I hope you’re doing well. School has recommenced for me and I’ve been tasked with an unprecedented flurry of obligatory readings, from books to papers to papers on books and books on papers. COVID-19 severely shortened the semester and one must toil to fit so much voluminous theory in such a thin amount of time. Among these readings is the Iliad, which I’ve read before in its entirety when I was fifteen but have now returned to what seems to be an entirely different work. The Epopee is remarkable for its many poetic subtleties that run as gutters between the branched type-scenes and cloned verses; once in a while, a descent mirrors nightfall, a spring is ripe with darkness or a tree punctuates a weakness or is a weakness and a tree. Perhaps the quality of things so vast and dense is that they will strike brilliancy if only by insistence. Ílion still slumbers in the fabric of our songs, as intact as it is besieged, as standing as it is fallen, and in all of its many echoes, Andromache first and last saw Troy for what it was, and no other account of it ever equaled hers. I found it a rather charming interpretation. João-Maria.
Forgetfulness has no worth by itself; it lacks an economy of space. Past our brutal archway of knotweeds and spruces, the pathways opened only to an abandoned garrison. Sucessive instants of nature hued the rubble with that superlative ghost of placeness and immortality, which is so rarely reflected in insomnia. The cabinets had illegible files and expired medicine. We sat on the desks; their dense plastic fibreboards weren’t neither fit for rotting nor eating, but still fit enough for the dangling old art of carving incomplicate symbols. Writing now feels much the same — this hum/urge/daub against the crudity; an attack, a volley of landfilled fragments of emotions that never quite found a fitting elsewhere. A b(l)oom.
There’s grace in this coldness we feel, he said. I disagreed. There can be no corollary to nothingness. I always found myself to be cruel and lavishly dramatic; my cinders were in agony if they could ever be fumed to digladiate at all; I’d defend agony with the tint of selfhood; I’d idol trauma as a tribal rain-god. The all-dissolving empathy of this world, chiller even than an arctic gale, was yet to prove how dramatically undramatic I truly figured. It ends up being an ourobouric realisation. You mustn’t blur revolt with sadness, he said. I agreed. I must feel mit bewegtem Ausdruck¹, as if the factionalism of thoughts could be dammed in or transferred like an equalised liquid, escaping only when our inner kingdoms inch in a certain manner or another. There’s so much to keep in, so much to keep out. There’s as much frustation in quantity as there are frustrated quantities; serried columns of hurtful notes overspilling like piles of sand or roadside weeds. It’s dark, I must phone home, and so do I. Somewhere right before some iron-sounding annihilation. After the hum/urge/daub. I tear up. The molds and lichens, captives of this senseless calaboose between heaviness and conscience, transude that humid odour of digging as the dusk brays across the clouds. There goes the performance, the anger, and so much disappears. How you’ve let yourself be polluted, he tackles, to this point, he digs in, to this point of irreparability, CLINK, he hits the bedrock. How noxious a sentiment; how synthetic; how opposite of tribal. There’s nothing moving about irreparability; nothing expressive at all. Tragedy can be unbearably dull when it is conceived to be lived and not performed. Our freedom to conceive of it is precisely as mythological as the rain-god. Out there where the moon sears the dense curtain and bones thud against each-other with wails of longing we wait for a golden spear to emerge from the earth and unclutter the theatre with a white undomesticated light. A beacon gobsmacked where no one can find it. Out there and not here where we’ve abandoned the prospect of spatial economy. Out there and not here where we’ve composed effigies out of instants of hunger. Even the pain, he scribbles, ends up as hunger, he closes deeper into the fibres, somewhere between coming and going, CLINK.
¹ – with a moving expression, a musical composition by Anton Webern.
Eliogabalus, Shu, Malakbel, Shamash, Sól; under the fragments of your cone reaching the lodes of stillblood; under your numerous risings, emptier and brighter; under you and always under, as broken circles or frangible slopes, the light pools around our fingers and edulcorates the tinge. We realise, now, how nights can be synergistic. How nights can be lawful with their tiered, thick orders. Under you (and always under) our thoughts are wholly purified, as one does not live without the doubled spasm, the squeezing of a nerve and its reproduction elsewhere; a pair under the sun and by it guided, o, lordless god of coloured things, lordless god of solemn rituals that succour the putrefaction and bubbling beneath the sand and the sandstone. As I look for you along the waste and excrement, as I vessel your light in the divine misery that circumscribes you, I see now the shape of my sentiments and how, in gold or silver tones, they are alchemised and roped out of me as if I was hollow and hung by them. As a creature of sacrifice, I’ve seen the blue of your hunger and repulsion and I’ve bled for such tender illusions. I for thousands and I for millions and I in the pythian flumes carrying yet another ewe of blood to where you cannot reach it. Forever shall we pay for the draught of life with the kneeling chill of our extinction; our catacombs run as deep as you hover; o, lordless god, how we venerate you in how we abhor you.
My artifice was underacted. Only when the sycamore expired did I gloss its brief sussurus. My muffled blood takes to the bludgeon of evening and, dry, proceeds to the integration. Sound has since slogged through five varieties of despair. A scream would be mute by the force of merely being. I take note of things as they are quickly chewed off into impermanence. A saltatorial dog gets reprimanded by its owner, the sumac sights, logiest with waiting, circumscribed to smallness. I think of the expansion of things and I’m awakened from the errancy by reminders of effort, of dedication. The logwood signboard, pitted by age and fulgurated by sunlight shredded in an attic-fan, reminds me of the murex snails crushed by the Tyrians in an effort to create a colour not too distant from that of the logwood-tint. Only the scantest droplet could be extracted from a snail insofar as an absurd number of crushings would be required to tint a single purple mantle; a mantle which, more than a thousand years after the ruination and conquering of all historical Phoenicia, came to represent, in a now-Christian Mediterranean Europe, the religious habit of fasting, mourning and penance, three strong radiations of lack. The opulent, imperial purple, deathborne in frigid innumeracy, acme of human impression and predominance upon the natural world, happens to condense too what is, to some, the immense inner laceration of loss, of taking to the point of lacking. The invention of synthetic mauve ended the carnage of snails, and the logwood variety of purple was to arrive shortly after as its own advent of richness. So much optical mass is arranged in a soft and swift emergence, so much of what I receive is already laden with the vitreous enamel of History. A flower-box of syringa comes to mind like a millipetalous bruising of the eye, an evening that seethes of revenge and unshakeable somnolence. My chest yearns it; I am awaited. I have not known pain as I now see it.
She now oft forgets. Memories are volatile, as is the foam of waves and the formication they leave debossed on the shore. September reminds her of wasps, meadows, heat. I’m reminded of jags and seagulls or a deformed field of ashfall. I’ve never heard her express fear of losing the common ropes; my name or that of my mother or uncle, or the age of my sister and her children, or her home, her fields, her flowers. These are the indelible parts while one is idoneous, but that status has now somehow dissolved, like a wave or a phantastical seabird. I sit beside her, involved in some paltry research of German troubadours:
Some lover has spring pinned in his hand and another open where he has loosened a blade and replaced it for a planet. Some hum somewhere slumps into a mire of circles only to rise into a four-toned sky. Some angle of death is braided yet against the carcass of a city. I ask her to point out her unhealables, what parts of her ache with a tingle of sound that cannot be shaken nor reduced. She’s voided, and her eyes tube into the room in search of storms with nameless colours. I near myself to tears as I twist my hands around the neck of avoidance and try to smother out its culminant perfume. I can see but I fail to feel it. I must wait to feel it. I understand: it’s her essence she’s forgetting, not the names. Names are lights, names are suns, things dissolved, things dissolving. And pains are just little watered abstractions. She is one of many to witness an unspeakable withering; flustered, she whispers symbols of home, whistling thorns. The moon hangs high, intense sand-bright convocation of dusts, the waters nearing to delete the prospect of that full-bodied kiss they shall never receive. It’s fine to be smeared, I find, to be torn open, rust scraped off the bone as it is a residue of some nightly relic. The world knows not how to do it differently, we realise. I hold her hand, try to remember. It’s no use, it makes no difference. I know not how to do it differently. It’s fine and it breaks my heart.
Phase two of the torturing duo starts now, I’ll hopefully survive it, João-Maria.
“Books will give rest sometimes against the uproar of water falling and righting itself to refall filling the mind with its reverberation shaking stone.”
William Carlos Williams, Paterson, Book Three (The Library)
The inexhaustible becomes the forgotten. I abhor times of initiation and transition; this science of conjuring aphotic worlds is annealed by a silence which, by nature of the perpetuity of the task, is a material purely chosen for its endlessness. Every sound is an inevitable interruption of form. Wind tortures the reed panicles whose boisterous death is throated fury. The moorhen’s vilipended chucker licks the bulrush like a similar furious gale. The water itself seems bellicose and exuberant, as if all of its threadings required musical punctuation. This is the impression of time hitting the bodies with its venomous silence, a silence I’ve learnt to reproduce because melding with it is the condign manner in which to live; restful, blind, pushing the objects of our impotence onto the margins where such concepts fail to get a grasp. I’m reminded of the iniquity of growing. I’m reminded of a poem. It hasn’t been written, and my mind has the invidious habitude of searching humiliation—my silence already occupies too much of itself. It’s already too corruptive. I’m impressed against the panicles and the moorhens and the bulrushes, my whole body timed and melo-poetic. I’m a unique form infolding the view. I must bear the infelicitous brand of my personalisation: the pains of growing too much, too fast, gobbling up the youthful light like it is the very silence poems seem to be made of.
The seeming, however, is the elusive material, the gilding, the part with any worth, the part with any limitation.
To chronicle the worst months of any year, João-Maria.
By popular demand, I shall put here another translation I had given up on and decided to complete upon seeing the warm reaction in my last translation of Daniel Faria. As I’m noticing that more-and-more folks are becoming interested not only in Portuguese poetry and the translated works themselves, but my method of translation and how the translation itself elapses and is thought-out, I decided to include some of my notes later on the post, so that those interested might better understand the choices I make and how I work around some linguistic issues. I remind everyone that I am still an amateur and work my hardest to provide the best that I can, but I’m still inexperienced in the arts of literary translation. This eight-part composition was one of my biggest challenges, but some parts of it are so rich, I couldn’t help but endure the harder ones.
ORIGINAL TEXT BY DANIEL FARIA
I’ll include here the download for the PDF of all the contents of this post: translation, original and notes, for those who might have trouble reading the images or getting them to load properly, or those who’d like to keep the document for themselves.
This is all incredibly arduous to make and hopefully someday I’ll achieve my dream of getting paid for it, haha, though for now I’m more-than-glad to provide it for free and be allowed to do so, both for the experience and to show you all the wonders of Portuguese poetry, which is incredible in nearly all of its presence, though largely underappreciated. Thank you for letting it live within you, João-Maria.
Daniel Faria is a complicated figure of Contemporary Portuguese Poetry, perhaps the most complicated of all. Daniel died young, at twenty-eight, and left behind a literary legacy of seven published collections of poetry, along other small publications found in literary awards and a plethora of other fragments and pieces that his acquaintances donated to the curation of his work, all of them contained in a single volume, “Poesia de Daniel Faria, edição de Vera Vouga“. Daniel was indubitably of enormous talent, but the eagerness of some to see him as a “regenerator”, a herald of a poetic resurgence along Portuguese literary circles, was concomitant with many pressures to publish work that, albeit good, lacks in a variety of fronts, and perhaps the most nitid one is Daniel’s inability to have a poetic register, or inner-ear, that accompanies the veins and arteries of his themes. A tragedy indeed: to have such a subtle and mature mind command a silent orchestra, or one that can barely play. Out of the entire volume of Poesia, which I do not regret reading for a second, as I do genuinely believe he was of incalculable talent, I still maintain the view that only a lithe portion of his compositions achieved their maximum potential, or were even worthy of their space in the books they occupy. Irregardless of this very-personal-opinion, I translated five poems among those I liked the best, and I do hope to see the bulk of Daniel’s work professionally translated into the English language someday.
