Thursday, March 28, 2013

Say Cheese! To Poems from the Portuguese

I just stumbled upon this website dedicated to 21st century poetry from Portugal. Interestingly, the website is too specific about the tag of 21st century as it has taken poems written after the year 2000 by poets from Portugal reproduced with English translations. Frankly, I do not have much of a perception about modern Portuguese poetry and I found the website very informative, interesting and a learning experience, to say the least.  The rationale and structuring of the website content is also innovative, as the home page states, “Each poet is suggested by another participating poet, and her/his poetry is introduced by the latter in a short note. This chain means that other poets are progressively being added. We feature one or two poets a month: either new ones, or one who has sent new poems to add to her/his own page. Thus the dynamics of this website are driven by the poets themselves.”

Run by Ana Hudson, the accomplished translator of the poetry presented on the website, with the endorsement of the Centro Nacional de Cultura (CNC), ‘one of the best established cultural organisations in Portugal’, as the website says. I feel that it is performing its objective of introducing the contemporary Portuguese poetry well. As of now 55 poets with their 306 poems have been featured on the site. It is all the more enriching to view the images of the poets and also to see and hear them talk about their works, perceptions, credo and also read from their poems in their video submissions. One section of the poems is called ‘The Lisbon Collection’ which brings together poems written on or around the capital city. I especially liked the opening lines of the poem ‘Lisbon Light’ by Nuno Júdice (b. 1949):

‘The light crossing the room between
The two windows is always the same, although
On one side it’s west—where the sun is now—And on
the other it’s east—where the sun has already been. In the room
west and east meet, and it is this light
that makes my gaze uncertain for not knowing
which hour held the first light.’
Nuno Judice
photo courtesy: -
These lines stand for how a fellow poet-critic Vasco Graça Moura describe him on his page,'Nuno Júdice’s poetry (...) progressively abolishes the boundaries between the various domains of physical, spiritual and dream-like reality; such worlds are converted into hypotheses of language, and therefore into the poem, through a process which is very clearly conveyed by the title of one of his books: ‘the romantic mechanism of fragmentation’.”

Reading the section on ‘Interviews’, I read with lot of  interest an interview with the young ‘woman’ poet Golgona Anghel (b. 1979) taken by Ricardo Marques. Globally, ‘women’ writers are fats overcoming this gender-specific sobriquet of being a ‘woman-writer’, and Anghel in a response to a question on the subject puts it so very forcefully. I am tempted to reproduce this particular Q & A:

 Q: The universe of women’s poetry writing has increased in latest years. How do you see this trend (reasons, motives, themes) in which you are yourself included?

A: There must be some confusion here. I don’t include myself. I don’t know what that is, ‘The universe of women’s poetry writing’. It sounds to me like an attempt at domestication and at the same time as sexist segregation. I would hardly think of writing as if it were a trend. We are all heroes here. We’ve already hired the trenches, polished the bullets, but it’s very hard to take off our pajamas.

Golgona Anghel

photo courtesy

 I would not make this review longer, and would rather goad you on to make a visit and find out for yourself the goldmine of ‘21st century’ poetry in Portuguese on this website which I duly acknowledge for the excerpts. 

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