Margarida Vale de Gato (Portugal, 1973) has been teaching American Studies and Literary Translation in the faculty of letters at the University of Lisbon since 2007. In 2008 she earned a PhD with a dissertation on the reception of Edgar Allan Poe in modern Portuguese poetry. As a literary translator from English and French, she has published an impressive list of works, both poetry and prose, by authors such as Lewis Carroll, Herman Melville, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Christina Rossetti, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, George Sand, Jean Giono, Henri Michaux, Nathalie Sarraute and René Char.
Although Vale de Gato has been publishing poetry since the age of sixteen, her first collection, Mulher ao mar (Woman Overboard) did not appear until 2010. It was a mature debut which immediately marked her one of the most important poetic voices of her generation. Four years later, an extended version, Mulher ao mar retorna (Woman Overboard Returns) appeared, and in 2016, this was followed by a new collection, Lançamento (an ambiguous title that may mean to throw or cast, begin or launch). Woman, the sea and love play major roles in her poetry, as topics and in a number of motifs.
Vale de Gato sees herself as an unhurried, peripheral, reactive poet: she does not create from a void but writes as a reaction to others who elicit her thought. The result is poetry characterised by a certain deliberation: carefully formed reflections where quotes and allusions are used frequently ('Alice', for example, teems with references to Shakespeare) and several layers of meaning hide beneath an – often misleading – simplicity and lightness. Thus 'Woman overboard' can be read as a poem about drowning, the act of lovemaking and writing poetry:
MAYDAY I break out: the hard war endures;
empty is the vessel from which I part -
it slacks in the deep, bored by the sway,
a leaking slit, a lack - not in the least
a cork pail with pores made to drift.
Both in her translations of poetry and in her own work, Margarida Vale de Gato uses a variety of forms and a wide selection of poetic devices. Tight, serrated forms (a sonnet pattern in 'Adversaries', almost Dickinson-like in 'Woman overboard'), a litany-like cadence of repetitions in 'Intercity', long resonant salvos of words in 'ALICE'. Typical are the scant punctuation and the unemphatic effects of rhythm and sound which unconsciously prompt the reader to re-read the text.
Lançamento. Douda Correria, Lisbon, 2016.
Mulher ao Mar Retorna. Mariposa Azual, Lisbon, 2013.
Desligar e Voltar a Ligar (Switch Off and On Again - play, together with Rui Costa). Culturgest, Lisbon 2010.
Mulher ao Mar. Mariposa Azual, Lisbon, 2010.