Vanity by Florbela Espanca

Recently, I came across the endlessly talented Tadzio and his blog of English translations of Italian poems. A little apprehensive at first, I decided to give a shot of my own at translating some of my most adored portuguese compositions.

Florbela is the poet I credit with my interest in composing, so it would be fair to say that any verse of mine you might have liked, is due to her incredible humility and fine-crafted lyricism. Very devalued in life, she now stands as the most important female poet of the portuguese poetic pantheon, one whose influence reaches far and wide within our culture.

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And its portuguese, original version:

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Disclaimer: I’m not a professional or academic of this subject, this translation is merely an attempt at a very arduous and respected Art, that of translating poetry, and I have no intentions of devaluing it with my impish attempts.

Second Disclaimer: I did severely alter the verse that mentions “saudade”. There is a common myth that saudade is an exclusive word of Portuguese, and there is another common myth debunking the former, stating that “longing” and “missing” are direct translations. Neither are correct, there are translations of saudade, and also imports, as Catalan shares the same word (thus making it not exclusive), and other languages have direct translations. English is not one of them. Missing or longing do not mean saudade.

I could not recommend more that you visit The Container and be delighted with Tad’s brilliant translations.


etchings of youth.

A crucible of sincerity, vulnerability and late hours can create some of the most painful compositions.

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Poetry Lab #1


Movement in Animation
Three-layer animated composite


The image above, if carefully examined, displays three differently animated levels distinguishable by their relation to velocity and, by consequence, Time. This animation device has been used to display certain feelings in a much clearer way: her face is animated carefully and slowly, every frame is fluid, to inspire serenity and placidness. Her hair is animated frantically, with frames leaping between animation with little fluidity, alluding to a chaotic exterior and high intensity movement. The background, although blurred, also happens at a time different from the other two layers, presenting a both static and simultaneously – moving – backdrop. This allows for a certain displacement through the fluidity of our space, allowing Art to perforate the emotional human sensors without replicating at all what those sensors are used to, by thematic association. Our world feels much like that of the animation, it constantly moves, yet we cannot fully absorb all it’s evolutions and changes, in turn, accounting for a hollow movement that we can only relay through “mental bookmarks”, like special occurrences, producing a more stop-still version of reality (similar to the one animated above), instead of flowing realistic approach to time.

In fact, Art has a plethora of examples using different composite time frames to convey a sense of “overlook” or “outlander” sentiment among its viewers, mainly present in sensorial arts like music or painting.

To literature – an Art intimately connected with the frugality of time and how it can be controlled within its frames – this device most likely has been used, but never deeply explored. In this first edition of poetry lab, I will attempt to harness my marginal composing experience to translate those planes of time dissonance into the realm of poetry. As I’ve done a good amount of experimental poems in my short time here, I’ve never taken the time to explain the processes or missions behind those experiments, and now I’m headstrong on taking you on my composing journey:


First, we need to figure out how to distend time properly within a written line of text. Poetry, by its very sonorific nature, makes this superficially easy by use of verse length and syllabic control:

I dreamt of latent love, yet within, darkness still reigns unkind, (11 words, 15 syllables)

Air to flame, implored by sinuous shadows, (7 words, 11 syllables)

Extinguish their fear to die. (5 words, 7 syllables)

Following an ordered decrescent sound, each verse has the same amount of syllables as the words of the verse that precedes them (11, 15), (7, 11), (5, 7). This, however, inspires a singular timeline instead of multiples ones, giving a sense that time is accelerating and thus, “running out”. But why not the contrary? Why does it not recall time just slowing down? This is annulled by the temporal references in all verses, displayed in a gradient from past (dreamt, implored), to present (extinguish, to die).

Like mentioned above, this does not relay multiple times but instead, just one flowing in-unit but changing exponentially. We can, however, salvage this later when we compose full stanzas by separating their descriptive nature through the usage of this method. So, instead of separating verses according to time, we will separate stanzas according to what line they represent by giving them symbols:

Stanza 1 – first tempo (11, 15) (plane of interior occurrence, introspection, visual devices must appear here)

Stanza 2 – second tempo (7, 11) (plane of exterior sensorial captures, noise, static, distortion and interruption, sound devices must appear here)

Stanza 3 – third tempo (5, 7) (plane of universal awareness, no sensorial, visual or sound devices can appear here, detached information must not contain emotional draws)

This is merely scratching the surface of what this method can produce, as a shift in the structure mid-composition can relay powerful messages of emotional re-focus, or give a sense of expanding/shortening of knowledge at any given point. The main objective here, however, is that the poem is able to speak to itself and the conversation won’t sound too unphased, so we will stick to the good ol’ repetition, by creating one more set of stanzas with same structure, but different in essence.

