The Dialectics of Exile: Aspects of Poetic Theory and Practice in Jorge de Sena

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The volume of poetry entitled Sobre esta praia, Oito meditações à beira do Pacífico (written in 1972, published in 1977), possesses a paradigmatic Senian complexity—thematic, conceptual, humanist, and poetic—which we explore in this paper. The Hegelian-Marxist theoretical framework, i.e., the dialectical underpinnings of the poet’s approach to modernity’s civilizational project is explored in this meditative series of serenely agonic, elegiacally erotic poems. In addition, the volume reveals Sena’s poetic mediation of exile transforming a personal sense of cultural isolation into a profound insight into exile as the universal human experience, i.e., the alienation of being caused by the betrayal of humanity’s self-transcendent mission, a mission which deeply informs Sena’s understanding of authentic poetic consciousness. Sobre esta praia reveals and practices the mediatory role Sena attributes to poetic consciousness as evidenced in his poetry from Perseguição (1942) to Conheço o sal… e outros poemas (1974). As Sena observes the Californian sunbathers from the escarpment where he positions himself “sobre esta praia,” a complex ideational metamorphosis occurs: the poet’s second American (Californian, 1970-1978) exile (an exile originated by a sense of profound cultural isolation) is transformed by him into a poetically structured understanding of exile as humanity’s existential condition which only a dialectically informed poetic consciousness is equipped to grasp, disclose, and transcend. Alienated
consciousness is consciousness in exile; consciousness of exile is consciousness of the metamorphic powers of poetry. By way of such metamorphic powers, the poem becomes the poet’s ultimate homeland. Poetry is the supreme territory of being because in fact it is home. Thus, moving from a description of erotic stasis (witnessed in the humanity he observes at the edge of the Pacific) to the implicit evocation and practice of dialectical dynamism, from the prison-house of a specific historical and civilizational logic (which subverts a truly emancipatory project for humankind) to the ascendant, transfigurative language of poetic vision (sharing, as Sena does, a poetic lineage with Camões and Petrarch), Sobre esta praia, Oito meditações à beira do Pacífico represents a major poetic achievement. Our analysis of this volume of poetry seeks to reveal aspects of Sena’s modernity as well as its relevance for our self-understanding today as modern- or postmodern pilgrims en route toward the “loca infecta” of contemporary forms of alienated being.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTrinta e Muitos Anos de Devoção
Subtitle of host publicationEstudos sobre Jorge de Sena em Honra de Mécia de Sena
EditorsFrancisco Cota Fagundes
Place of PublicationPonta Delgada
PublisherVer Açor Editores
Number of pages70
ISBN (Print)989-8123-58-9
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Exile
  • Bildung
  • Dialectics
  • Poetics
  • Alienation
  • Jorge de Sena


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