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This article is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

Paz and Vanguardism (Circulations of the Song) Michael Palmer

By way of a brief preface, I am reminded of a moment many years ago at the house of a friend. On her wall was a Diego Rivera from his so-called cubist period. Rivera had indeed taken on the compositional means, the simultanism of the Cubists. Yet there were already signs of a formal transformation, an overcoming. The palette itself was less restricted than early Cubism, hinting at a nascent new style. More important, in the place of the newspapers, carafes and ashtrays of the Cubist still-life was a sky bristling with the guns of the Revolution. And it occurred to me that these guns were also pointing back toward Cubism itself, that they were saluting a new pictorial language even while paying homage to the old. (It's an ironic recollection, no doubt, given Paz's multiple reservations, over time, regarding the Mexican muralists other than Orozco.) Roughly cognate with this is a trip to São Paulo some years later, where I was to introduce an anthology of contemporary Brazilian poetry I had helped to edit and translate. The other editors and I discussed the arrival of Blaise Cendrars there in the 1920s and how his presence had been a key to Brazil's entry into the field of both modernism and vanguardism. The immediate result was Mario de Andrade's Hallucinated City, Brazil's first vanguardist work, and one that still speaks to that self-devouring entity, São Paulo. It is no imitation of Cendrars, but a response, and a call to arms. ...


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