As the composition is mainly experimental, I will utilise common meanings I’m familiar with for the sake of my mental sanity (and short amount of time per day I have to compose), those of love and solitude in a frugal world where such things are generally devalued:



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As demonstrated above, I initially compose the first part of the composition within a relatively ordered and rhymed structure, using the lines written above as a visual guide to building the remaining verses. Although this version partially gets the job done, it’s still rather obscure that frames shift between stanzas, and I attempt a more lax yet word-based second part in an attempt to compensate the rigid/restrictive shape of the first version:

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I’ve since let a day pass before writing that second part, as to refresh my information absorption and be less likely influenced by the same recurrent pieces of reception still being digested within (a great advice I’ve accidentally left out of my poetic tips). This second version, although not apparently very different from the first in terms of how it was constructed, manages to convey both the message, the subject and the quest of time much better than the previous, not by means of its structure, but by how words are ordered coupled with how they intertwine, generating a sense of shift from when they fuse and when they don’t (thus, sound shifts).

I must now refine and finish the composition on my own, and publish it similarly to all other poems on the website, but that boring part I intend on doing by myself.

I’m not a professional or academic in this subject, therefore, all conclusions are from my viewpoint and might conflict with certain academic standings out there (although from my research, I’ve found none), but none of this is fact or close to it, I’m just trying to have some fun with words and I hope you’re entertained as well!

PS: Tell me what you think of posts similar to these, I’m planning a bunch more since I have about 20 pages of notes about different composing methods I would like to attempt!



(para leitores de lingua portuguesa)
Escrevi um pequeno ensaio acerca de três amigos meus que admiro muito, principalmente pela sua escrita. Todos escrevem nesta plataforma, n’Os Outros, um blogue dedicado às crónicas e escrita livre, dotado duma magnitude incrível tanto em variedade como em qualidade.

Abancados nas meandras duma única távola, dedilhavam bárbaros de selvajaria mortal dentre seus cabelos meticulosamente toucados. Seriam esses reflexos nos nutrientes figmentados que lhes dariam grande elevação real, ou talvez nos ossos partidos de seus sujeitos e nas farpas brotando dessa carnagem demente.

Jóhann apostava-se charmoso, confluindo a estética com intervenções calculadas que minimizavam a sua exposição emocional, retornando com mais poder social na sua frieza medida. Em sua fachada de olhar ternuroso, exibia a exaustão interior d’um Romeu eternamente desolado. Sentia, logo doía, e enquanto andava doendo, sangrava nas suas expressões humildes. Foi, mas já não era, e o Tempo pesava-lhe nos seus ombros baixos, tanto que lhe haveria desenhado mentalmente um calendário maia nas suas costas. E enquanto lá se revoltava com as barbaridades/banalidades, balançava a força do silêncio com a magnitude da palavra. Sentia-lhe o Cássio dos Reis, pronto a embuscar letalmente quem a ele se elevasse…

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Tenho para mim. (poesia portuguesa)

Estou feliz de-novo, como tal, a minha poesia está a recuperar. Peço desculpa pela supressão de conectores, estou a tentar usar sonoridades mais brasileiras, sendo que são também mais compactas. Como gosto tanto das duas variantes de Português, pensei, porque escrever só numa?

(Cá em Portugal, chamamos Alfaiates ao que no Brasil se dizem aranhas d’água, pequenos insectos que deslizam sobre águas paradas)

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Queda do Dia em Texto (para P.R. CUNHA)

Quem me trata p’lo meu nome saberá que o meu forte não é a prosa. O meu pensamento é poético, versado, quase que se divide sozinho dentro de mim. A meio de ler a obra de Paulo Cunha, alguém que guardo como um fabuloso amigo, deparei-me muitas vezes com memórias de tons existencialistas e decididos. Fui escrevendo, também eu, algumas dessas. Não chego aos pés do meu adorado Cunha, mas confesso gostar muito de escrever pequenos textos de vez em quando, e desta vez, fi-lo por causa dele, achando justo que a ele o atribua. Cunha, meu amigo tropical, que encontres alguma beleza nas minhas humildes palavras:


