New archival donation from Toronto’s oral poet Abílio Cipriano Marques

The PCHP is happy to announce that we have received an archival donation from the Toronto poet Abílio Cipriano Marques and his editor Ilda Januário. It consists of a copy of Marques’ third and latest book, Poemas e Aventuras do Loiro da Ribeira (Poems and Adventures of the Blond of Ribeira), published in 2013; cassette tapes of him composing his oral poetry and reciting it to friends at community cafés; and Januário’s annotated transcripts. This donation adds an important literary and artistic layer to the growing Portuguese-Canadian collection at Clara Thomas Archives and Special Collections, an institution that has long invested in preserving works of literature. The items donated still need to be processed before they can be made available to the public sometime in the new year.

First as an undocumented sojourner in the 1950s, then as an immigrant since the ’60s, Marques worked in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia; laying railway tracks, picking tobacco, working in factories, in construction, and many other manual jobs. Despite a lifetime of toil in demanding social circumstances, Marques carried within him a lyrical spirit; one that he first explored in Lisbon’s bohemian waterfront district of Ribeira, where he arrived alone at age 14 after leaving his northern home town of Pampilhosa da Serra. Growing up in the Portuguese countryside and in a working class urban neighbourhood during Salazar’s dictatorship, Marques was denied the opportunity to go to school and never had the chance to develop his literacy skills. That did not stop him from publishing three poetry books reflecting on his rich experiences and musings, and becoming an esteemed popular intellectual of the likes of António Aleixo. Marques’ Canadian experience as a manual labourer; an immigrant who spoke none of the dominant languages; and a man with little formal education, is similar to that of so many of his generation’s peers. His lyrical insight into the country that he and his fellow Portuguese migrants adopted, and into the one they left behind, is of tremendous historical value. Marques’ documented voice is especially relevant in the sense that archives, by their very function, tend to be biased towards the written word and thus literate historical actors. The PCHP once again thanks Abílio C. Marques and Ilda Januário for their donation, and for having the foresight to preserve these records and making them available for future generations.

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