The theme of the inaugural panel of the 24th edition of Correntes d’Escritas, a literary festival taking place in Póvoa de Varzim until the 18th of February, was “The miracle of the world happening”. Phrase extracted from the poem by Ana Luísa Amaral “How uninhabited, the heart”. All the tables at this year’s meeting have as their starting point the writings of the poet and teacher who died in August 2022. Álvaro Laborinho Lúcio was the first speaker and sender: “Where are you, Ana Luísa? It is said that you died. What does it matter to me what is said. (…) Without saying goodbye, you left.”
In a paused and restrained reading, the writer invoked other poets and authors, some of whom went through Correntes d’Escritas. “Look for Eugénio there and he will tell you: ‘I don’t know how you came, but there must be a way for you to return to the world. (…) Have you been with Pina? Have you found Herberto yet? Have you seen Piñon? What happened to Luis? Where are you now? Who are you with? What are you doing on that side, so young, to be a child there and a star here?” He was referring to Eugénio de Andrade, Manuel António Pina, Herberto Helder, Nélida Pinõn and Luis Sepúlveda.
He also spoke about Lázaro and promised to give Ana Luísa his seat at that table, if she decided to show up. “What you don’t know is that, this year, you are at every table.” And truth.
Later on, Hélia Correia would read a letter to the same addressee. The writer, after explaining that a part of her was happy to be back in Póvoa and another was disgusted, explained: “It’s not easy being here without Ana Luísa.”
Normally, he does not write the interventions, but he ended up writing them in the form of a letter. And he found it curious that Laborinho Lúcio had also done so.
Admittedly, we now incur the violation of correspondence and reproduce in full the text that we heard from the reading of a manuscript. It may have one or another inaccuracy, since the author herself, winner of the Camões Prize in 2015, recognized that she is not always able to decode her lyrics. And we also had a difficulty: how to dismember a text like that?
Here it goes: “The miracle of the world, Ana Luísa, is that you are here and that it is happening. The miracle of the world is that, despite the world in demiracle that is ours, my love for you goes into apnea and refuses to sink. Swinging, rise again to this surface, where you were joy and meeting, where our heads leaned towards each other and we laughed and burned over minor topics, like tobacco. And you sang an old song of mine. A preparation for the solemn moment of talking about Maria Velho da Costa. And the tone of voice dropped and the miracle of the world happened, when his name seemed to appear written among us, written through us.
“The miracle of the world, Ana Luísa, made me stop suddenly in my running around the house, when from the radio in the living room came your voice and the sound that books make when they open. I had never witnessed such an understanding between the body that speaks and the body that is read. I don’t like to hear people read, nor do I like to hear about literature. I was, I knew very well, in another place, in another sphere, in another occurrence of breathing, in that place of astonishment and wonder that is the miraculumwhere was your voice.
“In the desperation of this world, in the terror that is our horizon, Ana Luísa, you ask the question that does not want to hear answers from reality. The childish question that wants solace. This question ‘does poetry save?’ Has anyone asked this question to ChatGPT?
“I cannot compete with artificial intelligence and that fact is so frightening that it risks paralyzing. But I still invest against obstacles, I don’t know if I can still be human, but I know I can be an animal that fights for survival. And look, I have your poem here. What I wanted was to read it and lift the audience with your words. But there is no time.
“Perhaps I will be able to register the image of the poet, writing a kind of script. The leaves and the stones, the landscape, the constructions, the smells rush to your eyes, they enter a place in the brain that escapes the anatomy map and summons you those words that no longer obey the impulse of practice, are free and agile in transfiguration. And they go to the hand that puts them on the page. Lightning trapped in gray. A transport to the depth of things, to beauty, to the poem.
“The miracle of the world happening, Ana Luísa, is you.”
the african sacred
After much applause for Hélia Correia, the voice of Paulina Chiziane, Mozambican, winner of the 2021 Camões Prize, the first African woman to receive this distinction, was heard. She soon confessed that she was “a little dizzy” with the theme “the miracle to happen”. So she resorted to mythology. First, the Judeo-Christian. “How was the world created? The world was created with words. God, somewhere hidden, said: “Let there be light, let there be stars, let there be sea, oceans, people, goats, ants, etc..”
