Costa Andrade, Mario Antonio, Antonio Cardosa, Arnaldo Santos, and Agostinho Neto


Five Angolan Poets

(Trans. Ann Titterington)

INTRODUCTION

Ann Titterington

It is not surprising that little is known of Angolan literature outside the province. While Brazilian literature rivals, perhaps even surpasses that of the mother country, and while work in the creole of Cape Verde is gradually becoming recognized abroad, the task of the young writers of Mozambique and Angola, fighting for an existence in the literary world, is a hard one. They have a mere half century of “Tradition” behind them and the political situation in these regions does not favour originality of thought.

Costa Andrade was born in Angola in 1936 and is now studying architecture in Lisboa. With Carlos Eduardo he has directed the publication of the CEI Collection of Overseas Authors, and his work has appeared in magazines in Portugal and Africa, his first book, Terra de acacias rubras (“Land of Scarlet Acacias”) having been published. His work shows his deep attachment to the land of his birth and his concern for her future.

Mario Antonio, a meteorological observer, finds time to write not only poetry and short stories, but also criticism on literature and the plastic arts, and his work has appeared in magazines in the “Provinces” and Brazil, and in anthologies. He gained prizes in the 1951 literary competition organized by the Associcao dos Naturais de Angola, and a small collection of his poetry, Amor, was the first volume to appear from the Casa dos Estudantes do Imperio. 1956 saw the publication of his Poesias and 1960 his Poemas e Canto Miudo. There are comparatively few references in his poetry which cannot be appreciated by the foreigner and the value of his work lies in his capable expression of feelings as universal as the title of his book.

Antonia Cardosa was born in Luanda in 1935, where he studies and worked as a civil servant. He has published in the Journal of Angola (of which he is now secretary) and Mensagem, as well as the CEI edition of Poems of Circumstance. Above all a lyrical poet, his work has less hope and more bitterness and emphasis on the sordidness and ugliness of life since his period in prison, His poetry, somewhat unpolished, is a stark protestation against the present situation and an insistent call for the improvement of the negroes’ condition.

The poetry of Arnaldo Santos, though of a more intimate tone and attachment to nature, is permeated by the same comprehension of the position of his fellow Angolans, the same desperate hope for a human solution to their problems. He was born in Luanda in 1936 and works as an official in the Health service.

Agostinho Neto, who has been deported to Santo Antao, one of the Cape Verde Islands, and whose case was published in the Penguin volume “Persecution 1961”, is another of the foremost figures in Angolan poetry today. One of the five African doctors in the province, he studies medicine in Portugal, where he wrote his first book of poetry, Sagrada Esperanca (“Sacred Hope”) which unfortunately has never been published (for the same reasons that his attempts to improve health services and other conditions for Angolan natives caused him to be sent to prison last year without charge or trial). Short story writer and political essayist, some of his work has been published in magazines, but his literary reputation rests on his poetry.

CONFIDENCE

Costa Andrade

See my love the savannah
there is reborn
the vivid green
of the fresh grass…

Look and listen to the life
seething
beneath the immensity of the sensation
of our being

Look my love
………and unloose at last
………the cry of certainty
………that it is no crime
………this call to life
………and to the prospect of love.

See my love the savannah
the grass of an earth
pregnant with promise
flourishes green.

Look my love and listen
to the immensity of the sensation
of Our Being.

 

HALF-CASTE (Mulato)

Costa Andrade

I belong to that generation which must triumph
and try to open new roads
across the world.
I neither stop nor tire
nor do I take fright
nor even cry out now
the voices roughened by silence.

I was born like a message
with roots in every continent…

They made me capable of loving
and creating
they loaded my shoulders
with certainties
and gave me the courage
to overcome obstacles.

But I am merely Man

Like you brother of every europe
and you brother, through whom shine
the africas of the future.