A música é o movimento da mais pura adoração. Sei das primeiras vezes que havia tocado nas teclas envernizadas d’um piano, lembro-me da sua escala de notas me ser natural, já a sabia antes de a ter aprendido, pois fazia sentido. As notas – essas – são sentimentos tangíveis, e quando nos passam, fazem-no à lei da bala, todas elas de raspão. Numas alturas, defino tudo o que senti em leves composições, desde profunda tristeza nas nocturnas, alegria vicejante nas ninfas dançantes, ou amor… nos planetas solitários, orbitando quem tanto os ama, sem nunca lhes tocar. Somos assim, somos canções. Por vezes, num movimento tão lentificado que quase se abate em quebra, somos as notas decididas que profundamente pisam a tecla do piano, produzindo um som por inteiro, um sorriso. Noutras, somos as investidas velozes levemente tocadas, não temos peso, não temos massa, levitamos por um mundo decididamente nosso. E eu, passando a minha pele gasta de mansinho p’las teclas do meu piano, sou o inventor desse mundo teu. Pinto-o de crescendos, escrevo-o com anotamentos, e quando as minhas notas se abatem sobre mim, beijo-as. Elas estendem seus frágeis braços aéreos, e eu encontro-os, e se a minha ternura fosse, d’alguma maneira divina, maior do que é, fundiria-me com esses braços.
Porventura, havia quebrado d’amores por um moço eternamente triste. Tão triste era, que me doía o peito quando o vi a tocar pela primeira vez no meu humilde piano. Uma mística interessante, essa tão humana de nos sucumbir um órgão musculoso que em nada tem a ver com o próprio sentimento. Muitas vezes pensei nessa medida, porque me dói o coração, se apenas bombeia sangue? Mas dói. A dor está lá, toda condensada, e quando se dá o primeiro impulso, radia por todos os figmentos do corpo, através do sangue que a transporta. Eu nunca amei com o coração, mas lá haveria sofrido muitos horrores amorosos, e por tantas vezes, ele próprio haveria tentado saltar de mim fora. Esse moço triste de quem falo sofreria dos mesmos males, carregava suas dores na algibeira, e quando se ajoelhava perante as grandes artes, eram suas dores que o capturavam em suas diversas algibeiras, usando-o como uma luva murcha, daquelas de couro que já não servem a ninguém, e pior, umas cujo par já se haveria perdido entre outras tantas gavetas.
Esse moço triste havia tocado exclusivamente para mim uma composição que anteriormente lhe havia dito que nunca conseguira tocar, Vexations, do meu adorável Satie. Sempre gostei muito de a ouvir, invocava em mim uma imagem mental da qual sempre assumi ser filho – o intocável, condenado ao desamor, condenado à solidão intelectual. Quando a tocou, curiosamente, eu havia sentido algo tão visceral, tão diferente. Senti um encontro, uma fusão modesta de dois seres que viveram sós durante séculos, que se encontram e derretem num só, e amam verdadeiramente, com olhos humedecidos, o só em que se encontram.
Nesse dia, teria acreditado encontrar um amor qualquer dentro de mim, ímpeto mas já murcho, uma flor solitária e sedenta que alguém lhe sussurre o método de como a água flui, de como fluirá até ela, mas que se recusa a morrer enquanto não lhe for sacrificado o sabor dessa água. Hoje, já não sei onde anda essa flor, espero que esteja bem, e oro baixinho nos dias mais quentes que não esteja a sofrer muito com o frio lá debaixo. Por vezes, quando sinto os raios do sol na fronte, acredito que ela também os sente. Noutras vezes, quando toco no meu humilde piano, sinto que ela canta silenciosamente, tanto que não a oiço, mas sinto o movimento dos seus lábios petulosos. Nesse dia, teria acreditado encontrar um amor qualquer dentro de mim. Também nesse dia, acredito o ter perdido no meio de toda essa dor radiada pelo meu sangue. E acredito (embora diga isto muito baixinho) que nesse dia também me devem ter amado a mim.

Para sempre teu adorador,

João Maria.



Maybe one of my most thought out compositions, this one is mostly surreal, in the style of the elder french poets. It drawns purely from existentialism and it can be somewhat complicated to unravel, so if you have any questions, just pop em up.


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(Disregard the graphic elements, I was trying these out on paper and then tried to replicate them here)


NAME OF WAR (english poetry)

This one is very special.

A little while back, I talked about my Caliath volumes and how the first four were disowned. For good reason, they contain all my poems from the peak of my depression from 15 to 17 years of age, meaning they have incredibly saddening and dark poetics that I don’t like getting back to. Recently, I decided to uncover them and attempt to read some. I didn’t get very far, but I decided to translate one of the poems from that time into English.

Disclaimer: This one, Name of War (Nome de Guerra in Portuguese), is not at all inspired by the racial induced of 1675 in New England, rather by a book of portuguese authorship, by José Almada Negreiros, which I was reading at the time. Despite being sad, I hope you enjoy it.

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