As of now, and just like Herberto Helder, there are no translations of Daniel Faria being performed or sold, though I’m vigilant as to when they might start to appear.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. In 1964, alongside António Aragão, Herberto would create the first anthology of experimental poetry in the Portuguese language, which punctuated an enormous shift in Portuguese poetic literature. He died in 2015. He wrote the poems above in his book, Servidões, a book also never translated into English. All translations were performed by me. As a last in this series of posts regarding Herberto Hélder, which I hope is a good beginning to a series of translations I’m hopeful to be able to make and post, I’d also like to introduce you to a Portuguese musical artist that I grew up listening to (quite literally). B Fachada came off of a long hiatus to release his latest album, “Rapazes e raposas”, translated to “Boys and foxes”, which are very similar words in Portuguese. The first single and crown jewel of this record is Anti-Fado, meaning Anti-Fate, and though it’s impossible to translate the infinitesimally sharp and intelligent lyricism of Bernardo, I’ll translate the lyrics of the song for you:
B Fachada’s new album can be found on his bandcamp, as Bernardo is also anti-streaming. It is a great purchase if you have a world-music collection and you’d like one of the absolute best Portuguese lyricists of this century.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. His poetry began during the tail of Portuguese Surrealism, after Mário Cesariny, and had as recurrent themes alchemy, mysticism and ancient mythology. He died in 2015. He wrote the prose-poem above in his book, Os passos em volta, a book never translated into English. This translation was performed by me.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. He was the most influential Portuguese poet of the second half of the 20th century, and by far the most misanthrope, having lived in relative isolation and refusing every prize he ever received. He died in 2015. He wrote the prose-poem above in his book, Os passos em volta, a book never translated into English. This translation was performed by me, and is one of three from the same book, which I will release over three days.
I was inspired to create three compositions on three queer (gay, in this instance) relationships pertinent to Art History. I’m unknowing of why these were the ones that I picked, despite there being quite a few more of weighty impact, some of even more impact that those I chose. I was just reading up on some of them during Pride month and these were the ones that spoke to me sufficiently as to inspire poems. All of them play with some of the elements of the relationships, along with a coalescence of the arts they were occupied with and, of course, my own sentimental hand, which is never too distant of any of my verse. I also include a thin biography of the figures, might they be obscure for some.
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929), on the left, was a critic and the ballet impresario responsible for the creation of the Ballets Russes, a vagrant dancing company known for the formation of many significant dancers of the time, and one of them was Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950), on the right, often considered one of the greatest if not the greatest dancer of his age. After Nijinsky married Romola, a known Hungarian aristocrat, Diaghilev threw him off the company, and though he later tried to form his own company, he failed to do so. Eventually, he fell into madness, spending his last thirty years in various asylums in Switzerland. Diaghilev went on to have a series of male lovers throughout his life. The last was Igor Markevitch, who later married one of Nijinsky’s daughters in what seemed to be the last nail of this turbulent history.
Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), on the right, was an English novelist of exceptional talent and one of a very fruitful harvest named the Bloomsbury Group, of which Woolf and Roger Fry were part of. He wrote a few novels, among them The Longest Journey, in 1907, and A Room with a View, in 1908, but the greatest and most lauded was indubitably A Passage to India, in 1924, after a period of fourteen years since his last large work. A Passage to India was special, however, since it was inspired by his greatest love, Ross Masood (1889-1937), on the left in the picture, the grandson of an Islamic reformist and son of a judge and jurist, both from British India. Forster tutored Masood in Latin, and since Masood was ten years his junior, it is believe that the relationship was never materialised beyond its platonic nature. Still and despite that, it is clear through correspondence and the aforementioned novel that it meant much to them both.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was a French composer with an extensive catalogue of compositions and a profound influence to many others as part of the Six along with other composers of his time, like Louis Durey and Darius Milhaud, and Richard Chanlaire (1896–1973), of whom I found no picture but only a painting, was that, a painter, and assumed to be the first actual lover of Poulenc, who had others throughout his life. Despite there being virtually no information on their relationship, I found it of tremendous interest to explore, in verse, the romance of a painter and a musician, both attuned to wordless worlds which can hardly — if in any way — be replicated in text. The usage of the Georgian hymn comes about a citation I found of Benjamin Ivry, a biographer of Poulenc, in which he found that in a copy of his Concert champêtre that he gifted to Chanlaire, Poulenc wrote “You have changed my life, you are the sunshine of my thirty years, a reason for living and working.”.
I hope you enjoyed this small exploration; surely the compositions aren’t as complex or dense, but they have their own place, I find. They do, this time around. And it goes to show that poetry may come from any fount, if our poetic ear is so inclined. Verse, however, might be a bit harder to rope out, but it is certainly always there, ready to be rescued.
I know, I’m aware. When I was little, I feared two things: to be touched, and alien spaceships, though I suppose that dissipated when I first visited one (fun!). The haptophobia, though, never quite took flight, and it only became more extensive, deeper. I have my ways of becoming intangible, of becoming repulsive, of shedding magnetism. When I started posting on WordPress two years ago, my desire was to amplify myself, reach that final and most obscure cycle of creation which is and can only be external and communal. Some poems I’ve placed on here had such a sharp emotional density to me that such an act of exhibition was akin to pleading for the return of a lover. I became increasingly frustrated with my ineptitude at translating what isn’t, nor was ever intended to be, a cerebral or philosophical poetic spine; that’s not what I am. The heart of my poems is that of mine; it’s trauma, madness, rejection, humiliation, and they enjoy the measure of isolation and disfigurement that all of these sentiments carry. I’m rarely ever okay, but I’ve learnt an integral aspect of my being: you either make a monument of your pain, or you monument your pain, and the former is, to me, a necessary but very grievous process. I know my poems are never easy, they are never clear, never idoneous or clean or expectable. I know they are long and, as a cloud that makes me blush once said, (João-Maria waves at the sky), that might detract some folks from reading me. They might leave, and it’s okay if they do, it’s important. But I can’t paint myself of easy digestion while I can’t easily digest myself. I aspire for that parsimony and subtlety; I want that, but I’m not that, or I’m not always that. The composition above pinnacles that statement. But everyone who does read me, and comments, and e-mails me with incorruptible sweetness, you make this process of asking to be loved again incredibly lighter. I know I’ve been timid for a long time and only now am I starting to engage more, and though we all live creativity differently, I hope I’ve been lightening the experience for those that feel it heaviest, or at least doing something positive for you.
Sorry for the bad poem; my styles in Portuguese and English are very divergent at the moment, (thank god, it took me so long to get to this point), but that also means they don’t get a lot of interrelational textures and can’t enjoy proper translations. Besides, I haven’t been feeling my best, which justifies my silence among other blogs I enjoy. I’m not quite sure when I might return to my best, but for now, I won’t be as present, and I do apologise.
The poem was (obviously) inspired by Dzubas, although this was very sensorial to me, as it is abstract art. I just wrote what came to my mind, and I had some verbal assistance from the album Aurora, by the Sensible Soccers, most stressed in the expression “como quem pinta”, “as one who paints”, which for some reason, is a phrase that I really liked, and a song that I enjoyed even more.
Anyway, thank you, dear person, I’ll see you when I see you! (it should be soon)
I’m running out of ink a bit. This poem was initially designed to be part of greater work along with two other large poems that I will release over the next weeks. However and upon council with a dear literati, I decided not to have them all under one title and to instead put them here individually. (notes on the creative corpse) is, visually and stylistically, my most advanced composition yet, and I quite like how it is designed and the sentiments that informed it, so I hope you like it as well.
I also spent some of my Saturday producing this recommendation page in order to promote many WordPress creators that I feel as deeply important for my journey on this website. Be sure to pay it — and them — a visit, and I promise you with all my force that you won’t be disappointed.
Concurrently, I’ve included a donation button in my About because I’ve been noticing some folks searching Amazon in my blog. I, sadly, do not have any publications currently being sold, nor do I preview to have any anytime soon. If you’d still like to support the blog and, concomitantly, my works, you are welcome to donate. (I’d also prefer to sell a book, but my poems are not yet at the point of being worth actual money, or, I wouldn’t pay for them)
Sorry for the maundering, have a nice weekend!, João-Maria
The word, defining, muzzles; the drawn line Ousts mistier peers and thrives, murderous, In establishments which imagined lines
Can only haunt. Sturdy as potatoes, Stones, without conscience, word and line endure, Given an inch. Not that they’re gross (although
Afterthought often would have them alter To delicacy, to poise) but that they Shortchange me continuously: whether
More or other, they still dissatisfy. Unpoemed, unpictured, the potato Bunches its knobby browns on a vastly Superior page; the blunt stone also.
Sylvia Plath, Poems, Potatoes.
I’ve always been prone to early awakenings. As a child, I’d rise before anyone in my home and thread, slowly, like a liquid shadow, the thin corridor that stood between my room and the stairs, both at the antipodes of the house. The white air of dawn was flayed by a series of twisted lines, reminiscent of brambles, cast by delicate fiddlehead designs that adorned the curtains of the upper floor, and their innocent interruption of sunlight would paint the rightmost wall with the outline of a dark tree. Walking through it, I’m suddenly reminded, felt dimly somber, as I figured that in each morning, the tree asked me if I remembered tomorrow. «No.», I would offer, «Not tomorrow», quite insincerely. As the frigid lacquer of the pine steps innervated my feet, I made an unmatched effort to deposit my weight on my wrists, almost levitating, as to not trigger the stridulation of the wood, that little ravenous instrument, and if not for my glaringly audible breathing, I could pass for a bit of wind. This was my preferred method of traveling — in hyalescence.
When at the door, I would sit for a few hours in the front step of my home, where I had recently opened my forehead and where I’d soon do so once more, and perhaps that very place signals some dislodging that I can’t quite shake, as whenever I pass, now, through the front of that assembly of memories that houses another family for nearly a decade now, I can’t help but feel a glassy sentiment of unphasing that I’ve only ever felt by visiting my father at the cemetery. There, everything feels to drain and deaden, and sitting on that marble step, I recall what I now find to be an entirely manufactured memory, likely produced from years of spending entire mornings in some cogitative realm that isn’t this, looking at my mothers dahlias or a large palm stump that I always resented for being too high for me to sit upon. I remember a girl, braided features and withdrawn face that was seemingly under some degree of shade at all times, and her eyes were two dissolving oceans that overspilled over a blank aura, and her hands were rayed and slightly pellucid, and I remember that she caused in me some deep distress, but I was beckoned, as if fear was, then, an unusable tool. She would sit over the sill of the window to my left, her bumblebee t-shirt had this strange image of a coiling forest, distorted from a central point, and with one leg damming the slab of light that would enter the home through the bottom of blinds, which were always left slightly relaxed, and another leg pendulous over the wall, with a subtlety of movement and leggings of a torrid yellow contrasted with white triangular damasks, she would, under certain angles, appear like an enlarged salamanquesa. I don’t recall our conversations, but figments of them, these sparse echoes and elisions; she’d often complain about her father, how mean he was, but not to her, she didn’t exist to him. Her eyes surfed through myriad slides of pain, but they could never find themselves stuck in a purpose, a form, a line that would restrict the sequestering motion of feeling; that’s just it, she darted through a film of her trauma, and in each frame sprawled a condensed figure which sourced it, but she only felt motion sickness, or just sickness, or just that stunning and infinitely involute reality of being unwanted. I wouldn’t say anything to her; well, she didn’t exist. But I remember that, by the end of each conversation — which elapsed whenever the air goldened — if I remembered tomorrow, that desultory question which haunts the asker and the askee, and before I could answer, the spume of her eyed-oceans would seethe, producing a strident gurgling alike water meeting a barrier of smooth cinders, and she would vanish.
