Born in Angola, Luís Quintais moved with his family to Portugal after the Portuguese colonies in Africa gained their independence in 1975. He did his university studies in Lisbon and is currently a professor of social anthropology at the University of Coimbra. His first book of poetry, A Imprecisa Melancolia (Indefinite Melancholy), won the Aula de Poesia de Barcelona prize and was published in 1995. His sixth and most recent poetry title, Duelo (Duel) won the 2004 Portuguese PEN Club Prize for Poetry and, in 2005, the Luís Miguel Nava Prize.
While other poets of his generation, dubious of poetry’s traditional pretension to tell the truth and to create beauty, have retreated into a more modest program of self-expression coupled with intelligent commentary, Quintais is not afraid of addressing humanity (sometimes explicitly, in the form of ‘you’, the reader) with a large voice. It is a questioning voice, by no means sure of having any answers, but it belongs to someone who evidently considers the pursuit of truth, and of poetry, worthwhile. In ‘Certain Innocence’, the action of poetry is ironically compared to birds flapping their wings in a bag of garbage, but it is nonetheless a useful action with redemptive, transformative power.
Certain poems examine the limited possibilities of language to mean (‘The Dream of Language’, ‘Flowers and Other Nameless Species’), but even while doing so, they are affirming their own power to say and mean. They take their place in the tradition of poetry, conceived as an art or science or discipline that is forever moving forward. But is poetry such as this, with its softly but undeniably declamatory tone, passé? Can poetry still transform what it touches and create, with words, a kind of truth or beauty? Luís Quintais seems to think so, and though his anthropological pursuits have made him (he says) a pessimist with regard to human nature, he apparently hopes that poetry can make some humans more humanitarian. Otherwise why would he waste his ink defending animals against our butchery, in the chilling prose poem titled ‘For Animals’? A poem which, of course, is not only about animals.
Flowers and Other Nameless Species
A Certain Innocence
The Map and the Territory
The Dream of Language
The World as Representation
Poetry in Portuguese
A Imprecisa Melancolia, Teorema, Lisboa, 1995.
Lamento, Cotovia, 1999.
Umbria, Pedra Formosa, Guimarães, 1999.
Verso Antigo, Cotovia, Lisbon, 2001.
Angst, Cotovia, Lisbon, 2003.
Duelo, Cotovia, Lisbon, 2004.
Poetry in Spanish
La Imprecisa Melancolía, Lumen, Barcelona, 1995.
Poesia & Lda