By Rachid Acim
By Rachid Acim
Morocco World News
Beni Mellal, Morocco, April 21, 2012
Many years ago, Leonardo da Vinci observed; “Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.” Both genres revolve around truth and beauty, a dichotomy that has beguiled all generations of poets from Fernando Pessoa, writing under 73 different names, to his coreligionist Maria do Céu Pires Costa, writing under one identity and one name – Céu-the celestial. Her poetry, a beautiful tableau advertising human values like peace, respect and harmony. MWN had an exclusive interview with this Portuguese poet.
MWN: Good morning, Madam!
Maria: Good morning, Sir!
MWN: Who is Maria do Céu?
Maria do Céu: She is a mother of two grown-up sons, a wife, a teacher of English and someone who faces life challenges with a renewed hope…
MWN: Have you ever visited Morocco? If so, how did you find it?
Maria do Céu: Yes, I have. I find it a fascinating country with a lot of amazing attractions ranging from its natural landscapes, thrilling venues and delightful cultural traditions, to its authentic atmosphere of spirituality. Koutobia Mosque, Jemaâ El-Fna in Marrakech and Ain Asserdune in the picturesque Beni Mellal are but a few of the venues which have strongly inspired me.
MWN: Can you tell us more about your travel experience to Morocco?
Maria do Céu: It’s fantastic! My five-day stay was sufficient to understand how the Moroccan people can genuinely create a convivial atmosphere, provide a charming welcome offering tasty delicacies to go with the unique mint tea. I was warmly welcomed by a generous, open-hearted family full of charm and smiles making me feel at home. Their hospitality was and is unmatched.
MWN: Did you enjoy the Moroccan food? What did you like most?
Maria do Céu: Moroccan food is excellent and particularly delicious if cooked by friendly people who care for you. Harira, tagine and couscous accompanied by a variety of vegetables is mouth-watering! Tasting the Moroccan homemade circular bread with butter or with any jam, savouring shabakiya, and drinking hot mint tea or natural fruit juices are unforgettable moments. Let me tell you, the ritual of pouring tea into the glass is a treasured experience.
MWN: Could you tell us please when did you write your first poem?
Maria do Céu: I think my very first poetic thread dates back to early adolescence. It’s a joyful time when we firstly immerse ourselves in poetry recitals at school festivities and other local events.
MWN: How does Maria get her inspiration?
Maria do Céu: Well, inspiration may come to light from multiple sources, all of them a divine beacon blessing those moments of creativity.
MWN: Did your travel to Morocco influence your poetry writing?
Maria do Céu: To be honest, before my visit to Morocco, I was inspired by friends’ talks and suggested readings. Not surprisingly, after the trip, a cascade of feelings and emotions enhanced the writing…Let me tell you that Morocco is my second country!
MWN: Who are the thinkers/poets to whom Maria is susceptible?
Maria do Céu: Different pieces of writing have influenced my thinking, and to some extent, personal writing… If you allow me, I would rather highlight not the work but the enlightened agent who produced the work. A few outstanding figures e.g. the Poets Rabindranath Tagore, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rumi and the contemporary Naomi Shihab Nye as well as the contemporary novelists J.M.G. Le Clézio and Yann Martel very often count on my revisiting them.
MWN: What is your message to the world, madam?
Maria do Céu: I am and will always be striving for values. I want to convey messages of harmony, cooperation, tolerance, freedom and justice. I dream of seeing an effective end to war and a balanced path towards respect and understanding among all peoples in the world.
MWN: How is Islam represented in your country, Portugal?
Maria do Céu: Well, I am not in that privileged position to give an authoritative talk about Islam. However, I am very much pleased to say that the Islamic element is part of the Portuguese culture and civilization since the foundation of its nationality. Recognizing this fact and the increasing need of people from different cultures and beliefs approaching one another towards a peaceful coexistence and cooperation—respecting everyone’s convictions—it all has aroused my interest in some reads with particular interest in Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam.
MWN: Have you read the Holy Book of Islam?
Maria do Céu: Being the most important testimony of the Islamic civilization, and the most representative work of the Arab literature, we would never ignore the Holy Book–The Kur’an. I have been reading it. This is adding to my knowledge.
MWN: You are a teacher! Any tips for teachers?
Maria do Céu: Aimed at a successful teacher-student interaction I would like to suggest an open, accountable dialogue bearing in mind the students’ personal interests, their individual skills and their social context. Teachers must be attentive to students’ motivations, guiding them and letting them make their own discoveries… I also believe it is important to foster our learners’ creativity and a positive, relaxed atmosphere is needed for creative thinking. We should celebrate students’ work and performance through a plausible signal that tells the student that their teacher and their peers appreciate their work, and achievement will strengthen positive attitudes towards learning.
MWN: What is poetry for you? Why do you write?
Maria do Céu: Poetry for me is a powerful and magical journey, which we believe in. At the moment of departure we do feel what moves us to pursue our journey. At the point of arrival… we are amazed at the underlying mysteries. As for the latter part of your question “Why do you write?” I ask your permission to give my personal response:
In the realms of writing
Life journeys face mysteries
Of love, faith, true living
In an eternal cycle of discoveries!
Maria Do Céu Pires Costa
MWN: Any contributions to poetry legacy and teaching?
Maria do Céu: Well, I have co-authored a collection of poems – A Letter to the President of the U.S.— with the Moroccan poet and teacher of English, Mr Rachid Acim. It was published by Chiado Editora, in Portugal. Regarding teaching, there has been in the last couple of years a regular collaboration with some reliable, distinguished online platforms e.g. www.teachingenglish.org.uk, beyond eventual contributions to the Portuguese Association of Teachers of English (APPI).
Rachid Acim is a high School English Teacher in Beni Mellal, Morocco. He is a Freelance translator, writer and poet. Rachid is a contributor to Morocco World News. He can be reached at: ([email protected])
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