Ruy Cinatti was born in London but came as a child to Lisbon, where he later studied at the Agricultural Institute and published notable papers on phytogeography (the study of the distribution of plants). He also did work in meteorology. He was a great traveller, visiting in particular the far reaches of the Portuguese colonial world, such as Cape Verde, São Tomé, Príncipe and Angola. However, he fell in love with the Far East, especially the island of Timor, where he lived at different periods for several years.
At the end of World War II, he served on Timor as secretary to the Governor (Timor was a Portuguese colony at the time) and went on to become Director of Agricultural Services. Along with his professional duties, he devoted considerable time to archeological and cultural anthropological studies. In 1961, he received a doctorate in Social Anthropology and Ethnography from Oxford University.
Cinatti is a nomadic poet, always eager for departure and for a confrontation with the unknown. The very titles of his books are indicative of his far-ranging wanderlust: We Are Not of this Earth, The Book of My Friend, The Nomad, Cape Verdian Chronicle, Memories of São Tomé and Príncipe, Poems from an Angolan Itinerary, Import-Export, A Timorean Sequence, Timorean Landscapes with Figures, and Timor-Love. Both his travels and his poems reveal the particular affection he felt toward islands, especially Timor.
Cinatti’s poetry is textured by ambivalence. The sea and the land are almost always a physical presence, as are flora and fauna. The sensory pleasure and richness of reality is never forgotten. Yet Cinatti’s almost pagan love of the things of this world is balanced by a spiritual, mystical quest, in part influenced by a strong Catholic attachment. As for the Portuguese colonial world in which he spent so much time, he is clearly aware of the possible benefits of enlightened progress (his professional training, after all, was in science), while at the same time noting with dismay the depredations affecting the natural world and its indigenous cultures. Although he sees the Portuguese as a kind of Homo universalis, capable of spreading culture, he also sees them as corrupt rulers, driven by greed, and oblivious to the living reality of otherness which they invade.
Cinatti’s poetry has a dream-like quality, but sharp details keep it tied to the substantive natural world. It reveals scientific understanding along with an almost drunken immersion in the lulling luxuriance of sensual nature. In Cinatti, memory, dream and reality intermingle, while spirituality and sensuality are the two vivid poles of our mysterious experience. Poetry, for Cinatti, is “the autobiography of the poet or the nomad at his port of departure: his canticle”. We readers must follow to see where his canticle may lead us.
Poetry (in Portuguese)
Nós Não Somos deste Mundo, Cadernos de Poesia, Lisbon, 1941
Anoitecendo a Vida Recomeça, Cadernos de Poesia, Lisbon 1942
O Livro do Nómada Meu Amigo, Guimarães, Lisbon, 1958
Sete Septetos, Guimarães, Lisbon, 1967
Crónica Cabo-Verdeana, author’s edition, Lisbon, 1967
Ossobó, Pax, Braga, 1967
O Tédio Recompensado, Guimarães, Lisbon, 1968
Borda d'Alma, author’s edition, Lisbon, 1970
Uma Sequência Timorense, Pax, Braga, 1970
Memória Descritiva, Portugália, Lisbon, 1971
Conversa de Rotina, Sociedade de Expansão Cultural, Lisbon, 1973
Os Poemas do Itinerário Angolano, Cadernos Capricórnio, Lobito, 1974
Cravo Singular, author’s edition, Lisbon, 1974
Timor-Amor, author’s edition, Lisbon, 1974
Paisagens Timorenses Com Vultos, Pax, Braga, 1974
O a Fazer Faz-se, Meridiano, Lisbon, 1976
Import-Export, Meridiano, Lisbon, 1976
Lembranças para São Tomé e Príncipe, Instituto Universitário, Évora, 1979
56 Poemas, Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1981
Manhã Imensa, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 1984
Corpo-Alma, Presença, Lisbon, 1994
O Tempo da Cidade, Presença, Lisbon, 1996
Archeologia Ad Usum Animae, Presença, Lisbon, 2000
Links (in Portuguese)
Biography and poems
Biography and bibliography