I see signs of her tattooed over each of my memories in that house. The kitchen, that was added by a renovation shortly before my birth, since the home did not have one when my parents first bought it, was done so in an odd angle that, like some useless flap of fabric, squeezed every centimetre of space right until the neighbouring building, and in doing so, was shaped like a half-opened fan, and had a large space at the top which my mother filled with a cobalt-hued couch filled with arabic symbols in that torrid yellow that remind me of her. Also, lodged under the stairs, a cabinet would, in an ordered chaos, be the accommodation for dozens of albums and home-videos, many of which were videos of the sea and its undulation, which my father enjoyed to capture in every beach he went to. I’d sit and watch them attentively, waiting for a moment that wouldn’t come, hoping for a moment nowhere to be found with each wave, each simmer. The lines of the cassette would travel, vertically, along the dense lenticular screen of our TV, seeming to be combing the image for a meaning, and always arriving empy-handed. The times in which I would flee from the eldritch entities my mind would conjure from my days of solitude; just flee, without much thought to the matter, into the lemon orchard that backed the house, and look back to see it wither over the visual space, lose the war of colour, drown in distance, and smile, simply and purely, because for a moment it no longer existed. The times in which I’d just sit, alone, attentive to the spume. It didn’t take me long to understand the rest the memory I had fabricated, and how much it seems to shorten the act of remembering my infancy.
I remember, vividly and uncreatively, sitting over the thick membrane of dead leaves in the orchard, unbothered with the sound they made at the fullness of my weight, and in the sober madness of being both lost and alone, whispering to myself, do I remember tomorrow? «No,» I would offer, «but I must want to.»
More fragmentary poems, thought these are slightly less inspired. I spent the week studying Portuguese literature and my mental linguistics are entirely dissonant. I currently have a small obsession with the composer Eric Nathan and his recently released album “the space of a door”, and have been studiously perscrutating the work of Miró for the purposes of aesthetic sharpening, so that is likely to be the next poetic pairing that I’ll produce. Meanwhile, I’m determined to the writing of these paltry poems (tentatively) everyday, and placing them here from while to while. I’ve read somewhere that it is important for a creative to be so everyday, as to not lose touch with the creative sensibilities. I’m unsure if that is true, but I’m giving it a try.
I had my hyper-productive cycle, and now, as is visible, my ability to conjure poems is waning a bit. I’m still committed to writing and showcasing, perhaps more than ever, because I feel that exposition helps me not only calibrate my productions, but in having a veritable self-responsibility to creating, even when I’m wringing about.
This composition was, as all of my poems of this new (empyrean) cycle seemingly are, about otherness. It does not have 57 parts, but it’s instead catalogued in a diarial document, the same one where I extracted “poetry without a place”. It is diarial because I did write it very quickly (shy of sixty minutes), and it received very little editing, mostly because I like the urgent, immanent aspect of the last part, and not only is that rawness hard to replicate, it is near-impossible to “align” if the rest of poem is overworked by editing sessions. I was inspired, in regards to the subtle narrative, by a plastic gunboat that I actually did lose in an acequia when I was little, near the farm of the man that raised me, which I lost in the same year as I lost the gunboat.
In regards to image, symbol, and the mental geometry, I was lightly inspired by Heidegger, though I won’t say how! Visually, and especially in the last part of the poem, I drew from a magnificent photography capture by Phil Gomm, named The Scrying Mirror. At the time, I was already enraptured by his project, but what the sentiment exurged within wasn’t quite apparent until I wrote the composition. (thanks, Phil!)
As always, I hope you found something worth the while, I’m never quite sure,
thank you, João-Maria.
At the precise moment in which the irreducible tongue of the sun recoiled and became an irregular line trodden by the tremulant eucalyptus leaves, Jorge Guerra first felt the dense phenomenon of solitude so characteristic of birth. His father, António Medes Guerra, was a reputed dipsomaniac of jagged features, of which his black beard was most characteristic, as it felt strangely luminous and always sodden. His drunken paroxysms were so persistent, he saw his position as a bricklayer in the construction of the train-station of Vale do Peso quickly foreshortened.
In fact, just that very night, António is said to have borrowed a Browning shotgun from a cousin, crouched behind some brambles near a hillock by the village entry, awaited until that very tongue of sunlight was besprent upon the hills, and charged at his foreman, José Lobo Branco, in an attempt to intimidate him into the restoration of his job. António, however, did not learn to operate the firearm, and José struck him with a skiving shovel, for which he had to be hospitalised, in a room curiously near to that where his son was just born, although, almost seemingly by some divine order, they did not meet each-other that night.
His mother, Christina Guerra, was of Galician origin, and although she moved to Castelo de Vide at an early age, she knew enough of the mossy pathways of Santiago to feel morriña, the most Galician sentiment of all, which only intensified whenever António would come home, choleric and crapulous, a vile monument of her profound weakness, a vile monument of her profound strength. Jorge, too, would often be beaten by the casuistry of his mere existence, since the anger of António was a dark puddle without perceptible depth; a trap designed to never be evaded. Luckily for Christina and Jorge, however, António died of tuberculosis just shy of two weeks after Jorge celebrated — under the lashing belt — his fifth birthday. His death lunged them both into a state of indigence not too unlike that which they had lived thus far, but, to them, it still felt like an unimaginable relief.
Jorge’s luck, and, concomitantly, his salvation, was Christina’s second marriage: Ernesto da Gama, a literate tradesman from Penacova who, besides abounding in benevolence, had an unabated love for his adopted son and insisted unstintingly on his education. Ernesto was also instrumental in introducing Jorge to a litany of ultra-romantic poets, the likes of Soares de Passos, João de Deus and Garret; and nothing enraptured his thoughts quite as feverishly as poetry. Jorge, by 1916, was successfully formed in the basic faculties and was allowed the opportunity of further formation in the University of Coimbra, in the fields of Law, which, at the time, was the only course with veritable applications outside of Academia; but the pylons of his passions, what moved him beyond his blue, bruised core, was the sprawling and lucid poetry that spawned at his lips and blossomed at the very borders of his cognition; what provided his spiritual existence was his sharp, bucolic soul, sprouted from cycles of tears and condensation, and culled by that jittering blade of sunlight which withdrew when he come-to-be.
In the dawn of 18 of August of 1919, Ernesto was caught in a blaze of massive proportions near Sintra, while returning from an excursion to Lisbon. Though his calcined remains were never returned to Penacova, Jorge insisted on the search; to such purpose, he voyaged to Lisbon the next week, with the intention of only a small interregnum in his studies. Still quite hoverish, as if held by a tight thread, which is common of those whose pain failed to materialise fully and is still but a shade darting below the pond, he was entirely oblivious of the fact that he’d never return to Coimbra, nor would he spend much in search of Ernesto’s cadaver, since Christina, now entirely sclerotic and paralysed in a bout of deep depressions, found it beyond her will to even drink a cup of water on her own. It was then, during the large stretch of years in which he took to her bedside, that he produced «Condolência», the prime and lone book of his authorship.
«Condolência», produced over nearly two decades, seems to cover, in its essence, only two discernible cycles of Guerra’s poetic production: an early, plaintive and ruminating, gleaming with substance and sentimental contamination, named Geminea, and a later, lighter cycle punctured with a levitous, ponderative and pastoral demeanor, named Botania. Their transition of one onto the other, after careful geometries and chronometries were established, seems to have been spun from the event of the departure of his mother to Galicia, a desire she could never quite shake after her recovery from prolonged cataplexy. Jorge accompanied his mother for a short while, in her village of Taboada, near the magnificent natural wonder of Castro Candaz; in this mythical castle, whose sub-aquatic habitation only allowed it a glimpse of breath whenever the rainfall diminished for long enough, Jorge saw himself reflected. He felt as if life never gave him enough dry periods in order for his deserved flourishing. During these months in Galicia, he wrote some of his most impressed bucolic pieces.
In 1921, Christina passed away from a fulminant breast cancer that had annihilated her in the shorter tail of three months and about which little was known at the time, and Jorge, now wholesomely and inexorably alone, decided to return to Vale do Peso. By then, he weighed so little, it felt as if he was a waning vessel, a foundered boat. His phlegmatic disposition, now coupled with his physical macilency, far transgressed any sense of emotive numbness; he simply had no more of himself in this realm, he felt as if objects could not contain the poverty of his sight; furthermore, they were negated by it. He was a walking, consuming force, a space being reclaimed from within, long tired of its own unworthy, fruitless occupation. For a good count of three hours, he sat and looked at the steams fume and flit, one here, one there, in the train-station that brought about the fateful night of his making. For a while, he wondered how many different tones of self-enamouration he could count; how many of them were destructive; how many of them only came about when it truly rained as never before, an authentic deluge of being, of nothingness. For a while, he pondered on the inevitable, before realising that such, when it matters, is nearly always the case, nearly always inevitable.
Jorge’s book was never published.
Disclaimer: Jorge is, of course, entirely fictive, as is apparent. Why I felt compelled to generate an entire mini-fiction regarding a mysteriously unfortunate Portuguese poet from the beginning of the 20th century is as beyond me as it is beyond you. I’m not in a deep state of sanity, these days. Regardless of any particular intention, I found the small path of Jorge quite interesting, and I regard him as an example of what might have happened to many, invariably, since the story is itself composed of some reality. The locations are real; so are the poets accited, the dates and events (including the fire in Sintra), and many elements were inspired by stories I’m privy to. I was also heavily inspired to do this from recently having read Sebald’s “The Emigrants”, though I differ greatly from his (invariably superior) approach.
I hope you liked the read, though since I tend not to post fiction, you might have not, and I’m sorry if you haven’t!, a glorious weekend to you all, João-Maria.
Francisco de Goya is, along with very few, a veritable re-inventor of visual arts. His descent into depression, magisterially tabulated by his paintings, stands as the most embossed, limpid and surviving documentation of creative mania and artistic pessimism. One needn’t go further than drawings such as El Agarrotado and El Sueño de la razon produce monstruos to realise how acutely stricken he was with his own demons, and one would need to go as far as La romería de San Isidro in order to understand that his demons were not merely of the inner kind. Goya’s progression from an orderly, august form of painting that was most apposite for the Romantics of his time, to a deeper, astringent use of colour and blurred strokes, which annealed the asperity of the thoughts that informed his paintings, is one such progression that is of interest and should be studied by any creative with manic challenges, such as myself. It also much mirrors the path of his compatriot, Picasso; while Goya descended into a more agonic expressionism, Picasso went into six different styles over a series of collections.
Giant Seated in a Landscape – 1818
Although Saturn Devouring His Son is one of my favoured paintings of his (since the symbolic interpretations are nearly boundless), I did not write a specific composition on this painting; in fact, I’m still trying to gather forces in order to write a long, contextual and cybertextual composition on Goya’s work, likely divided into multiple parts. Goya’s obsession with giants, however, reminded me of an old composition I wrote and never put up on the blog (although its destination was, initially, the blog). Part of the BEACONS poems, it was written with the partial, synthetic perspective of a child, looking at “giant things”.
Albeit from mid-2019, thus, a bit overly aged, it somewhat maintains my general style of writing, while the same cannot be said by anything earlier than that. It was, I think, perhaps the first composition I made with the style I have now. I hope to have more compositions made apropos Goya in future, since he is, without a semblance of doubt, one of the painters that most deeply inspire me.
There are few instances of expression more lambent than looking at George Inness’s “Roman Campagna” while listening to Henryk Górecki’s plangent “Wislo Moja, Wislo Szara“, since, to me, both works transubstantiate the tortuous aspects of time into a pleasant, warm resignation; they remind me that so much of war is only heat.
