on evolving

on becoming1on becoming 2on becoming 3on becoming 4


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.

on Goya

Saturn Devouring His Son, 1819-1823


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.

Thank you, and have a lovely Sunday!,
João-Maria.

on Inness

George Inness, “The Roman Campagna“, 1874


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.

Thanks for reading,
João-Maria.

(Droplet) vesaas.

Jonathan Levitt, Echo Mask

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.

Jonathan Levitt, Echo Mask

katabasis

Ivan Marchuk, Moonlit Night 1882


Ivan Marchuk

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’m sorry, father. I miss you.

(Droplet) jupiter, the loneliest planet.

The tourist – Paolo Jommelli
(I did not want to further saturate feeds with images of masks and solitude; this image, now a feeling of “what once was”, seems perfect to me presently. There are two layers of past in it: that of a gathering we won’t soon see again, and that of the ship, a forgotten relic of previous struggles.

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.

Thank you so much for still being here.

(Droplet) the diminishing of writing.

Shira Gold with Good Grief, chapter of Shock, is a rending exploration of elemental loss and recovery. Shock covers a stage of both isolation and fatality.

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.

Shira Gold with Good Grief, chapter of Shock; I cannot encourage you enough to perscrutate her work, she stands as one of my favoured discoveries of 2019.

Happy Together (1997)

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.

paladin, 17 (english poetry)


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…

Endless gratitude for reading
João-Maria.

(Memnos II) – A Silence In Which No One Sings

memnos 2.1memnos 2.2memnos 2.3memnos 2.4memnos 2.5


        I’d like to think that, if you made it to this point, you hold the glory that my poem holds not, as you withstood it. I don’t particularly like anything I produce these days, but this one was a delicate endeavor to iron-out. Written over nearly two months, revised hundreds of times, wholesomely deleted in countless others, I don’t think any poem has ever caused me this amount of hardship in conception. Alas, I truly wanted to write another poem-of-memory, this turn related to my first youthful love and how I’ve felt about it hitherto.

        If you’re still with me, my gratitude is endless. I cannot fathom someone reading the entirety of this composition, but if you’ve liked even a portion of it, it would already allow worth into my strain, for which I would be unfathomably happy.


Johnny

(PS: The poem “Alto Como o Silêncio” is by Santomean poet Maria Manuela Margarido, which I translated for the purpose of citation; to my knowledge, there is no translated version of her works by a professional in such field)

(Memnos I) – Alluvium

Untitled2.png


        I was vanished; A most egotistical subterfuge, but naught without its proper cost. Approaching my date of birth by last December, I suffered a massive plunge in my mental integrity, followed by some level of tragedy, anguish, and some sparse instances of recuperation. This is most common to me since my early childhood, yet, still incredibly difficult to pull through. I am yet to fully pull through…

          I cannot outwardly write in such deep chasms of self, and my emotional sensibility becomes convoluted, nearly surrealistic, without a geometric nor organic form, which is a common symptom of a hindered artistic performance. Some find beauty in that hindrance, and to some degree, so do I; It is different, however, when one is the recipient of such chaos. To augment a fragmented emotional self is a perilous task, as it differs from the plenitude of wholesome transmission — where the emotion is left in the rear-view mirror — and instead magnifies the locations of shattering.

         Although I may not claim to be as rejuvenated as I would like, I still very much miss this sumptuous community of poets which I adore so dearly, and counted each second to return; For now, I will publish only small and unambitious inklings of poetry that I shape from memories of my childhood, as the one displayed above, as to ease myself into descriptive views and then transition into the emboss of emotional production once I am more prepared to do so.

But I’ve missed this so much; I didn’t think I would be as happy as I am now, but it truly bathes me with joy…


JOHNNY

A woman. (english poetry)

a woman1

a woman2


To my Grandmother; I’d wish to make something better for her, one day. But I’ve always been enchanted with her choice to stay, despite everything, she stays in her home, and intends to die there and nowhere else. That is a beauty I cannot yet capture.

