- Foreword -
Poetry is untranslatable. No other word-based art form is as personal, intimate or defined by cultural and geographical context than poetry.
These were the first two certainties that dawned on me as I made the conscious decision to translate the work of my grandfather – the late, great Maurício de Almeida Gomes – into English.
Then came the specifics of the language. The sole reason to transpose his poems from the naturally rich and highly metaphoric Portuguese of the original into an English version is merely practical.
English is the most international language of all. It’s a language I have solid command over and, therefore, the best vehicle with which to share some of the very few published poems of my grandfather’s.
The challenge ensued. And the simplicity of form made it all the more complex a task.
There’s an immediacy to the choice of words, which is very clearly employed by my grandfather to support the urgent, prophetic tone of each poem.
Like all great minds expressing themselves artistically, he understood that you could say the most with the very least…
I felt an immense responsibility as I began. Although my grandfather will remain in my memory as the kind, often silent, older man who would cook for me every other lunch-break of my school days, what I proposed myself to do now was daunting. Almost foolish.
A way of looking at it (and reconciling any doubts) was to think of it as a collaboration’ (albeit of the post-mortem kind). His immortal words will not be merely translated, but transposed. A necessary transmutation aimed towards retaining meaning, message and essence…’
But I wasn’t just about to meddle with the work of a gifted writer. I was about to enter the Historical context of what is perhaps the most influential Angolan poetry of its time.
The tone and form my grandfather adopted defined what was to become the Modern Angolan Poetry.
A lonely, visionary flare sent towards the stars… Into the uncertain, troubled future… Communicating to all those who were to think of themselves as alone and unheard that it is possible… That conscience and courage can make us who we want to be…
This is the legacy of Maurício de Almeida Gomes – the eternal poet whose intimidation by the hands of PIDE (the Portuguese Secret Police of the Fascist Years) and disenchantment with the exploitative Independence of Angola (of subsequent decades) prevented from writing again.
My dear grandfather, who once said he would never die, for he would live in his many children and grandchildren…