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.
(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.
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.
(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.
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.
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)
Only in false gold have my eyes shimmered; I’m a sphynx without mystery at sight. The sadness of things that never happened descend in my soul as a veiled light.
In my pain, craving swords are broken, illuminated arrows blend with dark. The shades flowing from me are torn apart, as with yesterday, to me, today is forsaken.
I quiver no longer in face of secrecy; Nothing torments me, not even gore: Life flows through me like a war, Without a single breath of fear!
I’m a drunken star who lost its skies, a maddened mermaid who left the sea; A godless temple crumbling to its lies, A false statue still held highly.
Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Paris, 5 of May of 1913
MERCEDES IN HER FLIGHT
A gelid and upright guitar is what you are in rocks of height. A throatless voice, a dark voice sounding everything without sounding anything.
Your thoughts are snow slipped by the infinite glory of whiteness. Your profile a perennial burn, your heart a freed dove.
Sing, sing in the freedom of air, that fragrant dawning melody, mound of light and wound of lily.
So that we, down here, day and night shall make in the corners of sadness a garland of melancholy.
Federico García Lorca
55, Rain Passage
«In each raindrop my failed life cries within nature. There is something in my drop-by-drop disquiet, in the downpour-to-downpour with which the sadness of a day unbecomes uselessly over the earth. It rains heavily, so heavily. My soul is humid just by hearing it. So heavily… My flesh is liquid and aqueous wrapping around my sensation of it. A restless cold places those frigid hands around my poor heart. The grey hours stretch out, flatten themselves upon time; the moments drag out. How it rains! The gutters spit out scant torrents of water always suddenly. Slithers through my knowledge that there are pipes with an unsettling noise of down-spurt. Rain bangs against the glass, indolent, moaning.
A cold hand grips my throat and impedes me from breathing life. Everything dies within me, even the knowledge that I can dream! In no physical sense am I fine. Every softness in which I recline has edges for my soul. All eyes I look upon are so dim after this indigent daylight breaks onto them so it can die without pain.»
Fernando Pessoa (through Bernardo Soares), 1914(?) in Book of Disquiet
«What imprecise queen holds near her lakes the memory of my broken life? I was the pageboy of promenades too insufficient to the aerial hours of my blue stillness. Distant ships completed the sea by waving over my terraces, and in southern clouds I lost my soul, like a dropped paddle.»
Fernando Pessoa (through Bernardo Soares), 1918(?), in Book of Disquiet
Again, not quite as potent as I would have it; writing compositions over days (or, at times, weeks) allows for a more refined method of writing, but some assaulting sensations end up becoming elements of works where they don’t necessarily belong, which makes the process muddy. Sieving said sensations, percolating them, becomes a bit of an exercise in taste more than anything else. If only this had a science (it wouldn’t be half as interesting if it did). I also realise that merely saying these are translations doesn’t do much without access to the original texts, so, I’ve provided it here. If you do happen to know Portuguese (olá), and would like to offer translation feedback, I would be immensely grateful of such, since my translation skills are rather primal.
I’m always on the prowl for ambient sounds apt for concentration, quest which led me to some of the most endeared songs of my library. Recently, I came across Ensō, by Fort Nowhere, followed by my procurement of what Ensō meant, the discovery of that Japanese spiritual practice, along with Japanese aesthetics, which I explored through various sources until I came upon this article, which features a series of Japanese aesthetic principles along with an Ensō ( which completed a full circle in my quest, interestingly). Inspired by the various principles presented in the article, I attempted to create seven compositions related to how those principles interact (although at times a bit loosely) with my own ontological views. I paired each principle with a material or substance, to have both a thematic and a cosmetic focus for each poem. They are simple, very simple poems, some plangent, some more delicate, all of them written in the same style but independent of one-another, which means you may read only the one you feel most drawn to, or read all in the hope that you might like at least one of them. They are ordered as follows:
Needless to say, they are more modernistic than oriental in tonality and form, but my primary attempt was to coalesce the two in my own style. I don’t feel that I was fully successful, but I decided to heed to my most oriental principle: just to let them be. I produced them in two hours, in Portuguese, and did not edit them. I still hope you managed to extract something valuable or, at least, be entertained. Thank you much for reading, João-Maria.
Writing poems has, slowly, become a ritualistic exercise of hindering the velocity of my mind-dialectic, give it a shape, try to understand what it is I’m trying to reach. I rarely ever reach it. Various elements go missing, and I end up scouring a wreckage more-so than exploring an inner architecture. That is the thing, though, things don’t often come out as they are, and less often come out as they should, but it’s still important that they do.
The “you” element is not something I ordinarily use in English poetry, I don’t always like the form it takes in English, as it feels more dual than I believe it should. This poem, however, as all of those I’ve recently published, is translated from its Portuguese original. Don’t judge it too harshly, he is not from here, you see…
I haven’t been writing poetry quite as much, often opting instead for prose or even the marvelous lassitude of notes and aphorisms, and that is mostly due to this strange bout of ineffective thought. I contain the outlines, the emboss and image of a poem, but my mind is rather accelerated and disperse thereafter, it creates these arabesque and disjointed blocks of paltry expression. I’m sure this poem ought to mean something, and I could make a case for what that might be, it is the form that seems oddly disconcerting, an etiolated flower, the white patch of a limestone shatter. I’m hopeful it is one of those problems that fixes itself, a phase of sorts. Otherwise, I might need to invest in writing novels.
Thank you so much for reading, if you’ve done so, — joão-maria.
I could probably write as many poems of anxiety as there are poems of anxiety left to be written, or, better yet, I could likely claim that every poem I have is, at least partially, a poem of anxiety. I’ve also resigned to my dread of giving titles to compositions; unless they come naturally to me while conceiving a poem (or, in other words, before I’ve written said poem) I never feel as if my titles are adequate in approximation. So, I suppose I’ll be a titular minimalist, see if it suits me, perhaps it might.
If you, too, suffer from this ailment (which in this modern world of ours, seems inextricably woven into our fabric of being), I can’t provide a pyre or tell you that you’re not alone; you are not alone, but our caltrops of loneliness are not ones we can dodge merely equipped with the knowledge of companionship, but one we can bear the pains of by cultivating a veritable motion of hearing, of communicating individually, within and without. We are not alone in others, we are alone within ourselves; the only pyre, the only voice which is worthwhile in exiting that artificial solitude, is your own within yourself, and if it stands sincere and kind, it shall too reverberate in others, which shall return the same measure of sincerity and kindness; if not, they are undeserving of your pain, and you still hold yourself firm. This is, of course, my experience.
My communications are always open if (hopefully exempt of vaticination) those pestiferous ghosts of anxiety come to plague you. I will help as I best I can.