But one day, Avó, one day.

She wasn’t taught to read nor write, so I know my greatest communication isn’t adequate for her. But, growing up by her side, I knew to communicate differently; with truly firm hugs, and the trémule of one’s voice, the pulse of a touch — all truly worth saying, dispenses words, as it lives above, purely in the senses.

She will never read my poems, but she knew them before anyone did. She knew them, even those I do not yet know.

JOHNNY

 

⌉|⌈ – Für Alina

In 1976 — a year hardened by a big exodus within European confines, Alina, then eighteen years of age, left Tallin, Estonia, for a more promising life in England. Shipping in embrace with her father, she left only her mother, who was left in solitude. Arvo Pärt, by then a long-time friend of the family, syphoned from his years of composing and wove one of the most influential and sumptuous works of musical minimalism — Für Alina, the emblem of his tintinnabuli stylistic approach.

Music, unlike any other basilar-Art, envelops and takes command of a singular sense perception, and opposite to what modernistic music-videos would have you believe, Music itself pylons above little else than sound. Any aesthetic extension is dismissible to the gestalt of a piece. If a composition cannot support itself, a music-video has no worth, and shan’t amend the issue, since it is not constituent to the Art at-hand. There is, however, a very important semblance of aesthetic (by medium of thematic) in Music, laid at the very core of what makes Music, well, Music: giving order to noise and shape to silence — the simplest, most sincere description of the Art. 

Pärt, however, had many trepidations with that unique conception of his craft, and his dark, strikeful soul, compounded with the frigidity and abound lifelessness of the Estonian landscapes, opened those mires of sound that would pend and dip into those chilling waters of silence. He discovered that, perhaps, the soul of a weeping mother, missing and fearing dearly for her child, might connect more with the softness of absent sound than with the cadence and encore of a sole violin.

At roughly seventeen, I first heard this composition being played at a concerto in Lisbon’s suburbs, held in a poorly-lit office room with what felt like six sombering, silent listeners. Maybe such setting allowed me to feel the profound isolation hand-crafted by Arvo, the lingering restlessness of his notes, coalesced with sumps of a silence so-dense, so terribly overwhelming, it becomes a luscious shade that dances around you, and beats at tandem to a shrivelled heart. Alina was gone. Alina left, and with her, she took only her mother’s light, her mother’s life. And how many have done so, since, like Alina has? How many left? Leaving in their wake, the sounds of marching feet, slammed doors, doleful grunts and grievous wounds, followed by a prompt of marginal silence? Silence so long, so withering, it seems to hug you with heat?

Für Alina soothes (and suits) best those who feel abandoned at the margins of a big, haunting desolation, much like Arvo did, much akin to Alina’s mother; but also, the composition itself does not lean only on a negative effect — there is, simultaneously, moments were it lends itself to the release of youth, to the prospect of a more-complete life, a stroll of innocence within the avenues of a reality where such innocence is rewarded, and not condemned nor abused. But all the while, silence is still there, thus, pain is too; no truthfully sincere vision of a positive future may exist in a bubble of suspension, there must be descent, that bubble too must pend and dip into the chilling waters of silence; there is no courage in leaving without fear for what is left behind. Arvo, then, dares not to shy away from his still-silent soul, one that still hurts much, even in the moments when it hurts less. Arvo then upheld the truth of a minimalist — that sadness and serenity cannot be fully translated by adagios and staccatos, that release and catharsis cannot be fully translated by crescendos and da capos, but that Music itself exists only because Silence does, too. This idea, this seed that Silence itself can be a carrier of Art, a medium of emotion far beyond our conventional perception of music, was thought of way before Pärt existed, but he alone mastered the weaving of silence beyond any of his predecessors, acing it with a grace and mastery equal only to the silent landscapes of his Estonian youth. 

I often ponder on this, for Pärt heavily influences my poetry, perhaps more than many poets I admire, and without ever stringing a singular verse; I connect more with his silence, than to the pristine sound of a Shakespearian sonnet; Because I am made of more silence than I am of memories of rosie lips and venetian balconies. Because life is as much a song, as it is a pause. A long, beautiful song, and a longer, sombering pause. 


