- Miriam Alves
You are a writer and an entrepreneur. What does it mean for you to live in this patriarchal society as a woman, as a black woman, as a writer, and as an entrepreneur?
It’s not very easy. I feel like that poem by Maria da Paixão, “Shouting for São Paulo,” in the anthology Finally Us, organized by me and published by Three Continents Press:
When we become Beasts and lambs ain’t easy to sing ain’t easy to play! ain’t easy to love! ain’t easy to hate! ain’t easy to live! ain’t easy to smile! ain’t easy to go on! ain’t easy to screw! ain’t easy to stand ain’t easy . . . The world, mom is very strange profound and immense Either we become Beasts and lambs Oh . . . ain’t easy!!!
In brief, it is not easy. I have been writing, compulsively at the beginning, since I was eleven years old. The people in my house didn’t understand anything about what I was doing nor why I was doing it. I didn’t understand anything either. I only understood that that made me feel good. With my first salary, when I was eighteen, I bought a typewriter. I am a Black woman writer, not by choice but because there was no way of stopping. Before, I used to write and play as a way of venting my feelings. Then I began to recover that stuff I used to write. It was a ludic pleasure, my very own thing.
When I began to organize and rewrite I had four or five notebooks. I resolved to organize my first book. I had that poet’s illusion, that just because I wrote someone would publish it. I called on friends and other poets and the reviews were not positive. I was thinking about giving up when, at the launching of the poet Cuti (Luiz Silva) ten or twelve years ago, I found a group. Among them were Oswaldo de Camargo, Cuti, Abelardo, Paulo Colina and others. I had never seen such cultural activity in which the majority of the writers were black. After meeting with them, I joined Quilombhoje. [End Page 802] Being with them I managed to elaborate an intellectual stance, in relation to my political position as a woman, a black person, a poet, a writer. Our day-to-day life, our prejudices, discrimination, our black life, our literature—we thought about all this. I came out of isolation, my ghetto of solitude.
The poem, I believe, reflects reality, the reality of existence, the reality of life experience, the reality of life, the reality of the world, the reality of the universe, or the negation of that reality. It is in that sense that the poem traverses color, gender, economic issues, social conditions, political and sexual convictions. I believed in this immense, great, creative thing, and I began to perceive that women’s poems had a different content. In the beginning it was just a hunch deep inside. At that moment I was in a group that wrote and had a battle flag, to write black literature—a black literature that positioned itself against racial discrimination. Then it changed. Ideas change. Literature doesn’t. In a certain period idea ‘X’ is the focus, in another decade it’s idea ‘Y’. That was when I realized that the ideas that women writers focused on were closer to the feminine. When we attempted to talk about groups of writers, we ended up joking. I analyzed the jokes in this way: a white man, when he’s not taking me seriously, jokes about the most serious thing I have—myself; the black brother, when he’s not taking me seriously as a woman writer, jokes about something even more serious—my being. I knew that the peculiarity of feminine literature should not be derided, but I wasn’t able, and I am still not able today, to have a serious discussion with poets.
The racism of the white against the black and the sexism of the man against the woman are similar. In...