Rui Lage was born in 1975 in Oporto, where he now lives, but he has spent long periods in the province of Trás-os-Montes, where his parents are from. This remote region of northeast Portugal is assiduously present in his most recent poetry, not so as to play out the traditional opposition between frenetic city life and the peaceful delights of rural existence, but to contrast the anodyne and often parochial modernity of the wealthier, densely populated coast with the abandoned northeast province that even the Portuguese don’t know, unless as tourists. Lage’s poetry has a strongly ethical dimension, and even a political one, if we consider it a task of politics to give back physical and human meaning to a territory whose various parts – both urban and rural – once constituted a self-respecting nation.
Having taken a degree in Portuguese and English, specialising in Portuguese and Brazilian literature, Rui Lage is now finishing his doctoral dissertation, entitled (with a wink at Milton) Farewell, Happy Fields: loss, mourning and disillusion in 20th-century Portuguese poetry, an understandable theme for a poet whose tone is clearly elegiac.
In addition to producing four volumes of poetry, a play and other texts, Lage has translated Pablo Neruda’s Crepusculario, an anthology of poems by Paul Auster and the novella III Seen III Said by Samuel Beckett. He also founded and edited the literary review aguasfurtadas, whose most curious feature was the inclusion, in each issue, of a CD with unpublished works by young contemporary Portuguese composers. He is the co-author of a massive anthology of Portuguese lyric poetry (forthcoming), whose 2,000 pages will encompass some 300 poets, from the 12th century to the present.
Lage had his début as a poet in 2002, with the publication of Antigo e Primeiro (Ancient and First), a deliciously anachronistic book of sonnets. This was followed in 2004 by Berçário (Cradle), likewise off the track beaten by current Portuguese poetry. Revólver (Handgun) (2006) represents a qualitative advance over the previous books, and while it has more in common with the work of Lage’s poetic contemporaries, touching on diverse aspects of contemporary urban culture and citing films and books, he still retains some of his stylistic eccentricity. And he continues to distinguish himself for what we might call his ‘ancient’ attention to the world of nature. We could almost speak of an “ethics of attention” in his poetry. In his latest book, Corvo (Raven) (2008), this approximation to the things of the earth is achieved by cutting a path through the thick undergrowth of literary rhetoric that has for so long obscured them.
Poetry in Portuguese
Antigo e Primeiro, Quasi, V. N. Famalicão, 2002
Berçário, Quasi, V. N. Famalicão, 2004
Revólver, Quasi, V. N. Famalicão, 2006
Corvo, Quasi, V. N. Famalicão, 2008
Links (in Portuguese)
Blog shared by the author and the photographer Jorge Garcia Pereira
Poem and short essay
Biography and poem
Website of Lage’s publisher
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 1
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 2
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 3
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 4
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 5
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 6
A long essay on Lage’s poetry – Part 7