AZOREAN POETRY…in the streets of Ponta Delgada
Why does a sparsely populated 9-island archipelago such as the Azores posses such a rich and enduring poetic heritage? Does geographic isolation in the Atlantic Ocean and a unique history suffice to explain the powerful poetic impulse that continues to manifest itself in and beyond the islands to such distant places as the Santa Catarina region of Southern Brazil or Canada and the United States where Azorean immigrants and generations of their descendants live and write? These and other questions sparked Azorean Poetry in the Street, a project invited to the recent WALK&TALK Public Art Festival in Ponta Delgada on the Azorean island of São Miguel. The project’sgoal was to celebrate this far-reaching, diverse poetic tradition with a variety ofmultidisciplinary activities in popular and public contexts.
The event was conceived and coordinated by Nisa Remígio and Richard Simas, two Azor-descendants living in Montreal, Canada who also organize Café-Lusófono, a public platform for promoting lusophone culture. In preparation for the project, more than 200 poems by 85 writers were selected from numerous, Azorean, North America, and Brazilian publications, with writers ranging from the classic Antero de Quental (1842-1891) and Vitorino Nemésio (1901-1978) to 20 year-old Ponta Delgada local Leonardo Sousa. Project focus was inclusive in an attempt to exhibit a broad selection of work accessible to all publics. A local group of writers called O Coletivo de Ponta Delgada collaborated on the activities. While the majority of selections were in Portuguese, also included were texts in English by North American writers with Azorean backgrounds such as Frank X. Gaspar.
WALK&TALK AZORES is a public art festival in its fourth year, inviting an international roster of muralists, sculptors, designers, and other contemporary artists and performers to create new art projects during the two-week festival. Artistic residencies, discussions, a street party, and craft workshops were also part of this year’s program. Site-specific installations and murals appeared throughout Ponta Delgada and in other locations on São Miguel Island. Particular to the 2014 festival was a contemporary re-visit of various icons of Azorean folk culture such as the retiro party kiosk and wooden corn-cribs. For photos and commentary related to the festival see:
The Azorean Poetry in the Street project proposed various activities during the festival, including, a two-day poetry-music workshop offered to the general public to explore techniques for presenting poetic texts in performance contexts. The workshop concluded with a multidisciplinary studio-presentation resulting from the collaboration by a group of local poets, performers that included original and improvised texts accompanied by music and live mural painting by a Cape Verde artist.
Other project activities included participation in readings at the local Travessa dos Artistas venue and daily postings on the Festival Gallery wall and windows where the project’s entire selection of Azorean poems accumulated over two weeks. In the Ponta Delgada public square, Matriz, poems were pinned to clotheslines strung between trees along with a sign inviting passersby to “Please Take a Poem.” As the breeze gusting up from the harbor-front caught the paper sheets billowing them like sails, strollers of all ages and backgrounds stopped to read the poetic offerings. By mid-afternoon, the clotheslines were empty and the collection of Azorean poem anonymously distributed amongst the city dwellers, a fitting close to the festival event. Anyplace in the world, at any moment, poetry has its place in the everyday: in urban settings, on walls, windows, cafes and city buses; in the whispers of the spontaneous reader on the street, intimately in books, and on sheets of white paper flapping in the wind. The rich heritage of Azorean poetry calls across the Atlantic and far beyond to anyone attentive to its music as well as to the un-expecting. Listen and celebrate.
Azorean Poetry in the Street is a project by Nisa Remígio and Richard Simas/Café Lusófono, Montreal, Québec, created in 2014 at WALK&TALK Azores, Festival de Arte Pública. Generous support was provided by the Québec Arts Council, Governo dos Açores-Direção Regional das Comunidades, and Caixa Portuguesa Desjardins.