It’s partially unknown to me why the works of George Inness are to me translations of senescence and that brightness of dissolution and anility; it is, perhaps, his usage of colour, which is so jocosely gradiented between the syncopal nature of his skies and the very-nearly-vividness of his objects. Inness is, in a real sense, so nimble and lightsome in how he mirrors the views being recreated, that his trust is entirely placed upon the plates of those eons that compose our ever-reclaiming natural world; the overflowing and billowing natural history that, in its incontestable wisdom, gives us the solidity of life and the fluidity of dying. No love quite equals that which this world has for us; no blindness can puncture that reality, try as it may, and as it so often does, nowadays.
The poem itself is bit shorter and less dense than usual; I’m trying to loosen a bit, if only for this Summer.
My family is in the habitude of telling me how odd I was a child, since I’m similarly odd as an adult. It never quite dawned on me until I looked at pictures from my childhood. I’m having copies made, but it would be nice if some of them existed on the web, as relics of the 2000s; such a nostalgic era.
My parents have over twenty-five thousand pictures from the 90s and 2000s, along with twenty hours of film. It’s daunting to sieve through it all, especially when it carries so many dormant memories. I did pay a plaintive price for my strangeness, later on, but I can confidently say that I wouldn’t trade it for much, since now, my strangeness is my charm.
(CALIATH) features, and has always featured, a style of importation and eclosion that isn’t encountered commonly. Not only does my own personal style of composing include the immaturity of my creative endeavors and the many cultural and linguistic importations spurred from the fact that I’m not native in English, it also contains a seemingly heavy modern literary legacy, the likes of John Ashbery and David Antin, thus, the postmodernists, with most pronounced inflections in poems such as (to taste of salt) and (the whole spring), and the often overlapping movement of the surrealists, especially with Baudelaire and Reverdy, both monumental influences in my poetic style. Many reputed poets of the Portuguese pantheon also perfuse my poems with the inspiring whiff of their brilliance (which I admire deeply and am a disciple of), and those are Al Berto, Cesariny de Vasconcelos, Luís Quintais, Drummond de Andrade and Lispector. Along such myriad influences, some of them marked by gashes of dissonance and complexity, one would likely look at one of my poems and detect but a bunch of titivating words thrown at a wall with little but the associative sense they may individually carry, in which case, we’re left with more density than artistry, and therein lies the issue in trying to translate my personal style into something veritably transmissible; I’m not — clearly — the best of writers; but there is somewhat of a rhyme or reason to how I construct a poem, and to provide some pharos of what that is, I will deconstruct a deconstructive poem apropos poetry (try saying that aloud):
Strophe 1 opens with an oneiric appeal, which sets the tone of reversion; whereas one would start in an instance of reality and slowly disintegrate into a fragmented, unsubstantial inner realm, I decided to start in the dream and walk back into materiality. A “tiger gnawing statues” was inspired by “Leaves“, composed by Nicholas Jaar, a song in which he synthesizes a recording of an interaction with his own father, when he was little, where he said that “los leones estaban mordiendo la estatua” or, the lions were biting the statue. This geometry of conjuring an image of my own from Jaar’s occurs in the poetic nature that I distilled from his work: the absurd quality of the imagination, which, often, founds the medulla of our creative emprises, because that absurdity is free-formed, fluid, insofar as it dissolves time to a symbol (time is a false flower) and destruction to opportunity (rubble could not dim his sharp taste for hunger). The poet, or creator, in this instance, is the extinction of the absurd, as our cognition functions only in pattern-seeking modes, which lugubriously counters the creation of new ones. I often feel that my cognitive limitations not only disallow me of novel creativity, but give a whim of repulse to my creations, a taunt of sorts.
Strophe 2 is the part most inspired by Albert Tarantola, a popular user of the inverse problem, by which the composition was designed (at least, as the concept of inversion); this strophe, then, is almost entirely expositive, except perhaps in its construction, which I call “cruel denotation”, as it contrasts vividly to the denser, diaphanous lines which compose the armature of my poems. The same idea explained three times in three slightly different modes gives some sort of openness to what is being said, or ameliorates the dullness of transmitting techniques in a creative setting, (or, at least, I think it does).
Strophe 3 relies on various inspirations; not only in my own mytho-poeticism, but in that I inherited with my linguistic legacy, and such example is the “pampered child jabbing a hill swallow eyrie” to describe the most difficult qualities of language: relativity and potency. Child as an element of cognition and language is something that has various sources, from Woolf’s Bernard, who coalesced both the pellucid and fluttering qualities of language and imagination but with such puerile vigour, and Eugénio de Andrade’s Palavras Interditas, where a “child flits by, back turned to the sea“, as that aspect of unfocused, volatile subversion that we experience with any modality of communication. Language, then, and specially the poetic language, “muddles everything” with lies of colour, texture, intimacy, experience, volition and perdition, since none of those things can be fully contained within language, and that dissonance between talking about thing and experiencing thing, especially for one that uses written arts as such expressive instruments of being, is a deep wound. Thus, this strophe means to support language as the prevarication of poetry, at least in the context of the poem.
“what I feel is this brand of tasteless deicide. This falsity;” is likely the most poetically charged phrase in the entire poem, and likely the very heart and artery of it; to wholly “carve out” a personal neuro-linguistic approach that, while inching better towards absolute communication (thus, divine, at least in the parity of concepts), one inches further away from the very purpose of communication: to be understood. This is precisely the emotion that informs this post; if I read one of my poems, I’m reading the diamond-cut, punctilious image of one of my sentiments; but, as Terry put it in another poem, to a reader, it seems as if it is a “conversation one is not privy to”, which is a sentiment I entirely understand, for I have felt it myself reading some other heavily neuro-symbolical poems. That bargain, that equilibrium of abnegation and abnegation, of the divinity of sincerity and the divinity of communion, seems, at times, to be the murder of a false god in order to replace it with another, since I will never be able to express fully, nor will I ever be understood fully; they are both synthetic images for the purpose of direction, but not points of arrival.
Strophe 5, which follows, is opposite in purpose to Strophe 2, and I call it “a kind of connotation”; it is meant to refract and coalesce some of the heavier poetic concepts in the construct; if one disintegrates and distends language in order to heighten its ability to transmit, one begins to lose grip of linguistically-dependent structures “a residue of existence being dragged across abandoned layouts”, and that sacrifice seems most excessive once we realise the mania of surrealism and concept-melding, insofar as we become “a residue of language dangling somewhere one ought not to touch for fear of capture”, or, in a way, a senseless, formless and mad thing, whose inner motions can only be understood by that same frequency of madness.
Strophe 6 purports to tether everything together; and purports truly is the apt word. One reaches, then, the “exotic doldrum”, which is tantamount to saying: “an individual, untranslatable state of bafflement”, where child (language) and swallow (expression) fuse; where language, in its fullness, is incorruptible by interpretation and thought isn’t merely another form of isolation, and then, full and wholly accessible, in that outsideness and openness so characteristic of the expressive self, lies what is discovered only through importance: connectivity, interaction, which, to me, is poetry.
I’m not the fondest of explaining a creative work; unless, of course, it’s not the artist explaining it. But I’m not an artist in a classical sense; I’m not published nor am I seeking publication, and do not charge nor intend to charge, and from such constrictions also come other freedoms, one of which is the formlessness of growth. As I’ve dedicated more and more time to my prosaic techniques (for the purposes of lucubrating on long narratives), my poetry has become increasingly more affected and condensed. You’ve all been astonishingly kind and patient with me, but I understand that my poems are not of easy digestion, or, I would dare to say, of worthy digestion. They are too often pressures of form and, even then, they are not rich in form, either. The only thing I have of any positive force is a very fertile sensorium that allows unique perspectives and images to infuse my compositions. Other than that, I’m not particularly talented nor intelligent, even if it might seem to be the case (and I don’t even think it seems to be the case, haha).
The purpose of this post is, firstly, to demonstrate that there is a “skeleton” behind all my works, even if it’s not a sound skeleton, or one made of visible, intact bones; secondly, it was to clarify some of the references and influences, the “plaques” slowly moving beneath the communicative foundation; both what founts the still-green way I write, and what contaminates it. And, of course, just because I intended all of this to be in the poem, or, better yet, just because all of this coalesced and whirled strongly enough to generate a poem, does not mean that the poem is well-written; it most certainly isn’t. As goes the old adage, the way to hell is paved with good intentions.
Thank you for reading, and for your patience, João-Maria.
// turifumy is the divination by smoke;
// umbromancy is the divination by shade;
// metagnomy is the divination by magic.
If you’re a spiritual person, I very much envy you. I’ve had a conturbed relationship with spirituality ever since I was a child, and even my poetry, at least normally, shelters itself from meddling with that aspect of life. Regardless, the composition intends no harm whatsoever; it’s merely an exploration of (part) of the issue, which, in my view, is the abnegation of a formative perspective of the world. To kill ourselves as the gods of our world and replace ourselves with carcasses of gods that do not inhabit our world, as a buddy of mine once said. If you have a stellar relationship with spirituality, seriously, please, leave me some advice.
(And Paul, I’m aware, it’s even worse, an authentic mess; last one, I promise)
I don’t talk much about poetry (the theme) anymore, and I’ve always found it difficulty answering questions such as “what is poetry to you?” and “what is your relationship with poetry?”, (not that I get deluges of questions, I certainly do not). Some days ago, I was reading about Albert Tarantola, and I thought, why not view it through the perspective of an inverse problem? That is the origin of this (quite) simple composition, thank you for reading, João-Maria.
Father scuffled with the taste of saltpetre still sticking unstintingly to his tongue, and the lustre of a candle which, already nearly drowned by its own wax, sobbed intermittently, enervating his eyes. Here, an horizon. There, an horizon; tessellating the sides of a glass as the canary-green flood subsided, in altisonant tongues of water slapping the hull, in the two very-white blocks of light bounced from each iris — those transient lovers becoming one united streak whenever the source was richest — and seemingly everywhere: an horizon, wide as widest be, grand as grandest they come, and if I were to stop, then, centred in such a massive mouth of sky and water, and closed my eyes and braced to be swallowed, perhaps then, in that will-never-be-moment, as in Ammons’ Admission, I could have «broken away from the final room». Little is imaginable then, as my eyes pierced the very fabric of nothingness; reached a hidden point beyond the sea-line, and my mind, obliquitous as if dragged by a long velveteen rope, would think of «La Damoiselle élue», which was being so candidly played that night by one such neglected lounge pianist; a lounge so far enclaved at the very tip of the bow, it felt as if it fluttered atop the ocean and never grazed it, never gashed the sea with that effusive separation of bloods and bodies so characteristic of vessels as massive as that one was.
Father disliked crowds; they scrambled his brain. After years of successive neurasthenias and depressions, his thoughts trailed off celeritously, plumes of smoke to be blown one on top of another, some expired upwards or downwards, infusing another parcel or topic with a distinct scent of petrichor after a wildfire; others would be expired right ahead, one after one, each large brunt of smoke puncturing the other as they coalesced in some hallowed destructive waltz, the kind Limón would have liked. As I fluttered off, imagining which unfathomable, implacable beauty hid itself beneath a secret point in a realm with the single material of horizon, so did father, who, himself looking at his own abstract subterfuge, would express all manners of disgust at how the space of the lounge was designed; the golden-corinthian crowns which stood in precise dissonance to the garish teal wallpaper mottled with crested parsley; the disposition of the oblong seats, prussian-hued, which mooned around the room in such odd, aleatory ways. “How ugly it all is“, he repeated, “a brass foot-rest with zebrano counters!, vulgar, criminal!“, in an infinite punctuation of repulse that, as the taste of saltpetre, would cling and stack and grow until the thought just trailed off, perhaps fallen into the unwounded sea. As so, we’d spend every night in that cruise, and after he had his third canary-green spirit, he would allow me to stand, silentious, behind the pianist, studying the score. Playing The Blessed Damsel now reminds me of gold and teal, acanthus and parsley, smoke and brass; ugliness, infinitude; a cold and hungry horizon which, in the dullness of magnetism, wholly lacks any compassion.
