In the strings “Minhas Curvas de Estimação” and “O Machista e a Cordelista”, Graziela Barduco, master in Performing Arts and researcher of Brazilian popular culture, reveals the everyday experiences lived by women in contemporary society. Focusing on topics such as machismo rooted in relationships and the fight against fatphobia, the author uses traditional literary pamphlets to promote essential debates. In “My Pet Curves”, Barduco recounts how stigmas and prejudices related to her body shaped her self-esteem since childhood, a battle marked by struggles with anorexia and depression. In contrast, “O Machista e a Cordelista” reflects the complexity of maintaining true and respectful relationships between men and women, without loving feelings interfering.
Using the social criticism characteristic of cordel, the author explores a feminist perspective, with the support of Kelmara Castro’s woodcuts, to convey a message of liberation, empowerment and confronting prejudices rooted in society. Graziela Barduco, multifaceted as a writer, cordelist, actress and researcher, stands out not only for her literary work, but for her engagement in collectives that promote female literary production, such as Teodoras do Cordel and Mulherio das Letras.
My Pet Curves and O Machista e a Cordelista deal with personal experiences and important social issues. How do these strings reflect your own journey and engagement with the themes covered?
Writing has always worked for me as a very powerful tool in the process of healing my wounds, as well as relieving all the anguish that, from time to time (or would it be almost always?) insists on plaguing me so much. And the cordel writing process was no different.
In these two new cordéis, specifically, I develop and expand this core of my writing. I touch on subjects that are certainly not sensitive to me alone – they are, for me, like a cry for liberation, although it is like the exposure of an open and festering wound, which little by little has begun to dry.
Both are absolutely based on personal and real stories, and it was necessary for this to be expressed through poetry – in this case, through cordel, a language that I am completely passionate about and with which I am used to working – so that I could Finally, move forward in a lighter way.
Fatphobia and beauty standards are central themes in “My Pet Curves”. How do you hope these themes impact readers and promote changes in society’s perception?
In reality, I hope that the impact on readers will be more in the sense of welcoming and identifying others with such a theme, rather than the intention of breaking paradigms. It is the desire for others to feel welcomed and for this feeling to be accompanied by encouragement for self-acceptance, an emotion that is often difficult to sustain within ourselves.
In O Machista e a Cordelista, you explore the complexities of relationships between men and women. What is the message you want to convey about the role of women in this context?
In fact, I think it’s more about the role of men in this context. May he put himself in his place (so to speak) and start to respect women more in any and all situations.
The fusion of cordel tradition with contemporary issues is a striking feature of his work. Can you share how the idea of using this literary form to discuss feminine and social issues came about?
I believe that this all came about at a time when I found myself somewhat suffocated by negative comments and criticisms regarding what I had been producing in writing. However, little by little I noticed that the vast majority of these notes came from men and some of them even discouraged me from continuing on my writing path that was emerging.
I got stuck for a while, which really hurt me. Writing has mainly served me as an escape valve from life’s woes, so not being able to write is a gigantic torture being applied to my soul. It was then that the tenth poem (a structure often used by cordel) “I Fought Against 100 Lions – All 100 Were Donkeys” appeared, as a way of responding to everything I had been feeling. From there, the idea of starting the book (which is the same name as the poem) came about, so that I would understand, once and for all (yes! I needed to convince myself of this), that no one, no one at all, could stop me.
My research – work and life – revolves around Brazilian popular culture. Therefore, recreating, re-signifying and honoring our wonderful and wonderful poets, mainly from the northeast region of the country, using the forms and structures of Brazilian popular poetry, was the way I found to always move forward, persisting, existing and resisting, with the main certainty that I will never let anyone silence me.
The support of Kelmara Castro’s woodcuts is fundamental to the visual presentation of the cordéis. How does artistic collaboration contribute to the interpretation and impact of the messages contained in the poems?
