Ana Luísa Amaral (1956) teaches English literature at the University of Porto. She obtained her Ph.D. with a thesis on Emily Dickinson. Since her ‘late’ debut in 1990 Minha senhora de quê (Milady of what?) she has published seven collections that surprised critics by their self-willed female tone.
Although Amaral admits to a high proportion of autobiography in her work, she also emphatically places herself in an old literary tradition that she finds herself at odds with: the male-dominated poetry and male-dominated sagas of western culture. She frequently mixes everyday ‘female’ themes and images with Biblical lore and Greek myths retold from a female perspective.
Amaral displays a similar contrariness in her tendency to approach her subject from the opposite direction: not reality but irreality, not possibility but impossibility. The lamented impossibilities (the perfect poem, but also lost love and devastating death) place her work in the poetic tradition of échec: man’s inability to express and, consequently, communicate his inner self in words, resulting in mistrust of the words and one’s own poetic ability.
Another feature of Amaral’s oeuvre is a constant dialogue with her own work and with voices from the poetic past. ‘A little bit of Goya: letter to my daughter’ may serve as a case in point. Goya’s painting ‘Los Fusilamientos del 3 de Mayo’ earlier inspired the Portuguese poet Jorge de Sena (1919-1978) to write a ‘rhyming letter’ to his children. Besides referring to the form and content of De Sena’s poem, Amaral’s version also alludes to the painting itself, to Emily Dickinson, and to some autobiographical poems about her daughter. In ‘Redondilhas and Other Loves’, finally, tradition and échec are expressed also in the classical verse forms she employs.
[Ana Luísa Amaral took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2003. This text was written on that occasion.]
Minha Senhora de Quê (1990)
Coisas de Partir (1993)
Às vezes o Paraíso (1998)