Interview with Maria Clara Roques Esteves


Maria Clara Roque Esteves  has studied languages and literature both in Coimbra and Lisbon Universities, and also has a degree in Social Sciences, finished in 1973, Lisbon.  She has been writing poetry since she was fifteen years old, attending a high-school in Mozambique where she won school prizes for her work. She has been employed for 36 years on the Lisbon City Council, both as a Technician and Director.

How and when did you first know you were a poet?

What a wonderful question! It would be perfect if I could consider that I am a real poet. When I was fourteen or fifteen, I started to fill some sheets of paper with my thoughts, my preoccupations and liked what I was writing. My teachers used to appreciate some of my works and at home, my father was my best fan. He was very proud when he could uncover something that I wrote. Later, during my career, it was normal to hear that my writing was good. I think that I was better than most of my colleagues, but that could not prove anything very special.  Actually, my answer is I write because I need to do some therapy, and I do it without any kind of effort. I open my laptop and start to write. This means I am a poet? I write because I need to do it.  It’s a necessity.  It’s a part of my reason for being alive.

 How do you think poetry differs from other forms of writing?

Not so much, I think. Both genres, prose and poetry are very close. There is a very short boundary between them.  I read or write some poetic chronics that I consider more poetic than some poems.  Whether there is a story line or not, at least they are very precise or concrete. Feelings can be expressed in different levels in poetry as well as prose.


Does your writing poetry ever help you to resolve life issues?

Maybe. I consider writing the best way I've found to do therapy. When I write I am experiencing a kind of catharsis. I analyze myself, my feelings, my surroundings, Life. And I write.  If I do not solve any issue or do not change any situation, at least I've looked at them and feel a little more relieved. And I've passed a message. When someone reads me, sometimes I get positive feedback. And some issues have changed through my writing, yes.


Why is poetry important?

Writing is an important process of creation, a very special way of communicating. It’s an ART! We learn, we teach and we interact. We are never alone. Poetry is a very SERIOUS GAME. To play with words is amazing. We can laugh or cry, or both, in the same poem. It’s marvellous to do that. Only we know what we mean, but the way the others analyze us is a very rich process. Many times they watch themselves in a mirror. Some friends ask me” How could you know that I was feeling like that?"  I could not, of course, but we, humans, are not very different, after all.


How would you characterize your writing?

It’s not easy to characterize my writing. I have my own style… (Laughing) I mean that I don’t follow this or that poetic stream, this or that poet. To be honest I still have many doubts about what I am writing. That’s why so far I haven't begun to edit my poems for publication. I am not sure if they deserve that honour. My goal is not to earn money with my writing; I use it as a tool to communicate or to “clean my soul." And it is wonderful when I reach that goal.


Do you think the Portuguese language expresses thoughts and emotions that don’t translate readily into English?

Yes, I do. There are some Portuguese poets that we hardly can translate. If you try to translate Florbela Espanca, an amazing poet of love and sorrow, you hardly find out in English the right words or synonyms to express her feelings. For example, how could you translate the word SAUDADE? Homesick?  To miss someone??? That´s not the same. Like the word FADO. It is something very Portuguese. Some months ago I spent one week trying to find an English word to translate  “AMAR PERDIDAMENTE."  You know what I mean. The problem is not with AMAR ( LOVE ) but PERDIDAMENTE. I didn´t succeed. No word was found…Also the rhythm is impossible to translate, and most of the time the meaning gets lost.  Fernando Pessoa is a problem too, although not as big as Florbela Espanca.


Who are your favourite poets and why?

For sure my favourite poets are the Portuguese. We have great poets and marvellous poems. However I love many foreign poets. Garcia Lorca, Pablo Neruda, Vinicius de Morais, T. S. Elliot, Yeats, Ronsard, Schiller, Walt Whitman. It is a very hard task to choose. I can read them every day. There is also a very special poet, Khalil Gibran. Different, his poems give us a very deep message, a Lesson of Life.

What is your favorite poem and why?

I don´t think I have a favourite poem. Maybe I have a special relationship with that poem from Florbela Espanca  "AMAR."  No special reason, I think, but the message she wants to send us is very deep. And to translate her sonnets excites me.  It´s a kind of obsession.

Copyright © 2010 Maria Clara Roques Esteves