I will leave you with a fellow Portuguese artist, Joana Gama, playing Für Alina with incredible technique and properness:


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Irrigation, friends.


        Leaned against the customary elm tree, some would take aim at nouvelle psychologies, others would echo life-bound lessons at the bottom of a plastic beer cup. If elation existed on summary, little else would be needed to describe the happiness blooming from friendship. I’d spent my few years of breath on fighting prejudice and carving a spot in the landscapes, as to measure the weight of my sins with that of my embraces.

              Little was expected, less was requested, and the ley-lines of kinship were bursting with movements: an arm around my shoulders, a hug so firm it freezes my flesh, turning a moment into a brass statue made to be outwardly admired. I had understood the height and worth of my words, I learned to love my speech and to gaze at the walk as a path worth replicating. I have known silence, I have known solitude; and how pallid, chalky visions they seem to have become. The lines of simplicity are aligned with themes of highest complexity, and the unrest is only natural when we serve the lordship of inner exploration; a while back, I’d coin myself as a poet of the simple and sincere, but I’m none of the sort. Life is as complex as it is simple, and the figments in between are the colours of its palette, poetry is just the chrome I use to coat the rust of days. Not much is simple about those days.

              In the Portuguese island of Madeira, levadas carry waters from the highest elevation to the southern plateaus, effectively reproducing veins. To create these channels, colonists had to burn the island for months due to its thick rainforest, essentially taking what they would then give back.
There is a certain parallel to all of this, there is a reason why levadas come to mind while I hug some of my dearest friends. A paradigm that unfolds itself on living parataxis, through disconnected clauses that present themselves as an older slide-show, burning ever-so-slightly in the heat of their projector. There is pain is non-return; there is despair in frugality; there is missing and there is saudade; a method of regret over tears that we couldn’t help but shed, a process of reclaiming days where we lived poetry just by staying in bed.

              I strike at Time and it inevitably strikes back. I bathe in the hypocrisy of blaming Time for its callous nature, rather than acknowledging my blunder as a human wired to thrive on disfunction. I see all, and during some shadowy nights, I could have declared that we all did. We all see where it hurts, what it takes, and how it must. We all live, breathe, evolve and suffocate beneath that same dust. And perhaps I carry little more than awareness that the hug was gaining momentum over those days of isolation, from the topmost of those pallid visions to the plateaus of my heart, smoothly hauling what it is to be human until that moment of touch, of irrigation, of a thrist so repressed, it pinnacles as it blooms into that sincerity and simplicity, into that hug that simply transmits: I need you, and I didn’t know I needed you, because I’m faulty and inadequate, but now I know that I need you. That is all I know, and all I need to know.

             Some of my friends are poets, and undoubtedly, they will be better than I could ever. Holding them in these fragile arms, along with the belief that briefly, I could inspire them, is all the greatness I think I will ever need.


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Sunken Soul, debris.

“Sad is what I am — what I will always be,
 an artist is born in form of a shipwreck,
 and henceforth, that same sunken soul
 shall live from scavenging the debris.”

          Existence is often homogenous with the ebb of an ocean — composed of movements, violent thrusts against the shore, soothing hymns that ascend from the waves, to the tip of a cello’s arc, producing the sharpest sounds whose harmony is replicable only by natural flow. As vast and nightmarish as the ocean can be, so can existence. As exurgent and garish its reflective surface can be, so can life be cloaked with that same brightness, when we collect at a table with dear friends, when we peak in a laughter so sharp, it hits the arc of that cello, producing a sound only the heart can see, an expression only movement can encapsulate, doing so calmly… and tenderly.

