By Abé Barreto Soares
It is a great honor for me to be back to this prestigious university, UNTL to deliver a talk on literature. I am very pleased to be here this morning. This is going to be my third time being in a formal forum like this one in this campus. Good morning to all of you!
First of all I would like to thank the distinguished Rector of UNTL, Dr. Benjamin Corte Real for inviting me to come and deliver this talk. I am also grateful for my dear literary friend, Antonio José Borges a.k.a Tozé who greatly encouraged me to come and share some of my thoughts on literature to his class as this one. Frankly speaking, at first when I received the news from Tozé about his plan to bring me here to deliver this talk, I was so happy, but at the same time I was a little bit confused about which topic I should choose to do so. Last Saturday, while working on the translation of my works (poetry) into Portuguese in the park at the seafront close to Palácio do Governo, I then proposed to Tozé by saying, “Don’t you think if I choose the following topic, ‘Influence of Portuguese literature on my literary career’ will be a good one for my talk in your upcoming class?”. “That is it, Abé! Why not?, Tozé happily answered.
Since poetry has been a literary genre which I have been dealing mostly in my literary career so far, for this morning talk I am going to focus merely on the influence of the works of Portuguese poets in my poetry writing.
I was grateful with the fact that I had acquired the level of education of primary school during the Portuguese period. With that basic knowledge, I, at least, have the command of basic Portuguese language skills. This has been very useful for me all these years when it comes to the literary world.
Three Portuguese contemporary poets whom I consider as somewhat as my literary mentors are: Fernando Pessoa, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andersen and Eugénio Andrade.
I discovered these three great writers in my mid and late twenties after being overseas, particularly in Canada and Portugal. It was a wonderful encounter.
It was in a small public library in Toronto city where I first came across the work of Fernando Pessoa, “Mensagem”. Reading such work reminded me of the “Lusíadas” of the epic Portuguese poet, Luis de Camões. Then, soon afterwards I discovered his prose: correspondences (love and literary letters), and some pieces of autobiographical writings. It is interesting particularly to read his love letters. The style of his letter writing, particularly the love ones began to have an influence on me. It also became as ingredients in my poetic adventure. The persona of Fernando Pessoa also reminded me of the English Romantic poet, John Keats in dealing with his romance life.
Permit me to read some of the passages of his letter to his girlfriend, Ofélia Queiros.
Now let me talk about Sophia Mello Breyner Andersen. The same thing happened to this poet. I discovered her in Toronto.
I have written an essay as a tribute to her after her death two years ago, and it was published by Várzea das Letras.
I consider her as a traveler representing the West traveling to the East through her writings.
Her style resembles the works of tanka, haiku of Japan, and cantos as that of Ezra Pound, the American poet.
Her poetic credo which I very much share is as follows:
“ A poesia não me pede propriamente uma especialização pois a sua arte é uma arte de ser. Também não é tempo ou trabalho o que a poesia me pede. Nem me pede uma ciência nem uma estética nem uma teoria. Pede-me antes a inteireza do meu ser, uma consciência mais funda do que a minha inteligência, uma fidelidade mais pura do que aquela que eu posso controlar…………Pede-me que viva atenta como uma antena, pede-me que viva sempre, que nunca me esqueça. Pede-me uma obstinação sem tréguas, densa e compacta.”
(As part of the appreciation of her poetic works, let me share with you some of her poems which I take from her book, “Obra Poética I”.)
(…Reading of her poems)
To vividly illustrate to you all the influence of this great poet on me, the following are some of my works which have been translated into Portuguese, and appeared in “Timor Lorosae: Em Português Vos Amamos”, published by Solidarity Group for Timor-Leste in Bruxell in 1999.
(…Reading of my poems…)
Let me now turn into a little bit about the life and the works of Eugénio de Andrade.
While wandering around in Lisbon, the old capital city in 1998 after attending the Convention of Timorese Resistance, I happened to pop into a bookstore called FNAC. A book of Eugenio Andrade with his photo, in his late years, attracted my attention. And I opened the book, and found his marvelous poetic works. The reading started. A vibration of great poetic sensation overwhelmed me. Reading his works made me feel as if I was the one who spoke through his writings. Later on, I discovered more and more of his works (the essays) published in volumes. I bought the books, and it is too bad that I could not manage to bring any of them with me here today. I have no doubt to admit that the style of essay writing of Eugénio dominates me, and you will find them in the near future when my essays are published.
I like to think this talk to be more as a dialog and not a monolog. With this, I would say that reading the poets, their lives and their works is a spiritual communion. And the great Mexican late poet, Octávio Paz, even went further by saying, “if a society eliminates poetry, then that society commits a spiritual suicide”.
Hotel Timor, 9 May 2007