(made in a for-fun manner; some lovecraftian mytho-poetics are great for the snap of spring; it’s not enriched with deeper meanings, or at least, not purposefully so. It’s just some unbridled imagery!)
This is wholly unintelligible and I do apologise, but I’m at a point in which trying to curate a thought ends up harming more than helping when it comes to composing. I don’t know what path to take besides continuing writing and hoping the problem sorts itself out before long.
The beach of my choosing was Rocha, which was besprent with caverns, alcoves and grottos, some due to decades of construction atop the promontories inevitably causing fall-ins, others were formations of erosion that, so careful was the fashion of their forms, one would be tempted to believe that the sea sculpted them in its own language of beauty, thronged with apocryphal patterns too pure to be seen by our eyes. Perhaps that of biggest repute was one such lonesome tower of rock that stood half within the beach, half at sea, but only whenever the tide was even in itself; at low-tide, one could crawl within the rock and, once inside, the waves penetrating the chamber from different points would produce thunderous sounds, all in differing pitches, giving a littoral harmony that managed to not sound either consonant or dissonant. At high-tide, whenever a large wave struck the top of the dome, half of it would be devoured by that rocky mouth and spat out with the force of a roar from Neptune himself, which would awaken many men given to sleeping in their towels with a sharp, electric punch, stunning them into the chorus of loud laughter made around them. The beach itself, spanning many kilometres in length, was divided down its centre by a large rocky indentation from which it received its name, (Rocha – Rock), and the similar tide-play was at hand whenever crossing such rocky obstacle was necessary. At low, the very tip of the formation had a large arch that drooped, as if melting under a column of icy sunlight cast upon the sand, which could be crossed in a fragment of instant, and most would do a small, almost delicate sprint, afeared that the arch was about to collapse at any second. At high, however, one would need to cross a vast man-made tunnel that punctured the formation like a trephine blade; whoever made it did so at the longest and thinnest it could be, insofar as one would only have light at the very start and very end of it, having to thread everything else in a wall of solid darkness mixed with the thick, languid maritime humidity, which would cling to the feet like large bulbs of rot and whatever else laid there, abandoned in that black subterfuge. Most folks simply rose the steps of the cliff and descended on the other side, preferring the labour of three-hundred steps in a leering heat than the accursed tunnel. Another hideout, which was perhaps my favoured, was a large rock crater fully freestanding at the eastern sandbank, wholesomelly untouched by seawater for what seemed to be eons. In order to enter the convex platform at its core (whose natural coming-to-be still eludes me, since it has no logical reason to be as it is), one would need to climb one of its sides and jump inside, which, apart from a handful of kids at the very beginning of afternoons, was nearly always emptied and shaded. Of all of these wonders-in-themselves, myriad secrets could be found, and I would often slice and rend my feet trying to reach points where I did not belong, or, even more commonly, end up wailing back into my mother’s arms so she could remove a puny shore crab that latched — with some mysterious scythian might — to one of my fingers. Teary-eyed and abashed, I’d defend my honour each time by saying that I did not wish to harm the crab, thus, I couldn’t dare to remove it. «What if it loses a pincer?» I’d argue. I knew limbs regrew rather hastily, but pincers? Who could know? And they seemed very essential to the crabs; too essential, if such thing makes any residual sense.
Although I’d often make a strong case as to why spending the day at the beach was such a sterile activity, and how fruitless it seemed to me, especially since I did not enjoy being immersed by the ocean or large swaths of folks I did not know, my mother would allow nothing else than a punctual rise at seven, a long session of sunbathing under the earnest light of dawn and only until before midday, when the Sun would gnaw instantly with its violet teeth, such was the intensity with which it glistened. Returning at four, we’d stay in the beach for as long as the day permitted, and we’d often leave when naught but the black outlines of soccer-players would dart to and fro, backed by a dying star whose blood, dim and fervent, would hue the water with deep sapphire and give the waves, now smooth and slow and entirely voluble in their subtle conclusions, a tone of pearlescent cream and the texture of undulating webs. This was my favoured time, as it seemed that the world was waning upon itself, and the vast horizontal line which bore — now completely nude and unobstructed — the clear semblance of the Gods in all their aqueous journey into divinity, adorned with their nightly caparisons and their staves of cuneated streaks of light which they would stab into the imponent, high curtain of the universe, for safekeeping until next they rose, hauled by an inimitable silence that perdured, far and always far, beyond the reach of us, mortals darting to and fro, outlines of darkness and subtle conclusions. For saying things as absurd as these from a very young age, I’d inch towards that perduring silence and, given the chance, I’d swim and sail and sink there. My parents, often worried about my saturnine disposition, would urge me to meet other children, and would go as far as to befriend their parents just so I would be forced to stay with them, but it was all as fruitless as a day at the beach. I’d flit off, into the rocky hideouts and places where loneliness was a glorious rocky crown fallen atop my head; where, bathed not in a sea or in a swath, but in the grounding company of the artists which etched the shapes, melodies and points of the natural realms we inhabit, I’d be free from dream. The spray from a wave of the wispy hand loomed by the breeze are nubile spirits much kinder than those caustic ones of other children. Or so I thought, back then, while I gazed at the Gods and their shedding of multicoloured tears onto the last remaining men lining the shores, their backs to an infinite, prismatic divinity, and their fronts to a soccer ball.
Or, in my case, lonely explorers fightning the terrible iniquity of crabs, armed with nothing but mercy. Not cowardice, mercy.
Since one may not take a proper vacation this year, I thought I’d bring, through my words, my memory of the vacations I’ve taken throughout my puerile life. This is the first in a series of a few whose number entirely depends on how starkly I can remember them. I’m sorry if my prose seems a bit weaker than normal; I haven’t been feeling my fullest, and am bothered with some difficult mental demons.
I hope you enjoy this strange journey of worded vacations.
I recently joined a Portuguese e-publication where I must compose a poem weekly, and my self-proposed theme was to translate paintings that I favoured throughout my life, which, knowing myself, is a monumental task. I’m not a visual creator in the slightest, but am instead wholesomely auditive; I suffered of poor eyesight from early age, but was only treated much later, already in early adolescence. This generated an imbalance in how I most confidently translate the stimuli I receive from the world; my trust always falls, firstly, in what I hear, and not in what I see.
I’ve always been incredibly fond of visual arts, and I ache to develop a veritable visual mythology to guide my creative endeavours. This project is one such exercise I hope may help in that task, and this second composition (the first was on Munch’s Sun), even in translation, is already roughly contoured by my visual weaknesses. Hopefully, they become better as I write more of them.
Still Life with Profile of Laval has always been a painting of great intrigue to me; the deformity of Gauguin’s sculpted jug, tactically placed behind the assortment of fruits, immediately inspired the unbecoming of the latter; that is the inevitable disfigurement — the perishing — which Laval seems to gaze at in stolid anticipation. The vividness of the objects and, in contrast, the smokey dullness of every other element in the painting (including Laval himself), seemingly translates two aesthetic tempos in a single stage: there isn’t so much a dichotomy of being/not-being, but one of being/waiting-to-no-longer-be; a slow and dormant corrosion. Gauguin’s signature diagonal strokes, which I call his texture of dissipation, add the final weight to what is, in my view, a beacon of painted brilliance.
I truly hope you’re well, and thank you, João-Maria.
Little exists in record regarding Telémaco Augusto Santana. From some spotted newspaper publications regarding his work, to some handful of poultry donations made to the parish he inhabited, his name seems almost like a dent in an ancient structure; part of a gestalt of ages, another function of the uniformity of time. A texture, almost, void of essence, void of movement. Curiously, and from what I gathered, he was anything but a quiet adornment during his lifetime in Lisbon. Any perspicacious eye upon his poems would quickly detect the lavish aura he emanates as a figure of social class and probity. An authentic “flâneur“, an ogive filled with grandiose ideas and a profoundly refined inclination for the aesthetical. An indication of his zesty and obstreperous spirit can be found in the curious preface he wrote for “Lucilações“:
A Short Statement
Poetry in Portugal has no true market. The few exceptions are revered poets, and only when these are edited by publishers with a strong commercial amplitude. Most of the literate public does not read books of verse… They lightly peruse them. I decided, then, to not make this book a commercial publication. To my Friends and Critics that have accepted to appreciate my modest poetic works, I intend to offer a unique edition of this new book. And shall do it with much pleasure, since I never thought of myself as a bookshop success. Poetry is the expression of beauty through image and the highest expression of the spirit. —
The image is the medullary substance of Poetry. It is its vital essence. When Poetry achieves its maximum simplicity, it finally enters the realm of maximum beauty. Therefor–says a great Master–, the highest poet among all must be that who, without bombastic artifices nor loud resonances, still manages to impress our sentiment, thrill us, commove us, and imbue us with the fluid and luminous harmony of his verses. I know that all my poetic flights do not reach such grand and delightful heights–but, even then, as the only indelible compensation, I received the profound satisfaction of seeing my verses worthy of flattering words from demanding critics, and from notable and famous poets alike. Some of them do not know me personally, which further values their compliments.
To all who transmitted their appreciations that I deem sincere and very honouring, here I leave my deepest gratitude.
This opening text is bounteous in its richness; we, the poetic dilettantes, oft complain about the economic impracticability of our verses. Poetry, indeed, does not sell easily, nor has it ever sold easily. It’s of some strangely dim warmth to see those concerns echoed in the somewhat-distant past of 1946, a decade that saw the artistic beginnings of Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings and Richard Wilbur, among myriad other illustrious poets of the modernistic 20th century. Telémaco himself enjoyed a pleasant hue of success and was both frequently vaunted by critics in publications, and respected among Lisbon’s literary circles. Beyond his concerns regarding the state of sustenance through verse, we find a lucid interpretation of poetic production during his time: simplicity, imagery, sensitivity. Although I’m not completely certain of who the great Master is, after some brainscouring, I now believe he might be referring to Alberto Caeiro, an heteronym of Fernando Pessoa that enjoyed publications from as early as 1925, and was commonly referred to as “the Master” by his other heteronyms, as well as many other poets of the same era, due to Caeiro’s sensism and connection to the simple and natural.
The only surviving remnants of Telémaco‘s life are his books; though diffuse and often of expensive collection, most of them exist in various antiquaries in Lisbon. I found “Flores da Minha Alma“(1942), “Lux Bruxoleante“(1941) and “Revérberos da Poente”(1945) all available for purchase, though all at prices a bit beyond my means. I have never found “Lucilações” available elsewhere, which is unsurprising, since it had no commercial publication of any form, unlike the other books he has produced. The word chosen as the title, however, was completely unknown to me. “Lucilar“, in an elder form of Portuguese, means “to glisten”, making “lucilações“, “glistenings”.
Coming from a post-war era that glistened with fertile poetic ground — insofar as it generated some of the most potent authors of our collective history — and, concomitantly, enjoying such a pronounced respect from literary critics and a wide breadth of relevant influences, it’s difficult to cogitate how it is that Telémaco managed to wane and be forgotten, even among our national lyrical pantheon. Upon opening the book, those doubts become nubile vapours rather quickly:
In that town the bloodthirsty Mars showed the fear that dominates most. — Satanic vision!… And everywhere mounds of corpses and birds of prey!…
Sounded the triumphant hymn of the rational beast.
Blazes danced, smiling with joyful and tragic effects, like the ideas of repulsive men that only in evil feel satisfied, unknowing of the light of Jesus’s Verb.
Rises now the hallucinating pain that in children is more feared and strong: In the smoldering, annihilated town, two small children, through death, sought to find the gods of their home.
Hand-in-hand, calling for their parents, they hopped from rubble to rubble. They were featherless eaglets that, orphaned, were afraid of everything…
–War!… Feral chess where playing we feel from blood, the inebriation!
And the Sun was already dying. Covered itself in a glittering mantle… and the orphans, in a plangent pain translating so much naive love, still clamoured, through long laments: — Oh, dear parents!… where do you lie?… and only the horror of Death replied!
