António José Ponte was born in the Cuban port town of Matanzas and moved to Havana while still in his teens. Despite his ambition to become a poet, he entered Havana’s Technical University to study a practical subject - hydraulics - and for several years he worked in eastern Cuba as an engineer. In 1987 he published Trece Poemas (‘Thirteen poems’) which won him the Young Poet’s competition.
The following year he wrote a major essay on Marcel Proust (A propósito de Marcel Proust). Enraged by the large number of printing errors in one of his poetry collections, he dumped the entire edition into Havana Bay. In 1989 he and others compiled the anthology Retrato de grupo (‘Group portrait’). For his collection Poésia he won the 1991 National Critics’ Award, and in 1995 he received the same prize for his book Un seguidor de Montaigne mira La Habana (‘An admirer of Montaigne looks at Havana’). His latest book of poetry is entitled Asiento en las ruinas (‘A seat in the ruins’). In April 2002 his novel Contrabando de sombras (‘Smuggling in shadows’) was published in Spain.
Ponte writes thoughtful poetry in which he uses metaphors in his search for answers to the great questions of life. Always the Island, the water, references to the Bible, to history, even to the 17th-century Dutch and their ‘Treasure Fleet’. Youth, disenchantment, the feeling of being let down by life, the educators, because things did not work out as promised: ‘Where were those who promised a second crown?’
‘Poetry is the falcon in the air, the sinking fleet, falconry and shipwreck.’
His melancholy and silence alternate with strident, almost cynical tones - next come pornography and modern life.
[António José Ponte took part in the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam 2002. This text was written on that occasion.]