Individual Work
Húmus - Poema Contínuo

Húmus - Poema Contínuo is a work in Portuguese, published in 2008 by Rui Torres, with the collaboration of Nuno F. Ferreira, using two homonym works as source material. As a meta-reflection on combinatorial textuality and literary tradition, Húmus - Poema Contínuo highlights the performative and generative nature of language, of code, of the reading and writing acts, and of literature itself.

Húmus - Poema Contínuo is a re-reading and re-writing of two previous works by other authors. These works are Húmus (1917), by Raul Brandão, and "Húmus Poema-Montagem" (1967), a combinatorial experiment by Herberto Helder, in which Helder selected and recombined Brandão’s words, without using computational tools. Just as Helder revisited Brandão, Rui Torres revisits both these authors in his work, animating the verses from Helder’s montage with wordlists composed of Brandão’s vocabulary. This intertextual movement of revisitation and recreation invokes the notion that all novelty emerges from the critical re-reading and dialogical dislocation of tradition. An important concept in this context and in Rui Torres’ practice is that of plagiotropy, proposed by Brazilian concrete poet Haroldo de Campos. Unlike plagiarism, which simply takes the words or ideas of others, plagiotropy implies the dialectical movement of transformation that feeds the history of literature. The word "humus" also contains the idea of transmutation in itself and, similarly, we may say that this literary work (as well as literature itself) is a composite of different elements, just like the fertile soil where matter decomposes and regenerates.

The reader of Húmus - Poema Contínuo is invited to re-write the text by clicking and changing words, and even by erasing the wordlists and inscribing her own words. The reader is also able to inscribe her version of the text in a blog that archives all the textual instantiations constructed through the reading-writing acts. Thus, as the reader creates a new textual realization, reading generates writing. This space is a blog, called Poemário, that aggregates Húmus's readers in a community, documenting and rendering visible the many writings that the readings of this work have generated. As any generative or combinatorial work, this piece consists not only of each particular textual instantiation but also of all the virtual infinite combinations, and by including its readers’ manipulations, Húmus renders explicit this double dimension that characterizes generative and combinatorial texts, articulating each actual text with the latency of the textual whole.