With high indignation the Wind portended. With kisses of emotion gracing little angels.
— Oh false world, of eternal mystery, from a human Heaven to an earthly Hell!
If Fernandes de Sá was of difficult translation, Telémaco is tortuous at best. His Portuguese, though eloquent and highly expressive, suffers from a terrible contortion in order to establish a rhyme. This is, in fact, an issue often seen in many lyrical poets of any historical era: one cannot sacrifice fluidity for melody, since there is no melody without fluidity. Telémaco shows a puerile and sequacious tact with his own productions, whose subjects nearly always fall upon Christian mythology, verses on nobility and the pious deeds therein, and courts of love.
Telémaco was likely a man of wealth and stature; a nobleman, a cavalier of abound polish with a deep influence on the social strata of his time. The reviews I’ve read show a trend of vacuous and sycophantic praises of what he wrote, and considering he decided to include these reviews on the last pages of this privately published book, one might assume he was greatly proud of them. Even without an affirmed status, it is not inconceivable that he’d enjoy mild success during his lifetime; his poetry was, after all, congruent with the times, and was virtually riskless in form or content, which only further asseverates his apparent erosion through the tidings.
INEFFABLE DESTROYED WORLD
The soul of a good Mother is a large world all made from love and highest caring. A love so pathetic and profound there isn’t a plume that can describe it.
It is born indelible and fecund, and is a blooming field, always beautiful, even when the trembling of destiny overstays inside the kingdom of torture.
The most anguished human pain, from the martyr Mother is intensely cast, shattering the motherly heart.
In front of the death of her loved child… — Oh! what world, ineffable and destroyed and what longing from a volcano of tears!
“Reviews of «Reverberations of a Sunset»”
“From Alexandre de Matos (Most inspired poet and distinct publisher):
«From all literary species, poetry is that which most easily expressed ideas and sentiments; but prose isn’t far behind it. Well, in its small “Aerial Preface”, so lovingly filigreed, there’s proof that Telémaco even in prose is a poet. …Reading the “Symphony of the Heart”, for me the most interesting part of the book, I was able to listen and enjoy, executed in seven poetic compositions, the sonata of harmonies that pulse within his heart!»
(the other two reviews follow the exact same lines; sometimes, with the exact same expressions. There are also ten additional pages of different reviews)
“Lucilações”, although not the most augmenting of reading experiences, was a generous exercise in conception for me. I can picture Telémaco having extensive colloquies with his literary consorts, or ardently complaining about the insuperable shedding of leaves from the Chilean peppertrees that line the central avenue of Campo d’Ourique, where he most likely lived. I can picture him, a stern and stolid man, a true homme du temps, with a decorous modesty and calm spirit. I can picture him in cafés, reading his esteemed Júlio Dantas, or regional papers like “Alma Nacional” or “Ecos de Sintra“, and, more sprawling still, is the tact I can have with what he felt and how he felt it; how he distilled what he saw, the beauty of it, the sense in its beauty. I can compose how delicately he saw his spirituality, how fervently he saw his God, a distensible and glowing figure that centralised him inside a dazed and conflicted world. I can mimic the dehiscence of his smile whenever he received a warm review of his verses. I can, during moments and with much force, be an echo of Telémaco within my mind, and thus, for a brief moment, he exists once again, and may now feel the glorious pungency of the peppertree that lonesomely guards my own street.
Poetry, no matter its value or commercial viability, will never be destitute of its singular most convex purpose: to condense the spirit which orders the hand; its pain and pleasure, memory, pulse, texture, skin. It’s a print, henceforth indelible and eternal, even if just in the minds of those who’ve read it, which, as the tendrils of some immortal creature, seeds further the existence of a collective being, through Art, in Art. One last tether between us all, beyond the tiring artifices of social maintenance, of having to.
I truly hope Telémaco had a wonderful life distant from the wounds of his period on Earth; I hope, similarly, that as Telémaco, my creations might inspire someone, far in the future, to wonder how I was, how I lived. I wonder, then: what would they come up with?
Before the world spun suddenly into this crucible of fear and solitude we identify today, I had plans of collecting forgotten relics of the Portuguese written arts. Lisbon is thronged with “alfarrabistas“, stores with the unique purpose of selling rare and used books, many of them bought in bulk from personal libraries found by folks once they lay their relatives to rest. These libraries often contain, besides various editions of World Literature classics (your common James Joyce “Ulysses” and Leo Tolstoy “War and Peace“), an even more interesting assortment of gifted-re-gifted books that bounce from generations without much thought to their existence. They are to bookshelves what pebbles are to beaches; but I’ve always taken a special interest in these books. Unfortunately, I was only able to find two before the entire globe crashed atop itself:
Encontro (Poemas D’Amor) Albino Fernandes de Sá
The inscription in the second image reads: “Ao sempre querido e inesquecível amigo Hélio, a quem este livro deve, em grande parte, o seu aparecimento, com um almoço de eterna gratidão, oferece: O autor Albino Fernandes de Sá” Translated: “To my ever sweet and unforgettable friend Hélio, to which this book owns, in large part, its existence, I offer, along with a lunch of eternal gratitude: Encounter (Love Poems). The author, Albino Fernandes de Sá”
It’s rare to find a book of limited printing, especially one such as “Encontro“, which was printed in 1954, fourty-one years prior to my birth; but rarest still, it seems, is to find one such book that was gifted by the author himself to the friend that inspired it. One is often given to reflections regarding the loss of being, that shedding, and concomitantly, where the scales of our shedding might lie; foundered in some sea-floor, rived by caracoles and barnacles, or earth-bitten under metres of soil, near a tall building or pile of rubble. None of us hold much of a clue regarding the destination of our droplets, our scales, our shards that stamp upon things our sole impression of what they are. Not much can be found regarding Albino Fernandes de Sá. Some registries of old, lost publications, indicate that he might have published, in collaboration, a series of treatises and short anthropological works regarding the old Portuguese-African colonies. Bibliographic guides have cited Governador da Hulía, a book he wrote apropos the ever-shifting political powers in the region of Hulía, Angola, is one such example (though most documents I’ve found cite this as a reference to Mozambique and not Angola, and the reason for such has eluded me thus far). Fernandes de Sá, however, was not a colonial native. By reading poems in “Encontro“, I rapidly gathered his place of birth to be Barcelos, in the Northern Portuguese region of Minho. It’s likely that he wasn’t from the city itself, since he mentions a village in the poem “A minha aldeia“, and later the river Neiva, in the aptly named poem “O Neiva“.
“Encontro” chronicles, in punctilious detail, the entire life of Fernandes de Sá. It delineates his birthplace and parents, his favourite flowers as a child, his journeys to the coast and first sight of sea, his first voyage to the colonies, his upbringing with his “bark-haired” loving sister, his first love, marriage, first daughter and son. The hymeneal bliss in which he found himself, as if citterns played everywhere, buoyant as bubbles along the smoothest whiff of air, plays a coronary role in this book. Fernandes de Sá wrote of it all in a-hundred-and-fifty sonnets, which are, thus far, the only creative publication I’ve found under his name; even then, “Encontro” was a personal publication. It never had a commercial form nor was it ever available beyond the copies requested by the author. I haven’t, however, found any other extant copy of the book, either for sale or under private hands. The last record of Fernandes de Sá publicly available was a print of his presence in a literary gathering in Sá da Bandeira (present-day Lubango), dated 1963. I found no evidence of living descendants ever returning to Portugal, but it is indubitable that they exist, albeit perhaps disconnected from the written aspect of Fernandes de Sá‘s life. This leads me to the rather feeble conclusion that this book I currently hold is, with a strong chance, the last remnant of Albino’s personal writings, and that it likely came from the private library of Hélio himself, the friend that inspired its creation.
Nature has its lovers, that charged with affection, with sugar, she, sometimes, employs in the making of vistas glazed in a thousand colours!
Radiated by auroral showers, it slithers through the moss-green web of the view, beaming with freshness, from Antas, the Neiva, lined in flowers.
It seems like a mirror of luminous crystal, in which my sumptuous village sights its own profile of emerald and sapphire.
Since my youth I returned its ardent love. I figure that within my blood runs the dew that flows in my sweet and beautiful Neiva.
A dream that has not died
A dream that has not died: my Angola. Since youth, I wanted to give it my life. It smiled, fair and colourful, like to the sun smiles a corolla.
Its voice was a coo of a dove that between the boughs sings invitingly. I made her my bride, my most wanted, and she, in sadness, consoled me.
I loved her with passion; in her, my dreams of love and beauty came to find warmth and home to live happily.
I then decided to give her my vigour, my life, my blood and my love, all of which, far from her, would die.
(Note: these translations are not entirely faithful to the original metric and scheme of the poems, since most of them are written in a form of Portuguese already adapted to sonorific effects; these translations merely intend to mimic the original sentiment of the text)
Those scales — shards of impression — may fall anywhere indeed. It’s uncertain to me if “Encontro” was first produced in Angola, though the date of its publication and the last record of Albino both congruently indicate that it was written and printed there, in Sá da Bandeira, mid-twentieth century. I know not who carried it to Portugal, where it was kept or how long it percolated, from a hand to another, until it was drowned beneath multitudinous old books on the most varied subjects, and lastly, picked up by me, likely due to my profound weakness regarding the shaded outline of spring swallows. Every attempt I make at alchemising a possible story sounds overly poetical and contrasts with my knowledge of this world. This now lonely, diseased, and at times, unbearably real world. What I know is that the words of Fernandes de Sá have found another “encounter” in their subtle existence, and that, at least for now, they have another home in which to perdure, another memory to cling to.
The other book, “Lucilações” by Telémaco Augusto Santana, shares many elements with this one, but has many more elements unique to itself; sadly, in fear of making this post any denser, I will publish it at a later date, but as soon as possible.
I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into the oblivion of words; I have more planned, hopefully, if and when things resume to themselves. I would also like to deepen the prose of these voyages; unfortunately with the case of Fernandes de Sá, I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable of Northern Portugal, nor have I ever visited Angola (only Mozambique and South Africa).
The house slopes down from the holt, pieces of wenge sorted among lithe vertical panes, casting licks of sun upon the floors. The back-porch hung above the echo of a stream; it no longer ran even a hair of water. Standing purposefully near a dammed lake, during early mornings, one couldn’t detect the house from the trees due to a thick, sulphurous mist, and at the lips of a summery evening, one could enjoy the tunes of laughter from swimmers, or the sound of timber and scent of resin, a feeling of tempered rapture gracing the thoughts with smooth sand. As the chrysalis of moths Felix and I often found and kept in a shoe-box, that entire world seemed quiescent, and even my memory of it resists the curse of movement. Ingrid, the wife of the German architect whose hands birthed that beacon of modernity deeply enclaved in a Portuguese forested desert, spent her days reading Vesaas; with her short, brown hair and irises of a deep blue steel, she was unlike any woman I had seen. She held Vårnatt or Liv ved Straumen with such a grip of absorption, such a pure and centred consciousness, that as we looked for her hammock along the wide porch, she was entirely invisible against the quiescence; if we were to paint the vista, she’d be indiscernible from the yellowed foliage, and whenever she rose, the neutrality of her being was so that one couldn’t detect any happiness or sadness, just a form, a morphology, a rustling of leaves.
