Understanding the Portuguese Poet Joaquim Pessoa, 1942-2007: A Study in Iberian Cultural Hybridity

Author: Simon, Robert
The first definitive study of Joaquim Pessoa’s poetry, this work examines the place of mysticism in postmodern literature by analyzing the role of mystical love in Pessoa’s poems.


“In a break with previous interpretations of the poet that have tended to view him in a more sociopolitical framework, Simon argues for a reading that point to a sense of mystical enlightenment in Joaquim Pessoa, an enlightenment achieved through a post-deconstructive reconstruction. . . . Born of disillusionment with the failed promise of the 1974 revolution Joaquim Pessoa’s poetry, in Simon’s reading, evolves from deconstructive strategies into mystical explorations, and then settles on a desire once more to be able to guarantee the representation of self. Betrayal gives way to love—a love defined by Simon as the fundamental nutrient of existence. Yet in this amorous nutrition, deconstruction is a key component that allows for the cross-fertilization of binary fragments, and it is precisely this that allows Simon to argue for “deconstructive mysticism” in the poetry of Joaquim Pessoa.” – Prof. Phillip Rothwell, Rutgers University

“What Simon argues in his interpretation of Pessoa’s poetic trajectory is that over the course of his career his work moved away from a deconstructionist criticism of socio-political topics to one that centered on self-exploration. During this period of change, Simon proposes that deconstruction gave way to a reconstruction of the value of the signifier in Pessoa’s work through a reading based in Sufi mysticism, leading the poet to employ old symbols with new meanings. In order to frame Pessoa’s work inside the context of a Sufi reading of his verse, Simon steps away from his discourse on Pessoa’s work to explore the mystical elements present in his poetry. Although the reader may feel an abrupt disconnect in the flow of Simon’s logic as a result of this “intermission”, the break is a necessary and logical one in order to better understand the cultural traditions Pessoa drew upon in the creation of his verse. Here Simon provides the reader unfamiliar with the tenants of Sufi mysticism as a backdrop in order to better understand the value of the references to this philosophy and, ultimately, its correlation to Pessoa’s art. Armed with this understanding of Sufi mysticism, Simon takes the reader through a new and unique interpretation of Pessoa’s poetry in which the value of the word is brought into question again, allowing for a reconsideration of Pessoa’s works. . . . . Simon’s study serves to inspire additional discussion and debate about the poet’s true intentions. . . . Regardless of whether the reader is moved by his deconstructionist-reconstructionist arguments, Robert Simon’s monograph represents the first definitive study of Joaquim Pessoa’s poetry and does serve as a giant step towards further study of the poet’s work.” – Prof. Erik Ladner, Central College

"By staying close to standard definitions and often working from a comparative point of view, Simon places Joaquim Pessoa’s poetry in relation to other Iberian trends within post-modernism and guides the reader through the socio-historical and artistic factors surrounding post-modernism in Portugal and Joaquim Pessoa’s work in particular. This study promises to be the starting point for future discussions of Joaquim Pessoa’s work and the influence of Sufi mysticism in Iberian poetry, both promising areas of scholarly research that merit more discussion." Prof. Kathryn Sanchez University of Wisconsin-Madison

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dr. Phillip Rothwell
1. Introduction: Joaquim Pessoa, Postmodernism and Portuguese Postmodern Poetry
2. Basic Critical Ideas on the Poetry of Joaquim Pessoa
3. Mysticism in the Iberian Peninsula – The Influence of Ibn ‘Arabi and the Sufi Way
4. The Presence and Influence of the Sufi Mystical Process in the Poetry of Joaquim Pessoa
Appendix: The Mysticism of the Semi-Peripheral
Bibliography and Works Consulted