Friday, 9 May 2014

Ana Paula Tavares strikes again

Angolan poet Ana Paula Tavares was born in Lubango in 1952. She has published five poetry books since 1985. This is not the first time I write about her; in fact she was the subject of one of my earliest posts back in 2012. I’ve taken this occasion to sample her poetry. I’ve read several poets for this project, but few have left so powerful an impression on my mind as she did. I don’t have a complicated explanation for this: I like her surprising metaphors, I like the way she weaves verses in unexpected ways, I like the unreal nature of her poems. She bends reality in a playful way, making us see it anew. I’ve culled poems from three of her books:

The first are from Dizes-me coisas amargas como fruta (2001)


My body
Is a vertical loom
Where you left crossed
The colours of your life: two strips a lozenge
Plague marks.

My body
Is a closed forest
Where you chose the path.

After getting lost
You kept the key and the proverb.


I waited for you from dawn to sunset
And you didn’t come, beloved.
The colour of my braids change
And you didn’t come, beloved.
I cleaned the house, the enclosure
I filled the yard’s largest silo with corn
I shook in the wind the butter gourd
And you didn’t come, beloved.
I called the oxen by their names
They all replied, beloved.
Only your voice is lost, beloved,
Beyond the bend of the river
After the sacred mountain
Between the lakes.

Then we have some more from Ex-Votos (2003):


I’m sealed in the island of your body
I lie on the ground
The earth speaks for me
The time for life happening.

I’m sealed in the island of your body
I lie on the ground
I bought the bread the day before
And the caresses.


Whoever is buried
Dressed only in his skin
Doesn’t rest
Travels through the paths

Finally from my favourite collection, Manual Para Amantes Desesperados (2007), an unexpected book of erotic poetry. They remind me of Pablo Neruda, full of sensuality, paeans to the body natural metaphors. This one took me by surprise since love poetry, with such an erotic bent, is pretty rare these days. But there you go, that’s what you find out when you start sifting through world literature:


Keep your hand
In the rigour of the dunes
Walking on wires
Is not suitable in deserts

Cross the tips of
The wind over me
And guide me southward
With the sun

Keep your hand
Perpendicular to the dunes
And find the equilibrium
In the wind’s corridor

Our conversation will cover oases
Our lips thirst

When you leave
Leave them ajar
The doors of the Kalahari


It may be you’ll find me
If you walk by the dunes
Over the sand’s burning
Between the ground-clinging plants

It may be you’ll find me
Behind the dunes

Perhaps you’ll find me
In the tenth bend of the wind
Still wet from the sacrificial virgins’ blood
Between the fever

It may be you’ll find me
Like the black beetle
Bent on the ground by the tenth dune
Salvation drops on my body
In the exact measure of your thirst

It may be you’ll find me
On the desert spider’s place
Weaving its web
Of silk and sand.


Leave your hand poised on the dune
While the sand storm lasts

Thirst will scoop the body’s honey
We’ll be calmly reborn
From each death of our bodies
Me in you
You in me
The desert around us.


I recognize your voice
In the heat of the dunes
Clear grave
With a faint bitter tang
Between the vowels

I recognize your voice
In the trees’ twisted trunk
Uttered word by word

Your voice is the forest gallery
In the body’s red earth.

And so we conclude Angolan week. Next week we'll move on to Mozambique. 

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