I spent an entire summer with Felix, the wheat-topped son of the couple, but I never met the father. As we made our way along the house, however, we could piece him together from the lines of his creations: the monumental skylights — as uncluttered as skylights could be — were two metres wide each and went uninterrupted until their sum was four, and not a speck of dust could be detected against the light blue; the only visual assonance was the armour of the skylights, eight thin white lines veining the heavens, and one final beam to tether them at the center. Felix and I gathered that he ought to be charismatic and surprisingly forthcoming, or maybe, he was frightened of being stuck, or senseless, or lost. All the rooms of their home were echoes of the last, all made of different tones of wood that demanded adjustment from the eyes; in certain instances, it was nearly impossible to tell what was wall, floor or ceiling, as the three were lined with small wooden panels whose shade could only indicate that, perhaps, the floor was a month older than the wall, or the ceiling was from trees of an adjacent plot to those of the counters. A thick layer of lacquer atop the panels robbed them of any residual contrast, and as the house sloped from the holt, once within, it felt like it was hovering above it, descending into the breath of nature itself. Felix and I figured he must have been melancholic, but not outwardly so, a very thin patina of melancholy that, perhaps, in any normal day of his life, he’d never guess he even had. There was no garden and, as is customary to European summer homes, no physical or imagined separation between what was property and what wasn’t. The house melded into the airy forest almost organically, but still, never failed to draw light into itself or to feel somewhat foreign. As we rose an effigy of symbols in order to give bevel to his father, the sentiment of notness never left the tips of our cogitations. We knew he wasn’t extravagant, or terribly daring, or colourful, or had any bombast; he was another figure of quiescence, and, perhaps with even bigger force, his absence was the most bombastic element of his being. His signature wasn’t just his subtlety, but his inexistance. After we became privy of that, we quickly fatigued of piecing together a presence, or labouring over the fables behind his miniature planes, which were all collected inside the only room completely walled in glass, the only one that felt earthly, human, present. We decided, instead, to pick apart a putrid log fallen onto the echo of the stream and play with the beetle grubs.
I never saw Felix after that summer, twelve years ago. The house was vacant three years after we were there, and after five with a caretaker, it was abandoned and scheduled to be demolished today. Now, I gaze at the same sky of limpid blue and fill it with the fiction of lithe white veins and a strong central tether, and from me spring the sounds of swimmers laughing, and slowly, another summer loses its place in reality, becomes historical, and I walk into my own subtle inexistence, my own inch tucked downwards from the holt, swallowed by the earth, echoed in my dreams.
(I’m going to start publishing some “humbler” poems I have stored and continually write; although I’m quite demanding of, if not the quality of the poetics themselves, at least the attempted quality of the posts, as well as their parsimony, I realise that I’ve become quite obsessive with it, which ebbs against me rather than flow in my benefit. There’s no use in being associated with just density, just longevity, or even just the maximum of what I can provide, if that comes at the cost of the development of veritable writing versatility. Some will indubitably be worse than others, and I still prefer my denser, longer works, if not just because I truly lucubrate over those extensively, but I hold the belief that all of creative work — mine or yours — has a tangible intrinsic worth; perhaps not to all, but it does to me. One ought to practice what one preaches.)
Thank you tons, you guys, João-Maria.
(Also, a huge thank you to Sapna, and the power-double from StarTwo [visual artists and storytellers with such enviable skills, one would be tempted to steal their hands], for nominating me for awards; I don’t reply solely because I have a golden rule of only creating literary-themed posts and none other, otherwise this blog would be a flurry of piano album reviews and tributes to deciduous trees, but I truly, deeply appreciate you guys remembering me; if I did awards, I surely wouldn’t forget you either)
(And a monumental bow to Kaiter, for including me in his circulars whenever my work passes the readable threshold; to be included is — if one is attentive to his beautiful talents, rectitude and rigour — beyond any word that synonyms incredible, and I’m tremendously grateful. If anything, I’m already immensely grateful that I get to enjoy the other contents in his blog and circulars, whose eminent taste I’d recommend to anyone who’d enjoy a step above my own works.)
These days, to write feels almost strange, almost selfish. Torrents of flurries of anxieties ignite the nerves, and one feels leeched before the first phrase forms. Solitude outcasts the voices — depersonalises — and what once was an interaction of linings, echoes of a singular voice with many textures, seems now like a procession of isolated galleys. There is no dismissing of these voices, they haul the murderers, the mercenaries of our creative constructs. A succession of disasters that reshape, with the tools of torture, a disjointed spectre of reality, one that bounces only from itself, and is only madness.
We become inured to the tragedies of our miracles. I see now a Europe leeched dry of its fortitude; Lisbon is empty, and it seems that I plash about inside indifferent space. It feels colder, now, but only because it feels the same. The old gypsy moth flaps its thin veil of dust just the same, crowned in indifference, and my lungs can no longer complete a conscious breath; half of them seems filled with a tasteless disease, and the other half bubbles. It’s fear, the whole sum of it. A small thing traveled so far and rived our world, a world held together by fragile specks of dust with lungs brimming with fear, a world that thrashes around, enchained, servile, a cold point in a warm room. We forgot how to fear wisely, we became inured to the tragedies of being, we’ve heard of them time and time again, how many have died, how they suffered, how the bones of their calloused hands are now the palisades we gawk at, how the arts of those we’ve lost are the lymph and blood of beauty, a beauty made with the hardest of stones abraded by the softest of waters, a beauty made of loss, of cost, of brokenness, and so much of it is now sand in a Greek coast, ash in a Chinese garden, pearls of rime in a Peruvian summit. Our numbness to what once was is filled with fear. We’ve seen a history so unforgiving, we cannot move a foot without the miracle of forgetting, all immediately or simply slowly, that we are here merely to perform a disappearance. This is not our task, this is not our purpose, this is not the whole of what we are, but as one fills the lungs once more and feels them bubble, as one dreads that incoate breath paused by illness and fear, one cannot fail to remember suddenly that half of life is paused with unbecoming, with shedding. Conclusion is a messy, hungry master; it feeds and expands, much as a disease, until there is naught but itself and the warmth of emptiness. I cannot walk in my own city, but I can see it dry and wither from my room, I can see the spectres dart and fling about, the gypsy moths and the pigeons, aureated with the sheen of their indifference, shall now and for a short while be the rulers of our frail legacies, and they shall rule with effortless justice. After all, they have no need to forget, and as blindness is such a dear consort to fear, I spend my days trying to forget even what is to come, trying to knit, below those I love the most, a net of artificial safety. I try to give air to their lungs filled with fear, yet I have so little to spare. Afraid and enclosed, we wonder then: what will tomorrow bring? Another malaise, another death, another end to the means of living? A longer shadow still, it seems, than that of falling so violently ill, is the sensation of falling regardless, the slow and breath-stealing descent that has stricken us, falling, destitute, sick, in pain, afraid. Our pains are fresh, still, and it is long before they heal, and none alive today shall forget the tolls of this tragedy, but it is of little use to ironclad our much-too-real paranoia now, since more wounds will inevitably open. What truly matters now is the power of our painful difference in this world, because as much as we may never again forget the tolls of this immeasurable descent, we must just as strongly be reminded of our ability to alter it: stay home, be generous, listen, be protected and protect those you love. None of us is alone, we are all responsible, we are all entombed by the same fears. Be safe, for you, for us all.
Children picking up our bones Will never know that these were once As quick as foxes on the hill;
And that in autumn, when the grapes Made sharp air sharper by their smell These had a being, breathing frost;
And least will guess that with our bones We left much more, left what still is The look of things, left what we felt
At what we saw. The spring clouds blow Above the shuttered mansion-house, Beyond our gate and the windy sky
Cries out a literate despair. We knew for long the mansion’s look And what we said of it became
A part of what it is … Children, Still weaving budded aureoles, Will speak our speech and never know,
Will say of the mansion that it seems As if he that lived there left behind A spirit storming in blank walls,
A dirty house in a gutted world, A tatter of shadows peaked to white, Smeared with the gold of the opulent sun.
A Postcard from the Volcano, Wallace Stevens.
There’s no peace at all. I came nearer to the sound, a day cast by a wax-white sun that swelled with a tepid aura, and oozed suavely into the shade of the bushes. There’s now but serried bricks and mounds of pale rubble, spotted with blackness that would trail into the brambles and blackberries. My father’s childhood home is now a print of a time that moves in all directions, and not a speck of memory stands within the reticulated squares which were once rooms, not a piece of tinged cloth used to press a pan, not a foot of an old cabinet, or shards of a vase, not even ash from when the house was consumed. Even a ghost by my side, in a deadness as potent as that which whispered by, would undoubtedly find itself sucked dry of its hyaloid windiness. The only thing hammering the mind were flocks of motors rushing upwards nearby; the first national road of Portugal, built years prior to my father ever seeing the first haze of light, was still intactly conserved, heat bounced off the new asphalt like a transparent scourge, dead as the aurora of the derelict, and cars seemingly flutter along a road that has seen wastelands become radiant settlements and return to wastelandishness in the span of a decade or two. A crooked path finding itself stuck underneath the skeletons of the cycles.
There’s nothing left for us. In a land treacly with the scent of orange, pear and grape, a soil thick with bounty, a mantling velvet hued of peridot, there’s a legacy of small bones and abandonment. One of my aunts, taken by typhus at a count of no more than three years, rests earthed-up somewhere along the rocks, near a cork-oak; she was taken to silence before she heard even a song. Beneath the unstained, swelling sunlight, my grandmother had ten children, surviving two of them. The other she did survive ran sylvan in my imagination when I was a child; he was a poet, they say, gifted at the conjuring of words, talents he exhibited from young age. He’d stride the village clamouring his tunes, a chamberless troubadour, a puerile Baudelaire collecting lent lilles and gifting them to the damsels along with mellifluous sonnets. From while to while, however, he couldn’t hold himself against the streak, and was pursued by a bout of inner demons that, seemingly out of nowhere, would give him implacable depressions. Out of all he did write, only a handful of letters he sent from Lisbon to his mother and siblings survived; and, despite my trials, I was never granted a chance to read any. I fill, then, with buckets of vivid paint, what he might have expressed and how he might have impressed it, how his heart may have been burn-bitten, how what environed him as a child and adolescent, the squalid house in which he grew, the indigent life he likely lived, all serve to create this warm, celestial dream in which I conceive of him not as a lost genius, but a genius at trying, beyond his means of trial and beyond the disinterest he was probably met with, as one may assume by the lack of surviving papers.
He died relatively young, purportedly of epilepsy, resulting from complications he had at birth. Unlike the youngest sibling he lost, however, his tombstone still lies in a common graveyard, next to his mother, not two kilometres beyond the forsaken ruins of his childhood. Of what he left, like a pool in heat, all has but dissipated along the web of his multitudinous siblings.
A little ways forward from the derelict house, I can sit atop the brims of a century-old bridge over-crossing a faded stream, upon which only flows a capillary of water, and overlook the fields: there, in the distance, before the hills preclude the view, I still find no peace at all. Peeling back the cover of humidity that beclouds my eyes as the dry sunlight penetrates them, there stands a field of potatoes that was once arable year upon year, owned by a man that raised me year upon year; there, I first had laid a seed, and first harvested the bulb of my seeding. There, I owned my first dog, Estrela, that every afternoon would be released and wander through the entire village, be petted by the baker and the paperboy, the priest and the butcher, and upon the unmistakably voluble and striking whistle that man produced, she would return immediately, without falter. It was a mechanism, a discipline, that I find branded in my stringent mind in form of a whistle that I will never obliviate. There I first fed chicks and was first pecked when I took their eggs, and first darted around twisting reeds river-side so I could break one off and use it as a sword, or a spear to look for spider burrows along the mounds of excess earth from the ploughings.
The field, as the stream, has now all dried-up, and a sheet of hearty gold overlaid it through all manners of desiccated shrubbery. In all of its slumbering victory, looking at it now, from afar, from an underworld of beastly distance, it gives me a terrible cold. There’s no peace of all. The man who raised me there is buried not twenty-steps from the grave of my poetic uncle, which is two metres from my endlessly sacrificing grandmother, which is two kilometres away from my aunt which will perpetually rest in a youthful silence. There comes a point in one’s life where home is but a vast geometry of longing, an unbearable resting place, a cold light. A place shadowed by the towers of our loss. A place with no peace at all, that no one left.
