Tag Archives: cordel

Quotation: Rololfo Coelho Cavalcante (1919 – 1987)

“Poetry doesn’t die. People yes, people die, but poetry doesn’t. Poetry can change, it can even disappear for a while, but it reappears when you least expect it in order to remain here on earth until the end of time.”

Stories on a String by Candace Slater

Quotation: Francisco de Souza Campos (b. 1926)

“Why do all these professors come around here now asking us questions? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I suppose it’s because there are so many people in this world who have an education and all the money they need and yet who still can’t write a single verse. Then you have a poet, a poor devil who never went to school, who has trouble scraping together a few coins for bread or busfare, and he sits down and writes a story that leaves everybody marveling. So to may way of thinking, all these people want to understand just how the poet makes his stories. They are all itching to know how such a miracle occurs.”

Stories on a String by Candace Slater

Mechanical peacock saves the day

The cosmos speaks incessantly to the inquisitive mind.

This week, through my brief inquiry into the Cordel literature traditions of Brazil, I encountered a startling gem of inspiration for the automata artist. As it happens, the indisputably most popular folheto ever published is O Pavao Misterioso or The Mysterious Peacock and the story goes like this:

A young man named Evangelista falls in love with the jealously-guarded and radiantly beautiful daughter of a Greek nobleman. In order to visit his love he acquires an aluminum-framed mechanical flying peacock from the great artist-engineer Edmundo. In due course the maiden and Evangelista escape her father and elope on the back of the peacock. Shortly after setting up house in Turkey they are reconciled with the bride’s mother (the father having died of extreme vexation) and receive her full inheritance.

Happy endings thanks to a wondrous automaton. My kind of story. Shades of Hugo anyone?

In her splendid book, Stories on a String, Candice Slater reports that this tale is so intoxicating to some readers of Cordel that they believe the mechanical peacock actually existed and continues to exist today. It is as though this fictional automata is a saint!

Slater’s book is available on Google books. And here is a link to a Google translation of The Romance of the Mysterious Peacock by José Camelo de Melo Rezende from Wikisource.

The Cordel tradition

Yesterday I posted about José Francisco Borges without fully acknowledging the folk tradition he comes from. Brazil’s Literatura de Cordel is a folk art tradition of north east Brazil. These artists self publish their verse and illustrations in the form of folhetos or pamphlets. There’s a lot to admire about any surviving folk tradition but I am particularly inspired by Cordel literature’s adaptability, popularity and accessibility. The verses are written and illustrated by people of humble means and education for an audience of similar means. I can’t think of a single example of anything like this in North America.

Cordel Literature: José Francisco Borges

A couple of years ago my friend Joe, a frequent traveler to Brazil, told me about the Cordel literature of José Francisco Borges and sent me this link from The Good Blood blog. Knowing a good thing when I see it, I immediately grabbed the image below and put it into my screen saver rotation at work.

I suppose it’s pretty easy to see why I might be attracted to this type of art. If it’s so easy I suppose I should also take the trouble to describe why. Tomorrow.