José Anjos

- Portugal -

José Anjos (Lisbon, 1978) is a lawyer, poet and musician. He participates in various projects as drummer (não simão, A Favola da Medusa), guitarist (Poetry Ensemble and mao-mao) and spokenword artist (Lisbon Poetry Orchestra, No Precipício era o Verbo, Navio dos Loucos, O Gajo, Janela). Has published the books 'Instructions for disappearing' (2015, Abysmo), 'We are contemporaries of the impossible' (2017, Abysmo), 'A photograph aimed at the head' (2019, Abysmo), and 'The sculptor of free birds' (2021, Nova Mymosa).


Lives with his cat Zorba.

"All things have their mystery, and poetry is the mystery of all things."

Federico García Lorca


As with mathematics, we are servants of poetry, not masters of it. And what is poetry for? That is the mystery. Perhaps poetry is just a way of giving us a chance to better inhabit some of the mysteries of things. So, you write to see the voice of things: you propose a theory, not to be able to prove it, but just to be able to uncover some figures in the dark. Poetry is a ghost: for the poem to be born something has to die first, sometimes the author himself. Poetry is born from the impossibility of expression, from the impossibility of accessing certain things without letting them win. It allows this approach not in order to explain them but to understand them, or better still, to denounce them. But beware, the voice of things is thunder: it may well even kill us.


That is why, as the poet Gastão Cruz once wrote, in poetry I seek a house where the echo exists without the cry that nevertheless generates it. Poetry is unavoidable in life, in fact uncontrollable. Writing was - and always is - an accident: the only relevant industry is the one that is impossible to foresee or to exercise. We can only reduce ourselves to the gesture, without knowing the result. In a certain sense, poetry is like football: you win and you lose (a lot), and you don't always score. Many injuries and dirty tackles.


On the other hand, poetry must necessarily be understood as an act - or gesture - of resistance, regardless of the concrete and emotionally relevant aspects that arise therefrom for each person and at each moment, these always changing, like memory. Writing is, for me, to resist against and to resist to: (i) resisting frustration, without giving it up but not succumbing to its yoke (the creative act is forged in the sustainability of frustration as a form of resistance, from the very outset to the self and its wiles of sentimentalist immediacy), and (ii) resisting against the anguish of our existence and that of others, which becomes almost unbearable, by writing it down, describing even its terrible beauty. The artist has a responsibility towards suffering and violence. There are poems that speak for everything and would not have been written without this intention to resist impassivity, resignation and selective blindness (starting with our own) which, in a way, allow us to survive, but without doing anything to change. Humanity (meaning empathy) is an irreversible and stabbing choice, I would dare say a brutal one. Writing is the act of resisting against that condition, giving it the most intimate meaning possible. Reading is learning the craft of resistance. I necessarily seek (and discover) new poets and styles of poetry that take me away from a univocal notion of poetry, which I do not believe to exist. But it is necessary the self- destruction of writing processes, in a way to learn to write with the "left hand", like Miró (symbolically); to change intention and name, to burn the name, to stop writing in order to - maybe - learn how to write.
In the end, there can be no certainties that win out. We all have the need to start again and repeat: that's why we are here. In truth, I will never really know what I have to say. Perhaps a poem is a treatise on quantum semantics, a consistent narrative in the chaos that flows. Poetry is in the blood: open your veins.




"The poems of A photograph aimed at the head (Abysmo, 2019) place themselves in a place of quest for the lost wonder, they build themselves during the making as they question themselves and provoke us with essential and inexhaustible questions. (...) This is undoubtedly one of the most stimulating books of contemporary Portuguese poetry of the last 20 years. In it everything is played without excesses, the rhythms that do not reject rhyme, the imagetic brilliance, the beauty of a constant questioning about the place of man on Earth, the incessant and tireless search for answers (even to what we know has no answer), the richness of thought, the sober posture in the face of the pain of loss, the extraordinary capacity for synthesis".

- Henrique Manuel Bento Fialho (on A photograph aimed at the head), May 2019


"In José Anjos' new book, poetry is transfigured into a stage, at times intimate and discreet, at others in the form of a tonitruous city. These pages are a workshop around the creation of the poem. The idea of the poem as an example of absolute freedom, as the only way of affirming each one as a person, becomes a lyrical manifesto in defence of a horizon where the human becomes possible. With a unique intensity, misaligned with fashions and trends, but aware of tradition, fragile in his search, and secure in his gesture, José Anjos builds a mythical place where childhood is lived facing the sea, always thinking about music. An ancient and unparalleled experience. Perhaps that of being able to dance in verse".

- João Paulo Cotrim (on We are contemporaries of the impossible), in Wook, January 2018


"The poetic horizon of 'We are contemporaries of the impossible' opens up in an extreme dimension of life, where everything is radically problematic. By tendency, the being of the I am is extreme and lives in the sprawl between the horizon of a past that has existed (which is not yet inhabitable) and the horizon of a future to be (which is not yet available to us). Both are fixed in projections. The past leaves an indelible mark on us. We do not recover it as it happened. It has an independent life in our mind. The impressions that were in the past left on us remain, even dormant, waiting for us at the time of our death. They mutate and metamorphose. The future often results from our capacity of imagination and fantasy to create fictions, outside the scope of reality, where living might be possible."

- António de Castro Caeiro, in Hoje Macau, December 2017