Assistant Professor Paulo Dutra of The University of New Mexico Department of Spanish and Portuguese is a 2020 semifinalist for the highly prestigious Prêmio Oceanos, the Oceanos Prize for Literature in the Portuguese Language. His book, Abliteraçōes, was one of 54 semifinalists out of 1,872 entries, 17 of them poetry books.
Dutra is also coordinator of the Portuguese Language Program in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and teaches upper level and graduate classes in Brazilian literature and culture.
“Abliterações is a collection of poems that, ultimately, celebrate Blackness and at the same time denounce racism and police brutality in Brazil through a combination of experimentation with and celebration of everyday language and through parody/rejection of traditionally ‘prestigious’ poetic devices,” he explained, adding, “I think that the fact that a book from this small press is one of 53 semifinalists, out of some 1870 books from the entire Portuguese-speaking world, some of them published by prestigious and powerful presses, reveals the underlying circumstances in which Afro-Brazilians compete in the editorial market. So, it is important that we offer true acknowledgment to Malê Press for this success.”
Dutra said Abliterações is a play on words constructed from three words: ações is ‘actions’; aliterações or ‘alliterations,’ a literary device that consist of repetition of consonantal phonemes; and obliterações, ‘obliterations.’
“So, the English translation would be ‘Ablitera(c)tions’ or something like that,” he said.
“It took me by surprise, but now I feel really happy,” Dutra said. “Although it is, of course, great to have my work recognized internationally, what makes me really happy is the symbolic aspect it carries. Not many Afro-Brazilians are among the semifinalists. This achievement will certainly encourage other Afro-Brazilians to keep pursuing a form of artistic production and social acknowledgement that has been historically denied us. It may also reach out to audiences that are not accustomed to seeing a book on Blackness receive recognition and ̶ who knows? ̶ it may change some perceptions about the Afro-Brazilian experience. And that is valuable beyond measure.”