution for it calls to mind the image of the cantador as a wanderer, immersed in nature, at the mercy of god.

The music of the cantadores is highly determined by the text, set to a rigorous metric that values cadence. The original excerpt quoted by Campos seems to have been written in the popular "sextilha" style, a strophe composed of six lines of seven syllables each. The interpretation of Campos's text by the popular Brazilian singer Caetano Veloso [see under Soundings in the present web site] emulates the sprachgesang mode proper to the cantadores' style. It's important to notice that Veloso, himself a native from the Northeast, is no stranger to this tradition, and that throughout the years he has recorded with many musicians from that area. One of his most striking recordings from the 1970s, "Triste Bahia," (Sad Bahia), featured lyrics by the seventeenth-century troubadour, and troublemaker, Gregório de Matos.

Campos himself emulates the cantador in those parts of the text that feature a free-flow of internal rhymes. But although he mentions one specific style — the "Martelo galopado," or "trotting Martelo," named after its inventor Jaime de Martelo in the second half of the seventeenth century — his free-form style comes closer to the "mourão" (big Moor), the style of choice during a cantadores duel, or "desafio," for its possibility of wordplay.


translation & text

'rounded by flowers under god's under the devil's mercy god shall guide you for I myself can't guide godbless those who give me 'rounded by flowers and those who are still to give sounding like a shamisen made of a tensed wire a stick and an old tin can at the end of the partyfair at highnoonhigh but for many that music did not exist it could not because it could not popplay if not sung that music is not popular if not in tune it does not atone nor tarantina and yet struck in the gut of misery in the tensed gut of the meagerest physical misery aching aching like a nail in the handpalm a rusty blind nail in the palm clasping palm of the handheart exposed as a tensed nerve retensed a renigrated blind nail everlasting in the palmpulp of the hand in the sun while selling for meager cruzeiros gourds in which the good form is fine meagerness of matter morphing famineform of halfbaked clay in the rottenroot of distress until others vomit their plastic plates of embroidered borders empirestyle for mistress misery for this is popular for the patrons of the people but people create and people engender and people wonder people are the languageinventor in the malice of the mastery in the smartness of marveling in the vein to improvise stuttertrying to traverse oiling the sun's axis for people know no servitude pure or quasi metaphor people are il miglior fabro in the hammering gait aiming the impossible in view of the nonviable in the crux of the incredible oiled hammergait and the sunaxis but the wire that wire bladewire painpained like a demented plangent wire hammering its widowed dischord in blazing brasses of howling hunger 'rounded by flowers 'rounded by flowers 'rounded by flooowers for I myself cant guide check this book this object of consumption this undergodunderthedevilsmercybook which I arrange and disarrange which I unite and disunite voyages of a vagamonde in the vagaries of vague moons god shall guide the devil shall guide you then for I can't don't dare or care don't trick nor touch or trade but only for my change my pennies my pains my rings my fingers my minuses my nadas in the antennas in the galenas in these nests in these rests as we'll verify in the verbenas in the sugary açucenas or minor circumstances I know all this don't count all this disappoints I'm not sure but listen how it sings value how it tells savor how it dances and don’t propose that I guide don’t pose dispose that I guide unguided that I pray for promise that I trust you leave me forget me let me go untie me so that at the end I stand erect at the end I revert at the end I concert and for the end I reserve myself as it will be seen that I am correct it will be seen that there is a way it will be seen that it's been done and that through wrongs I made it right that from a scent I made a cent and if I do not guide I do not lament for the master who taught me does not teach any longer baggage of mirrormoon in the mirage of the second that through inversion I was dexterous being inverted by the sinistrous I do not guide because I do not guide because I can not guide and don't ask me for mementos just dwell on this moment and demand my commandment and do not fly just defy do not confide defile for between yes and no I for one prefer the no in the knowing of yes place the no in the ee of me place the no the no will be yours to know

translated from Portuguese by a.s. bessa

[The original text follows.]

circuladô de fulô ao deus ao demodará que deus te guie
porque eu não posso guiá eviva quem já me deu circuladô de
fulô e ainda quem falta me dá

soando como um shamisen e feito apenas com um arame
tenso um cabo e uma lata velha num fim de festafeira no
pino do sol a pino mas para outros não existia aquela música
não podia porque não podia popular aquela música se não
canta não é popular se não afina não tintina não tarantina e
no entanto puxada na tripa da miséria na tripa tensa da mais
megera miséria física e doendo doendo como um prego
na palma da mão um ferrugem prego cego na
palma espalma da mão coração exposto como um nervo
tenso retenso um renegro prego cego durando na palma
polpa da mão ao sol

circuladô de fulô ao deus ao demodará que deus te guie
porque eu não posso guiá eviva quem já me deu
circuladô de fulô e ainda quem falta me dá

o povo é o inventalínguas na malícia da maestria no matreiro
da maravilha no visgo do improviso tenteando a travessia
azeitava o eixo do sol

circuladô de fulô ao deus ao demodará que deus te guie
porque eu não posso guiá eviva quem já me deu
circuladô de fulô e ainda quem falta me dá

e não peça que eu te guie não peça despeça que eu te guie
desguie que eu te peça promessa que eu te fie me deixe
me esqueça me largue me desamargue que no fim eu acerto que
no fim eu reverto que no fim eu conserto e para o fim me
reservo e se verá que estou certo e se verá que tem jeito e se
verá que está feito que pelo torto fiz direito que quem faz
cesto faz cento se não guio não lamento pois o mestre que
me ensinou já não dá ensinamento

circuladô de fulô ao deus ao demodará que deus te guie
porque eu não posso guiá eviva quem já me deu


Marjorie Perloff: "Concrete Prose": Haraldo de Campos Galáxias and After"
Haraldo de Campos in UbuWeb Historical
A.S. Bessa: "Architecture Versus Sound in Concrete Poetry"
A.S. Bessa: "In Search of the Originative Poetics of Concrete Poetry"

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