There is no doubt that the world was created through the word. “Ana Luísa discovered the formula of resurrection through the word. She is not among us, but she is still alive, we are invoking her. He became immortal through the word. This word that unites us here in Correntes d’Escritas.”
Following the revelation of what he had investigated, he said: “They say that the Judeo-Christian sacred is the most perfect. They even force us Africans to believe in this version. Sometimes there are trends in the world that say: ‘We need to civilize Africa.’ And they come up with this story of the creation of the world.” But it’s a version he likes, he admits. Because it is through the word that its gestation takes place.
With works translated in Germany, Spain, USA, France and Italy, Paulina Chiziane also resorted to the sacred African for her presentation at Cine-Teatro Garrett. Full room, where the audience referred to her as a “diva”.
“In our mythology, the world was also created through the word by a mysterious God that no one has ever seen.” And he described: “This God of ours is called Zambi. It means God in several languages. Zambi has no sex, she is neither a woman nor a man, but she is an energy that has given birth to several things. The first of which is Zambia. We have a country called Zambia, where a river called the Zambezi begins. Therefore, Zambi gave birth to a country and a river. And the river watered several countries, carrying food.”
Afterwards, he spoke of other lands bathed by the Zambezi River, such as Angola and Zaire. In the latter, he says, “the river was also called Zambi, but when the French arrived they thought that Zambi was the work of the Devil and decided to call it Zaire”.
The Zambi/Zambezi has been bathing several countries, including Mozambique, where it passes to empty into the sea. “We have a province called Zambézia”, he recalled.
And he left a brief regret: “Little is known about the African sacred and there is a tendency to ‘small’ this miracle of the world to happen.” He recalled again that the word is the birthplace of the world: “This is also the place of resurrection, the word has power.” And he resorted to two African proverbs. One says: “Each heart is a world.” There is another: “There are two worlds in every world, the inner and the outer.”
He ended up concluding: “The poem by Ana Luísa Amaral raises exactly this question. ‘How many worlds does the world have?’
He believes that with its creative or destructive power, the word is the only weapon that manages to penetrate several worlds. “I can penetrate another’s world, even their darkest place, using the right word.”
Complementing at the end with geopolitical information: “I come from a country that has the history it has, of colonization, which left many marks. The great weapon for the destruction of a people and African peoples at that time was called ‘word’.” And he repeated what she had already said, that Ana Luísa Amaral discovered the resurrection formula.
He hasn’t sent you a letter, but he certainly awaits a response to his message.
Praise for reading aloud
At the same table, Antônio Torres, a Brazilian novelist, took part, who underlined that it was “a miracle that we are here in the disorder we live in”. He further said: “Happy, dark, cruel world, making peace happen only in the interval of two wars. Fanaticisms, prejudices, pandemics and pandemoniums.” He praised the reading aloud, giving happy examples of those who “flood with other worlds the minds of children from the interior of Brazil, who don’t even have a river”. And he sang. It was beautiful.
The Spanish Elisa Victoria — whose editor in Portugal won the Correntes d’Escritas Prize for this edition, Maria do Rosário Pedreira —, who does not like to read aloud or speak in public, made a kind of manifesto against “mistreated animals ” and revealed that “his heart is very sad with people who suffer”.
Shy, but assertive, she let us know in a strong accent from the south of Spain: “While reading Ana Luísa Amaral, I remembered my humble origins. Selling books in a country that is not mine is, for me, a miracle. And soon in a language that I love so much.”
As for the correspondence sent from Póvoa de Varzim to Ana Luísa Amaral, it is hoped that a postman equivalent to Pablo Neruda’s will not give up delivering letters, even if they are few — not even poetry.
PÚBLICO was in Póvoa at the invitation of the festival