Chanter le poète, et inversement. Evaristo Carriego dans le tango argentin

Pénélope Patrix


The once-forgotten poet Evaristo Carriego, since rediscovered by Jorge Luis Borges in his eponymous work Evaristo Carriego (1955), is considered today to be one of the leading Argentinian modernist poets, but also, and most importantly, the inventor of a ‘poetry of the outskirts’ and the creator of one of the major trends in the poetics of contemporary tango, tango canyengue (‘rabble’ tango). 

This article traces the singular trajectory of the poet: first, a singer of the ‘low life’ of the outskirts of Buenos Aires at the end of the 19th century, of the misfortunes and debauchery of outlaws, prostitutes and the working class; inventor of a ‘cantatory’ poetry, which draws on popular song and dance of the time, and which we propose to consider as a form of tanguera poetry. Secondly, his influence on the lyricists of contemporary tango leads us to consider him as the precursor of tango canyengue. Finally, he became a founding and guardian figure of contemporary tango, the object of tributes from the greatest composers, and whose name alone has become a poetic and musical trope that invokes a picturesque imagination of the end-of-the-century suburbs of Buenos Aires. 

Hence, we are faced with an intermedia corpus, that borrows from the world of popular song to produce a written, erudite and precious poetry, and which in turn becomes one of the main sources of popular song. Carriego’s tanguera poetry effectively interlaces word, sound and movement. This paper thus analyses the transmedia trajectory along which the poet sings the tango, and the tango then the poet, in a play of ‘inversions’ that are indicative of the reciprocal exchanges, transfers and mediations occurring between poetry, song and music, both textual and figurative, from the end of the 19th century to the present day. At the same time, we examine how song, music and dance can ‘inhabit’ poetry, and poetry ‘inhabit’ song and music, without constituting, strictly speaking, poetic material or an element of repertoire. It also shows how an authoritative author such as Borges has contributed to shaping the tango tradition by inventing its own genealogy.



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