 

BENEATH THE FLOWERING ACACIAS

Mario Antonio

I
With November singing through the cicadas
the acacias dripping their blood of flowers
and a fiercely positive sun in the high sky

I wait for your letter and my life.

A pause of time in my hands
filled by counting the hours
in the cicadas and the fallen petals.

II
The road runs wide and tranquil
It is the hour of your coming!
You come (I know it) enframed by afternoon
with this light of the past on the walls
and this sky of December altocumulus.

With the statements of the acacia
I play at telling my fate.
“Will Antera fall? Won’t she? Will she come? Won’t she?”
And at each prediction I reject the evidence.
“Will she come? Won’t she come?”
It is the hour of your arrival!

III
The circles of my glasses enframe you
O Venus of the uncurled locks!
While my hands, blind, search
for the treasure of your tightened breasts.

Thus we build our spring
-the denied spring of love:
Pluck an acacia flower
to put into my wild animal mane.

Look and see the sweet reality:
Our simple ingenious games!
For us this brilliant heat of afternoon sun
Is a beautiful image of our happiness.

IV
Sunless song of this December.
And a sky the colour of the anguish
your absence inflicts upon my body and thought.

Your forgotten face saddens me
and your white taffeta dress
which fluttered vagrant in the wind.

If this life were as clear and simple
as the image captured in this instant
this premature rain would do me no harm.

Rain, mother of poets, my love,
wash from the acacias the sanguine song,
silence the voice of the cicadas and my weeping!

 

POEM

Antonio Cardoso

When will this dry season leave us
and the Sun come to smile upon my roof?

…formerly, in the days when I was a child
my zinc roof
had some little holes
through which I peeped at the sun…

Formerly…

How long before this leaden-heavy sky will leave us
and that blueness of old
come to smile upon my roof?

 

Arnaldo Santos

When night descends
And the sun sets
A murmuring begins to rise in the village…

Voices swell
Laughter is born
And a perfume of secrets
Traced in the obscurity of the night
Disappears behind the black stain of the distance.

In simple breasts flights of light
Which the sun will extinguish.

 

CONTRACT-WORKERS

Arnaldo Santos

They are coming, in the distance
Merged together
A gust of murmurs on the horizon
Like deep echoes of a force.

A force like a token of groans
Of past slave-bands
Dragging along the wretched.

They are coming, in the distance
Indifferently conversing
In the late afternoon which exudes a tolling of bells.

LONGING

Agostinho Neto

Still my sorrowful song
and my sadness
in the Congo, in Georgia, around the Amazon.

Still
my dream of ritual dances in nights of moonlight.

Still my arms
still my eyes
still my cries.

Still my bent body
abandoned heart
soul given up to faith
still doubt.

And above my songs
and my dreams
and my eyes
and my cries
and above my isolated world
time standing still.

Still my spirit
still the quissange
the marimba
the banjo
the saxophone
still my rhythms of orgiastic ritual.

Still my life
offered to Life
still my longing.

Still my dream
my cry
my arm
sustaining my Will.

And in the negro villages
in the houses
in the suburbs of the cities
over there by the “boundaries”
in dim corners of houses of the rich
where negroes murmur: still

My Desire
become force
inspiring the consciences of the desperate.

 

CREATE

Agostinho Neto

Create create
create in spirit create in muscle create in nerve
create in man create in the mass
create
create with dry eyes

Create create
over the profanation of the forest
over the obscene strength of the whip
create over the perfume of sawn trunks
create
create with dry eyes

Create create
shouts of laughter over the mockery of the ferule
courage at the end of the planter’s boot
strength in the tearing open of forced doors
firmness in the red blood of insecurity
create
create with dry eyes

Create create
stars above the warlike tools
peace above the wail of infants
peace above the sweat above the tear of the contract-worker
peace above hatred
create
create peace with dry eyes

Create create
create liberty in the roads of slavery
links of love in paths of paganized love
sounds of festivity over the swaying of bodies on disguised gallows
create
create love with dry eyes

 


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