'Playing with words’: politics, poetry, and colonialism in José Craveirinha’s work

Simoes da Silva, Tony (2004) 'Playing with words’: politics, poetry, and colonialism in José Craveirinha’s work. Moving Worlds: a journal of transcultural writings, 4 (2). pp. 4-21.

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[Extract] In a short piece entitled 'Poetry is playing with words', the late Mozambican poet José Craveirinha (1922-2003) discusses his work and his place as a writer in the new postcolonial nation.> Speaking of poetry as 'an act of passion', he states: 'I have never been preoccupied ... with having my work published. My friends are more responsible for that than I am." However, since poets are in the business of clarity, he elaborates by lamenting the fact that '[i]n Mozambique to be a poet is not a profeSSIon. For the writing of poetry to be a profession, poetry must be valued; it must be essential. For the writing of poetry to be a profession, the poet must become more important than the soccer star.'5

This is Craveirinha at his best - ambiguous about the worth of his work, ambivalent on his role within contemporary Mozambican writing in Portuguese. The tension is obvious. Craveirinha wants both to be taken seriously as a poet and, crucially, as a Mozambican poet, and claims to be 'attract[ed] to poetry [simply by the act of] playing with words, that constant search for the right word. which is precisely what poetry is'. 6 for a poet, intent on capturing the essence of the thing in the mot juste, Craveirinha is surprisingly vague, if not distinctly obtuse, when it comes to defining what it is that has made him one of the most exciting voices in the writing of the territories formerly colonized by Portugal.7 Most of all, Craveirinha betrays in the statement quoted above some of the unease he repeatedly voices about the role of the artist as political activist. He wants us to believe that as a poet he is essentially playing with words, that he is a dilettante - a stance his work so vehemently contradicts; and, in this view, politics are of no consequence. Indeed, one might suggest that Jose Craveirinha's unique place within contemporary Lusophone African writing has always hinged on this uncanny ability to appear diffident, to eschew the limelight. At a time when minor figures in Lusophone writing were being teted at conferences and seminars in Portugal, Brazil, and elsewhere, Craveirinha remained largely at his desk at the University Eduardo Mondlane in Maputo.8 If anything, he seemed intent on cultivating the marginal streak that now marked him as a writer, and that he stressed in his own assessments of his life and work as a Mozambican poet.

Item ID: 14069
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1474-4600
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Date Deposited: 27 Nov 2010 01:15
FoR Codes: 20 LANGUAGE, COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE > 2005 Literary Studies > 200599 Literary Studies not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9403 International Relations > 940399 International Relations not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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