I’m passionate about Kelmara Castro’s art and I love partnering with women, especially when the project has a feminine touch at its core. In fact, I first met Gracie, Kelmara’s wife and responsible for all of Cordelaria Castro’s graphic projects.
All my strings were made through this publisher and also have woodcut covers made by Kelmara Castro. I love the delicate way she draws on the wood and then uses the gouge to bring the works to life. And it is as if, on each cover, she captured exactly the essence of the cordel in question, immortalizing it in a single scenic fragment, reinforcing and valuing the story that is told there.
You are a member of the Teodoras do Cordel collective, which seeks to strengthen the work of cordelists. How did this collaboration influence your artistic approach and the dissemination of the messages contained in your strings?
In mid-2020, we founded Coletivo Teodoras do Cordel, formed by women who produce and disseminate female cordel literature through various artistic, literary and poetic actions. This group was formed via the Internet during the pandemic and the first actions, works and presentations were online.
We didn’t even know each other in person and it was only last year that we started meeting and continuing work in person as well. The collective was created from the Cordel Sem Machismo Movement, in which we all came together in defense and solidarity with our dear friend and cordelist Izabel Nascimento, a victim of machismo within the cordel universe. This event left everyone very indignant, and I believe that the reaction to this event was a milestone in the history of cordel.
The group was entirely responsible for encouraging me to start publishing my cordel leaflets. Cordel is a super complex poem due to its richness and rigor in terms of form and meter and I was afraid of making a mistake with that.
The members of the collective have always had this role of encouraging, empowering their colleagues, as well as helping each other to resolve doubts and review each other’s metrics, so that we truly feel ready to truly launch ourselves as cordelistas.
Social criticism is a prominent feature of cordel. How do you think cordel poetry can be an effective tool for raising awareness about social issues and promoting change?
As cordel literature is a style of poetry with which the general public has a strong identification, it is easier to touch the reader with what you want to convey, as well as awaken a possible reflection in them. Social issues are recurring themes within the genre and, when well developed, are capable of generating necessary dialogues in readers that can contribute to possible transformations.
In your own words, you mentioned that you write to heal your own wounds. How has writing and sharing these stories impacted your personal and creative journey?
Writing came to me mainly as an escape valve in the face of the pain, sorrows, wounds, hardships and unpleasantness of life, but also as a tool to reinforce and remember the joys, delights, dreams and achievements that visit us along the way. I believe that poetry ended up becoming one of my main channels of expression and I have been writing since I was very little.
On several occasions I have resorted to the refuge of writing poems in moments of intense tribulation and great vulnerability. However, I think I only became a professional writer during my master’s research process.
It was an intense and extremely stressful period, in which I began to write almost unrestrainedly as a form of relief from the anxiety of the moment. As I had a very extensive (and intense) production at the end of this period, I decided to publish my first book, “Na Rima da Menina” (published by Versejar), in addition to publishing in several anthologies since then. And from then on, I never stopped.
In addition to the themes covered in the cordels, you have a master’s degree in Performing Arts and a researcher on Brazilian popular culture. How do these different areas influence and enrich your artistic expression?
I say that I answered Cordel’s call in the middle of my master’s research in the area of theater, in which the theme was a conversation between children’s theater and Brazilian popular culture. During the walk, I came across this wonderful genre of Brazilian literature that is cordel, with which I fell deeply in love: I began to study it and, later on, produce it.
The final product of my master’s degree, in addition to the written work, was a children’s show called “A Menina e o Pé”, which later became a children’s book. The work takes a tour of the various elements of Brazilian popular demonstrations. I believe that one art called the other and the two ended up mixing, and that is how they are in my life to this day.
How do you imagine that readers and the general public can contribute to promoting gender equality and combating the stereotypes addressed in your stories?
I think more about touching the reader so that they identify with what I’m saying. I think that social transformation is a consequence and something subsequent. What I do is open the way for discussion and reflection, but beyond that, make the reader feel welcomed while reading.
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