I’ve had this conception since my childhood that we all contain some degree of emotional surrealism within us, some inner set of strings that attempts to disorganise our systems back into their sensorial forms, and, to me, such a tugging between inhabiting orders far too complexified to easily seep into us and listening to our disheveled sensorium tingling tunes that seem so distant, they might as well be eldritch, is the tugging responsible for our yearning to create. Nature is a disorderly place, as much as one likes to ascribe to it profound magnitudes of balance, it is still essential chaos, cruel and demanding and smotheringly bounteous in its expressions, and Spring, in my view, expresses it most; it is the period of survival, florescence and restlessness, the period of greatest demand, filled with equal measures of violence and colourful bombast. It displays something that is quintessential in my view: order is madness, an artificial madness with so many curious spectrums; our disconnection with the natural disorder, that primal wound we carry and oft ignore, that distance to our motherhood — albeit perhaps necessary to maintain the structures and systems we’ve built for social survival — is a wound, an abandonment, which seems forever difficult to balm. With this poem, I attempted to replicate just that: both the overwhelming disorder, and the intensely lyrical nature of Spring and our senses therein, and I did so by instrumentalising parts of my emotional surrealism that trail and fall off, ephemeral thoughts and reflections, alliterations and shifts in voice and tone, repetitions, and a good deal of my botanic and vocabular arsenal. Allusions to mythopoetic women of classical culture, through their realms and domains, are also woven carefully into the composition to summon the froth of the feminine spirit of change and emotional maturity, which, in my catalogue of association, coalesces so marvelously with the notion of naturality and the primaveral.
It’s certainly not, at its core, an easily digestible composition; it is very dense in most poetic aspects, like sound and symbol and image, and I’m sadly aware of this element. But, being raised and still continuing to live in such covenant with Nature, I could never peg it for something simple or parsimonious, as many poetic and prosaic expressions have previously. To me, it’s wondrously intricate and limitless, secretive and glorious, painful and healing. It’s nearly everything, and nearly everything can’t truly be simple in my eyes. Despite its dense qualities, I’m still hopeful that a reader will be able to extract meaning out of it.
Also, it might be a bit odd that a composition regarding Spring comes in February, but inflorescence happens a bit earlier in Portugal. We are already enjoying primareval weathers, and the cart of Spring already turns its vine-wheels through these lands.
Approach, there are voices, a finished star. We select a stick and twist the algae, what does it contain now? At once, everything, all colour and light any eye is to receive; stringy life in vertical lifelessness, and there are systems as hyaline as emotions, finished stars, beginning stars, some are turtles and some, small tadpoles. This sensory realm unfolds its frills and aqueous dreams spur out, yet there is cruelty: this I see, but how do I say it? Systems are cocoons around the unbending, spiritual cages around sensuous shapes, and none is to float in the air they break. A brush is lifted to reproduce the stream, paints percolate and fall like the corpses of a vision; however, this is the vision, the fatality of colours and lights any eye bleeds to receive; the commissures of expression stretch once more, because more is to be said, motions, movements, the bunting of colours as unfocused displays of sensuality that obstreperously flee from the point of magic; nearly suddenly, movement is an object of dissension, a prize of lack, because what moves cannot do so in all orientations nor arrive absolutely. We are taken back, a squalid lucidity flashes the room, a shiver, a warm bright-white sun which is a finished star and a beginning star, perception is formed and is unstinting, the content of a phrase putrefies, a dusty painting. There is futility in order, yet we so orderly design the dream which isn’t dream any longer: the books go here, by the margin, Bach follows above the gleam, a pestitential smile that dims under an odd tugging of loss; yet another membrane of lack, expanded, intumesced, a breathing wound in horizontal breathlessness, a pulley lowering the ropes around our necks until we touch the ground: the world lies right there, there, you may see it, and this you see, but how do you live it? How do you stand in an unsound architecture?
What boils the dream into a tarry sludge is the statuesque essence of extremity, be in ultimate positive insofar as you desire yourself in each millimetre of bled-out sight, each motion of pain and each dimension of possession; an extreme safety banishes an extreme fear, an extreme hatred dissolves an extreme weakness; we are wholesomely corporeal in our dreams, we are flimsy legs and velvet flesh, we are green, sometimes pink, and rarest of all, we can be purple, full things in a full realm of unsmothered movements that stretch in all directions and arrive absolutely in each.
But it is not the profound dissociation from dream and living that languishes the spirit or dries the stream, it is maddening poise of how inextricable they are, those instants of total sensory delivery that are godly hands rending the systems, fledgling swallows in the flocks of words, poppies wavering in the fields of memory, which become themselves the words and the waverings; instants where life is undiscerned from anything else, a pure fount of sense where we become untetherable from the totalities we contain; instants where we become unobliteratable, and thus, disenchanted with obliterative extremes, both dream and dream, life and life, a beginning star and a finished star.
Those are the truths I’d like to keep, the ferment of my writings, my systems, but trying to encapsulate them is like trying to collect bladed plumes; to reproduce them is to shatter the silent nature that allows their force. Perhaps by lack of talent or stamina or persistence or experience, I can never quite get to them, I can never bring someone to that point of exurgent sensory blossoming that informs my creations, but I’m not giving up just yet.
I spent a good deal of December avoiding the written arts entirely; there was this sentiment of emotional threshold, a sensation that the stacks of words I was creating were cindery distillations of ire or sadness. The purge I necessitated to convalesce informed my Art, but I thought it should be contrary, that my Art should instruct the purge, navigate the healing, become a beacon of undiluted self that extended structural fingers of beauty to raise me from any form of depth. My creative reluctance ended with this piece, a malformed narrative schematic-of-a-poem, overwrought and of painful reading, written in a about forty minutes without interruption. I returned to my methodical alcove and once more resigned to the weight of my distortions, yet I’m not ashamed, strangely, because I must herald the authenticity of my expression even when it is a shattered crystal, even when I’m met with the countenance of what I sought to exile from myself; because it is impossible to heal when we are eternally bound to the shame of hurting.
If anyone has been reading me for over a year, you might have detected that the structure of this poem draws much from my older English compositions, such as Emerald Cage and Low Poetics. I wanted to design something that returned to that a bit, and simultaneously, I wanted to write as if I was a child looking at a blossom. I’m not certain I achieved either of those, but there was an intention.
The Lispector’s Egg reference pertains to Clarice Lispector‘s The Egg and the Chicken, a small story that is truly indescribable, much to the likes of all of Lispector’s works. I started reading Lispector when I was very young, and when my mother is sad, she always reminds me of Clarice, a sort of saturnine ethereal being locked to mortality, a misplacement, an injustice of some mystical kind. I believe there is an easily accessible translation of the short-story somewhere online, and I urge you with utmost potency to find it and give it a read.
There is also this beautiful piano-electronic album I’ve been bewitched by, Moon Ate the Dark, which is surprisingly serene yet inspiring and cumbrous. If you like mellow instrumentals, especially for reading or writing, give it a chance.
I don’t always know how to write poetry; well, I do know how it is meant to be written, I just can’t say I know how to write it. Every time I write a poem, it feels like I’m learning to write poetry all over, and over, and over, stretching longitudinally like a row of trees lining an horizon, perpetually learning how to grow. Hence why, I believe, it is so difficult to publish something I’ve written; I essentially have no perception of my evolution, thus, I can’t really feel like I’ve evolved. I can objectively put a poem of mine from years ago and one that I’ve just written, and of course I prefer the latter, but merely because I am the latter presently, and I shall never again be the former nor feel it in the dimensions I felt it when it was penned. But this is a hurdle that extends to life, at least in some ways. We can say we have evolved, but it is hard to pinpoint the whys, the hows, the morphology we had and now have seem, at times, entirely disconnected, separate autonomous beings, and sighting ourselves in retrospect can often feel like seeing something entirely eldritch, the sun that warmed us then doesn’t feel like the same sun, the waters we bathe in don’t feel like the same waters, and there is this strange sentiment, like we are perpetually learning how to grow, how to do these same things in new ways, ways that match our new beings.
(Thank you for reading me, I know I’ve been diffuse lately, but even if I’m not great at this, I always try to give the best of myself that I have, and I’m incredibly grateful that you allow me that luxury)
In spirit of support for Hong Kong’s recent and on-going social struggle, I decided to review one Cantonese work that had the vastest artistic influence over myself and my own creative method, and that work is, without an inkling of doubt, Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together, made in 1997. This film proved to be the deserved consolidation of Wai’s directorial style and, simultaneously, a unique insight into Hong Kong’s LGBTQ+ dynamics as well as the specific emotional axioms of abusive relationships in a profound state of isolation. The film, armed with a minimalist cast of only three actors and an even more parsimonious and unfinished script that weaves itself together by means of image and sound, is a sprawling exploration about the coalescence of masculinity and the tumultuous and abashing treatment of LGBTQ+ communities in certain countries, a mixture that exacerbates a type of emotional mutism and reinforces the role of violence, both emotional and physical, in replacing the lack of communication and expressive clarity that should lie at the heart of any interpersonal relationship.
The relationship between Ho Po-wing, an airy and infantile man whose volatility proves highly obliterative, and Lai Yiu-fai, a depressive and internally unstable individual who finds himself in a perpetual performance of silent self-destruction, serves as the machine-of-war for the film’s dark existence; Ho Po-wing recurrent malediction, «Let’s start over.», made whenever the relationship felt most strenuous, was further engraved by his purchase of a lamp that resembled the Iguazu Falls, which the couple had planned to visit. This lamp acts as the central nervous system of a relatively diaphanous narrative. Both Ho’s infatuation with it and Lai’s attachment to what it represents seems to tether them both to a sense of eventual romantic actuation: as long as the luminous waters of the lamp cascade, so does the blood of the conjoined and corrupting heart of their relationship. The film then shifts its focus to the exploration of Lai’s convalescence from this deeply abusive relationship, one that left him with the sorrow of survival and confusion thereof, to survive outside and beyond a mechanism of abuse that slowly became his raison-d’être, one that left him felt alone, lost, ashamed, betrayed and obliterated, trapped in a country which wasn’t his own and unable to return.
Wong Kar Wai’s lavishly dim cinematographic aesthetics, after gaining emboss in Chungking Express (1996), are further consolidated in Happy Together; the recurrent chromatic shifts that play upon the levels of narrative magnitude, the derelict and harsh environments reverberated by a sanitised, dry usage of light that appear as a signature of both his thematic emotional acuity and as a replication of Hong Kong’s own neon-spent frigid and synthetic streets, and the instrumentation of visual punctuations, chiefly exemplified by the films opening scene, a sanguine and heaving sexual encounter whose aggressiveness is found in both the actors and the corner-angled, gradually more intimate shots; the aesthetic interludes of the film also serve as vibrant expository conveyors, and such is the case with the bird’s eye shot of Iguazu Falls which is overlaid with a low-saturation filter and backgrounded by Caetano Veloso’s Cucurrucucú paloma, a pensive song about the destructive motions of lovesickness; shots like the kitchen tango scene, or the culmination of Lai’s emotional devastation in the voice recorder scene, are made with a level of artistic direction that, as far as my experience with film goes, has no parallel in how effectively it translates the most profound and vicious elements of emotional abuse in romantic relationships.
With a soundtrack that includes Astor Piazzolla’s Tangos, Frank Zappa’s I Have Been In You, and a cover of Happy Together by The Turtles (which inspired the English name of the film), Wai assures not only that every scene receives and apposite sound, but also that all the themes intertwine seamlessly, something he was already famed for after the release of Chungking Express and its memorable usage of California Dreamin’.
Lastly, I would like to express my support for the Cantonese people; their culture and heritage is not only thronged with beautiful works, it also had a magnificent impact on the cultural productions of today, on and beyond Cinema. One such example is Nicholas Wong’s Crevasse, a guttural poetry collection about growing up LGBTQ+ in Hong Kong that I could not recommend more.