Gastão Cruz was born in 1941 in Faro, the capital city of the Algarve, Portugal’s southern-most coastal region. In 1958 he went to study at the University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Letters, where he completed a degree in Germanic Studies. In 1961 he took part in the publication of a poetic collective called Poesia 61, in which he published his first collection of poems, Percussive Death. This was followed by six more collections over the next ten years, as well as Names, a collection of the previous works, in 1974. Since then, he has published thirteen more collections, including the most recent, A Moeda do Tempo.
Along with poetry, Cruz has always pursued a career in literary criticism, serving as poetry critic for the Diário de Lisboa, Seara Nova, and Crítica during the sixties and early seventies. This culminated in a book of highly regarded poetry criticism, Portuguese Poetry Today. An interest in theater blossomed in the mid seventies, when he cofounded Theater Today, a repertory group that remained active for twenty years. In 1977 he became theater critic for Vida Mundial and O Jornal. Meanwhile, he began translating plays, beginning with Fernand Crommelynck’s The Childish Lovers, as well as Strindberg’s The Pelican, Chekhov’s The Sea Gull, and, more recently, Shakespeare’s A Winter Tale. Cruz lived in England from 1980 to 1986 while lecturing on Portuguese literature at King’s College, University of London. During this period he read a great deal of English poetry and translated some of Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience.
Gastão Cruz’s poetry speaks of the natural world around us, but its real concern is most often with our ephemeral bodies and our futile efforts at permanence. Transcience and death loom behind the vital experience or the vital world, and the tragic nature of time informs all. Portugal’s intimate relation with the sea serves the poet well in this respect, as images of foundering, of sinking into the abyss, into nothingness, recur like the tolling of a fog-enshrouded buoy. This is a poet of a certain stoic reserve and intellectual dispassion, but whatever his demeanor, he can never forget the weight of the human condition.
Poetry in Portuguese
A Morte Percutiva [in Poesia 61], author’s edition, Faro, 1961
Hematoma, Livraria Nacional, Covilhã, 1961
A Doença, Portugália, Lisbon, 1963
Outro Nome, Guimarães, Lisbon, 1965
Escassez, author’s edition, 1967
As Aves, Iniciativas Editoriais, Lisbon, 1969
Teoria da Fala, Dom Quixote, Lisbon, 1972
Os Nomes Desses Corpos [in Os Nomes], Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 1974; 2ª ed. 1979
Campânula, & etc., Lisbon, 1978
Doze Canções de Blake, O Oiro do Dia, Oporto, 1980
Órgão de Luzes, & etc., Lisbon, 1981
Referentes [in Poesia 1961-1981], O Oiro do Dia, Oporto, 1983
O Pianista, Limiar, Oporto, 1984
Carta a Otelo, & etc., Lisbon, 1984
As Leis do Caos, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 1990
As Pedras Negras, Relógio d’Água, Lisbon, 1995
Crateras, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2000
Rua de Portugal, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2002
Repercussão, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2004
A Moeda do Tempo, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2006
Les Pierres Noires, L’Escampette, Bordeaux, 1999. Tr. Michelle Giudicelli
A Poesia Portuguesa Hoje, Plátano, Lisbon, 1973; 2ª ed. revised and expanded, 1999
Ao Longe os Barcos de Flores: Poesia Portuguesa do Século XX, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2004.
A long interview with the poet