Pissing Out the Poisons of the Past: Rui Lage’s Ambivalent Portrait of Rural Portugal in Estrada nacional

  • Peter Haysom University of Leeds / University of Nottingham
Keywords: Portuguese poetry, rural decline, elegy, Anthropocene, nostalgia


Over several decades, Portugal has experienced significant demographic and economic decline within its inland rural settlements, alongside substantial population growth in its urban centers and coastal communities. These transformations have contributed to widespread fears and laments of “o fim do mundo rural” in contemporary public discourse and cultural production, all of which is a starting point for studying the poetry of Rui Lage (b. 1975). Concentrating primarily on Lage’s Estrada nacional (2016), this essay argues that despite the seemingly “elegiac” manner in which the poet depicts rural settlements and landscapes in twenty-first-century Portugal, his 2016 collection presents an ironic, ambivalent, and resistant approach toward “mourning” Portuguese rural communities. Furthermore, this text maintains that Lage repeatedly undermines, destabilizes, and reacts against extant preconceptions of “rural loss” and bucolic nostalgia in contemporary Portuguese society, while critiquing anthropocentric attitudes toward existence and survival within Portugal’s contemporary natural environment.