Cutting and repetition

Dear Marília,

In your poetry collection Um teste de resistores (2014, ‘a test of resistors’, not translated yet), each poem undergoes, as its starting point, a resistance test: the attempt to draw a map; to cross this map as it is drawn; and, finally, to offer steady resistance to the very act of crossing it. Each poem incorporates both the process of its composition and the reflection on this process. The challenge, which you accomplish very well, is to create a device that transforms reflection into a spark – into a poetic object endowed with heat, or a circuit of 11 poems that complete each other in a movement “that defines itself / during the journey”.

You seem to be exploring the limits of what poetry can do – and what it resists doing. Collage, stream of consciousness, cinema, academic writings – your book takes and breaks it all. You start with a question that also defines and redefines itself during our reading. Is poetry a form of resistance? This starting point, like the reference point for filming a scene, reshapes the “space / and our way of understanding it.” The poem-question that gives the book its title (Is poetry is a form of resistors?/ A poesia é uma forma de resistores?) offers us a key for reading this kind of poetics made of resistances.

This way of thinking within poetry about poetry has a very essayistic feel to it (and, in this sense, reminds a bit me of Maggie Nelson). It is a method whereby the poem is submitted to a test of cuttings and repetitions that feels very much like the undertaking of an intermittent journey, building layers and layers upon itself. At the heart of the poems in this book, we have spaces and meanings being displaced: cut-off memories of travelled paths set the stage on which the displacement of meanings will unfold. Interspersed with them, we have an idea of translation as support for displacement: as a crossing from one language to another (“a way of thinking about the possibilities of the language / from another language”); a crossing from the signifier to the signified; and as a way of reading, by which the poem passes from hand to hand, from author to reader (“a way of thinking about oneself / from another one”); a way of rethinking and crossing, piercing through, “reading things differently,” and finally getting to the other side: “Is entering the equivalent of leaving?”

The step is the rhythmic unity of your poetry in this book (“Your poem has 15 steps”). This is a journey that is made on a map folded on itself. The starting point (our poem-question over resistance/resistors) shapes the many ways of departure but is also altered by them; our starting point is a game played together with the reader. The final poem ends with a scream (“deaf bang the dust and the last thing that scream / NO”) – and this reads like a negative answer that releases us from the starting question: poetry resists its very definition. In the first poem, Blind Light, we are also given a similar key: “I could not answer / because they required me to define questions / where I wanted to keep the doubt.”

The cuttings and repetitions allude to the cinematographic techniques with which the book is in constant conversation (“Can a device that creates repetition / create new forms of / perception?”). In the poem alphabetical order, you tell us how you started writing another poem (the girl from belfast orders at your feet alphabetically), in which you reorganized in alphabetical order the verses of the book A teus pés (‘At your feet’), by Brazilian poet Ana Cristina César. You made a video of that poem, by cutting and assembling excerpts from the film Je, Tu, Il, Elle (Chantal Akerman, 1976, IMDb). Here, video, film, original poem and reconstructed poem are intertwined.

The scene from the film Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965, IMDb), reproduced on the cover of the Portuguese edition of your book, is one of the threads with which you weave your poetic circuit: the cut-off scene from the film, added to the poem Blind Light, feels like a small opening (“the hole“) made by you in the book (“you enter / and realize that you left at the / other side”). In the aforementioned scene, the lovers Ferdinand and Marianne are fleeing in a red convertible car. The camera films them from the back seat of the car, which means that our point of view is located from the outside. At one point, Ferdinand turns to the camera and speaks to the viewer: “See? Having fun is the only thing she cares about.” This may also be your way of turning to the reader and nodding to us: This is a game; play along, will you?

In your book, author and reader also look at the camera: you do so, when reflecting on poetry; the reader, in turn, faces the camera when called right into the poems. As the “viewer / pierces through the film”, the reader also pierces through the poem, “and inserts in it a kind of / cut”. The reader – just like a form of necessary discontinuity between the author and the text – is launched into the discontinuous circuit of meanings in motion within your poems: “what I feel when thinking of you / she said / is a hole”; “Is entering the inner space equivalent to leaving?”

In the poem Blind Light, you make explicit references to Giorgio Agamben’s idea that cutting and repetition would be the two aspects of editing in contemporary cinema (Giorgio Agamben, “Difference and repetition: On Guy Debord’s Films”. IN: McDonough, Tom (ed.) Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. MIT Press, 2004). Repetition does not have here the meaning of  a ‘return to the identical thing’, but of a ‘return to the possibility of what once was’. Repeating something makes it possible again; or, as you say, quoting Gertrude Stein, to repeat is to insist: “there is no repetition / only insistence.” ‘Cutting’, in turn, is understood as the ‘power to make interruptions’. The ‘prolonged hesitation between image and meaning’, created by the interplay of framing and editing, reveals the closeness and similarity between cinema and poetry.

The rhythmic alternation between acceleration and deceleration, in your test of resistors, takes the idea of duration as the very material with which you write your poems. The spark is neither in the beginning nor in the end: it is in the middle, in the moment, in the journey and in its path as a continuous poem. The idea of duration is mirrored in the use of images that fix themselves, for a moment, in the poem. Duration is also represented in the film La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962, IMDb), mentioned in the poem Blind Light as an example of sequential editing of fixed images: “a line to the eyes is a sequence / of dots.

You also use overlapping voices to create “holes in the writing itself / from where we can hear” you literary references: Wislawa Szymborska, Adília Lopes, Ana Cristina César, Emmanuel Hocquard, Zuca Sardan, Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Leslie Kaplan, among others. Poems and topics from your previous books reappear here, but they do so as if dismantled and displaced: like a familiar landscape now revisited with fresh eyes, and with a sense of strangeness.

The equivalent of the cutting of a film is created, in the book, through the use of various techniques: the mixing of different literary genres, registers and language uses; the jumps in time and the thematic fragmentation; and, finally, the alternation between poetic discourse and meta-poetic reflection, in overlapping layers, as if those were maps: “I write the journey / and it starts to happen.” The journey to the poem becomes the poem itself; at the very moment of “jumping / out”, at the very “point where/ an encounter happens”, the map becomes the territory.

Yours truly,


Hilma af Klint, from the series ‘The Ten Largest’, 1907

giorgio agamben says that
in cinema
montage is made up of two procedures   cutting
and repetition
it seems that giorgio agamben
is talking about poetry
i can dislocate this reading of giorgio agamben
(or cut)
and repeat       to thinking about poetry
cut and repeat

gertrude stein says
there is no repetition
only insistence
(…)” – Marília Garcia, um teste de resistores (my translation)

if I think of poetry
methods besides the cut
could help to
to make the poem
a poem?
(…)” – Marília Garcia, um teste de resistores (my translation)

“It may be difficult to talk about poetry
because we usually try to talk about it
from something that is not it
and it then escapes us because
by talking about it
I am no longer in it I am on the other side”

(…)” – Marília Garcia, um teste de resistores (my translation)

“(…) the beginning could take many forms
the beginning could be a directionless still motion
that defines itself
during the journey (…)” – Marília Garcia, um teste de resistores (my translation)

About the book

  • 7Letras, 2014, 124 p. Goodreads
  • Mariposa Azual, 2015, 120 p. Goodreads
  • This book was not translated to English yet, but you can find some of its poems translated by Hilary Kaplan in the chapbook The Territory Is Not the Map (2017,  Goodreads)
  • My rating: 4 stars
  • This review was first published in Portuguese here
  • I wrote this post as a contribution to the Spanish and Portuguese Reading Months, hosted by Stuart and Richard.
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