The Amazonian writer Thiago de Mello was bitter lately, until his death this Friday (14), at age 95. Milton Hatoum, a fellow countryman and friend of the poet since the 1980s, was witnessing his humor.
He says that the poet’s discontent was a reaction to the “path of destruction” through which both the city of Manaus and the Amazon rainforest are passing, which have always been privileged objects of Mello’s poetry and affection.
“Once he said to me ‘Milton, I don’t recognize this city anymore’. More than me, he — who was older — knew a Manaus in harmony with nature, a city integrated with nature. that was established during the military dictatorship, it was completely destroyed.”
Even having lived for years in Rio de Janeiro —where he lived with the main Brazilian poets of the 20th century, such as Manuel Bandeira and Carlos Drummond de Andrade— and in different countries —he went into exile in Chile fleeing the dictatorship—, Thiago de Mello loved his origins.
“He had a passion for the place. He lived a lot between Manaus and Barreirinhas [sua cidade natal] and didn’t feel the need to leave. I, who went out a lot, when I returned there, I couldn’t stand that pressure and oppression. But he felt this deep rootedness,” says Hatoum.
A novelist who won the Jabuti, APCA and Portugal Telecom awards —currently the Oceanos award—, Hatoum met Thiago de Mello when he praised him for his debut book “Relato de um Certo Oriente”, which was later honored in a composition by Mello. “Happy with the old entanglement, / layman and long as the breast / of the line of a wing band, / I read and reread the Relato, / which comforts lucidity / and daydream and teaches me / why Milton came to the world” are the verses that open the poem “Lucidez e Devaneio”, included in the volume “Acerto de Contas”.
“He was a great storyteller and storyteller, a good-natured, friendly and generous person. He sometimes called just to say he missed her”, says Hatoum.
Famous for demonstrating, through his verses, the enchantment of nature, Mello brought the Amazon to contemporary Brazilian lyrical poetry – the themes of the forest, the biome, the relationship of people with their place. Hatoum also highlights the social character of his work, dedicated to human rights. “He was one of the pioneers of nature, of the environment, for which he always fought.”
“His lyrical side is deeply connected to nature. He uses an Amazonian vocabulary. He doesn’t shy away from mentioning fish, fruits and trees that are typically from there. He doesn’t do it in a picturesque expression. He gives these characteristics a universal value. . It transcends regionalism.”
Although he noted the visible degradation with deforestation and pollution of the rivers that bathe his region, Mello had not been following the current stage of the environmental crisis with the Bolsonaro government.
“He has not been lucid in recent years and has not seen — thankfully — what was happening in this government”, says Hatoum, who ends by saying that, “in his memory, we must continue the battle for the preservation of the Earth”.