original interview in Portuguese-American Review
Portuguese-American Review – Congratulations on publishing “Beyond Bullfights and Ice Hockey: Essays on Language, Identity and Writing Culture”. What is this book’s genre or category?
paulo da costa – The book can be seen as a creative non-fiction collection of texts that stretches its traditional essay-like boundaries past the more journalistic or academic essay by its irreverence, humour and often its embrace of a poetic tone to deliver thought through the vein of beauty. I hope it will be seen as a garden of beautiful words with philosophical substance. A poet at heart can never abstain from wrapping his thoughts in beauty. An edible garden that is also pleasing to the eye and the spirit as all our farms and gardens should be.
PAR – Please describe what the book is about.
pc – The essays, thoughts, inner conversations, arguments and rambles in this book have been written over the course of the past twenty-odd years and depict the evolution of my reflections on subjects of individual, linguistic and cultural identity, in particular when one is faced with relocation and in the context of the emigration/immigration experience. The last section of the book explores the role of literature and authors in our modern societies, the perennial challenges faced by those of us in the profession of letters amid an adverse, mercantilist and cut-throat neo-liberal environment.
PAR – What led you to write this book?
pc – The necessity to find clarity and self-encouragement by naming the obstacles, revisiting my experiences, exploring possible solutions found along my personal path as a cultural worker. A calling I am devoted to even if not cherished and rewarded by most people or societies in this and many other times and places in History.
PAR – What was your biggest surprise during the writing of the book?
pc – That the texts carried a strong connecting spine along two decades of pondering and meditations, that they could deliver a body of coherent thought and views to now become a book.
PAR – What would you have done differently if you could do it again?
pc – Wire the book to my brain and allow the reader an updating of those views, arguments and meditations in my constantly evolving mind. This has traditionally been the advantage of the oral tradition over the static book, when it can only offer a frozen slice of a person’s state of mind at the time and place of a thought’s conception. It could only offer a one-sided conversation to the reader. In the past the book conversation could only grow outward, as a departure point from the original text finding its continued life in tertúlias or conversation, letters exchanged, disagreements and arguments erupting from its reading. Perhaps now the new electronic production of books will allow a speedier inclusion and update to this ever continuous flow of the writer’s mind … as well as more inclusive conversation with the reader.
PAR – Best piece(s) of advice for Portuguese-Americans and Portuguese-Canadians who want to write?
pc – Even though the latest generation of Portuguese-Americans and Portuguese-Canadians have culturally inherited a challenging landscape, that in general, did not value our voices, views and experiences due to the socio-economic context of our North-American emigration, the time is now ripe to set free those once tentative whispers that survived behind closets and altars, wine cellars and sports chatter. Although the time between the landing of our bodies and the finding of our voices on these shores shows a significant lag, we have now finally arrived and our experiences, dreams and reflections do matter.
PAR – Tells us something personal about you that people may be surprised to know?
pc – I nearly failed high-school English as a teenager in Portugal. It reveals again that one’s biggest challenges might turn into our greatest gifts, as long as we are willing to find the strength and perseverance to overcome and transform them. I wished my then English teacher could stumble upon my books now. We might find a mischievous smile on her face.
PAR – Now your book is out, what’s your next project?
pc – I have several books of poetry and fiction due to be released in the coming years. Meanwhile, I am working on finishing three novels which are at varied stages of (d)evolution. The latest and most exciting work is a novel with its foreground on the resistance underground movements that led to the Portuguese Carnation revolution and the decolonization of the Portuguese territories in Africa.
PAR – What book by a Portuguese-American or Portuguese-Canadian writer do you recommend to our readers?
pc – I have great admiration for the work of Eduardo Bettencourt Pinto who I see as one of the most remarkable poets alive in the Portuguese language. He has been neglected both in Portugal and in the Diaspora partly due to writing solely or mostly in Portuguese, far from the literary spheres of influence and visibility which are mostly located in Lisbon. Any book by him is a rich, rewarding experience. One could start by Sombra de uma Rosa, a short-story collection. Of course there are many other talented writers in the Diaspora and I would encourage readers to explore them in the just released anthology: Writers of the Portuguese Diaspora in the United States and Canada.
paulo da costa was born in Luanda, Angola and raised in Vale de Cambra, Portugal. While concluding his degree in Coimbra, he left on a short holiday and never returned, travelling extensively around the globe and ending up living and working in four continents. When he decided to settle he elected one of the most beautiful and wild areas the planet: the Canadian West. He first lived in the mountains and foothills of the Canadian Rockies enjoying getting lost in the mountains and more recently moved to the shores of the Pacific waters on Vancouver Island. He feels most comfortable when knowing there are grizzly or brown bears, wolves, whales, sea lions and cougars nearby to make him feel more human and part of the rich diversity of life on our planet.
paulo’s first book of fiction, The Scent of a Lie, received the 2003 Commonwealth First Book Prize for the Canada-Caribbean Region, the W. O. Mitchell City of Calgary Book Prize and the Canongate Prize in Scotland for the title story. In Portuguese he has published a collection of poetry, notas-de-rodapé (2005) and has received the ProVerbo prizes in fiction and poetry. His poetry and fiction have been published in literary magazines around the world and have been translated to Italian, Chinese, Spanish, Serbian, Slovenian and Portuguese. Besides his 7 books: Beyond Bullfights and Ice Hockey, (essays), The Green and Purple Skin of the World, (fiction), The Scent of a Lie (fiction), Midwife of Torment and Other Stories – fiction (2017), The Cartography of Being, (poetry) Nuno Júdice translated by paulo da costa, O Perfume da Mentira (ficção), notas de rodapé (poesia), he has also published 4 original audio books: Twenty Poems (poetry), The Book of Catalogues (fiction), notas de rodapé (poesia), XX Poemas (poesia).
As a translator paulo has brought to the English-speaking readers a range of Portuguese poets including Nuno Júdice, Al Berto and Daniel Faria. To the Portuguese-speaking readers, and among others, he has translated the Canadian poets, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaatje, Gary Geddes, Patrick Lane and Marilyn Bowering. The Cartography of Being, Selected Poems of Nuno Júdice 1976-2005 (2012) is his latest book of translations.
original interview in Portuguese-American Review