          One thematic I’ve been avoiding for quite a while is that of nomenclature, am I a writer? Perhaps a poet? Maybe, even, an artist stripped of specification? Do any of those names represent what I am, or rather, what I want to be? What constitutes a writer, a poet, an artist? What constitutes me? All questions whose validity is seeded on a necessity to exist beyond mere existence, beyond the ocean of movements and its tides, where I’m able to become the conductor of my being instead of allowing ebbs and flows to erode me, until I have shapes worth naming. But then, a vision occurs from that breath of epiphany: that of a fern, rooted in a shadowy empire. To understand the fern in its metaphysical elements, even if completely manufactured, is to understand where and why the fern exists and why it needs to exist — akin to any other plant — in this ocean of movements.
An artist is not a sculptor of new realms, or a scholar of unnamed emotions. The artist exists as a process, as a method, whose bounds of chaos and entropy along with seemingly endless creative freedom give it little more than a sense of burial at sea. Once we quest on discovering which movements of this spectral ocean truly ripple within, we are shackled to insufficiency, because the quest is unending, tiring and highly volatile. An artist is then painted semantically as a creative force, even when the process and method display the exact opposite, a form of extreme destruction. Humans are destructive by core, and as much as I try to stray away from speaking of human nature, I believe it is common knowledge that we have a tendency for destruction (albeit at times, it is justified) — what we cannot justify though, is our predisposition to destroy ourselves. The artist takes all that is to be human, all that is to be subjective, and augments it, throws it against the canvas and pages and notes and screens, all that is destructive is permutated to pure, then unruled and ravaged, broken apart and deconstructed. We justify this with Art, for the sake of Art, at the expense of that vast, nightmarish, exurgent and garish ocean. At the toll of our own sincerity towards destructive emotion.

         To be creative is to create space for that creation to elapse, and in the double-trouble of creating creation, we often get too caught up in the first part and what that produces — the pain, the sorrow and memory, the melancholy; instead of the latter, the act of creation itself. Are we even able of gripping that last stage, or do we suddenly become the escape artist of this scenario? Does the vision of that ocean of movement and the ability to bend its threads become overbearing and over-encompassing?
As I gather with friends around the table, and I laugh and elate, I realise further that a writer, a poet, or an artist — are not things I either am nor want to be, but rather states where I slowly dip my toes and feel the temperature of life, of existing, a small gate into a world where concepts become so maleable, their inevitable destruction also becomes inevitably inconsequential. My fear of this nomenclature was simply representative, because I’m not strong enough to constantly overlook the vast ocean of emotions, sometimes, I just want to drink and laugh and hear the peak of that cello’s arc without playing it myself, or writing the small introduction of cellos being played. We cannot always be outsiders, or we will perish in inertia. The movement of this scary ocean must also be our own.

Who knew battling with semantics could be this overly-poetic?


JOHNNY

⌉|⌈ – Four Chestnut Kings

Four Chestnut Kings


When I read poetry, it’s not customary to do it in one sitting, since verse can be overbearing at times, especially when the verse in question is condensed with a large amount of information or emotional overdraws. So, to break that cycle of lyricentric text, I will make a little break and explore the wonders of my culture with you.

In the Portuguese province where I grew up and still live, Ribatejo, there used to be a big amount of agriculture. In fact, most of my family still works in that field, working sun to sun along the plantations of Tagus. These men and women who journeyed from far to find work at the river basin, commonly denominated “gaibéus”, worked seasonally in the process of removing weed and debris from the yearly plantations, along with cleaning the non- cultivated fields in order to avoid crop-destroying vermin and wild-fires.

 

Being a descendent of such inspiring figures whose work was so elementary and harsh, I’ve always felt tenderly connect to the earth of our province. Its fertility and unbound resilience binds with my flesh, courses through my veins and forms me, as if I’m a plant of these fields, yielding fruits in shapes of worship and care.

In our village, four men stood as figures taken out of a painting. All day, every single day, they would gather in a stone table beneath the centurial chestnut tree that grew in the town-square, and they gambled away their hours with Swedish cards. For twenty-two years, I don’t remember ever seeing them anywhere else, and after so long, they still play the same game using the same spent and ancient deck. I’ve always been a lonely and sensitive child, and would have a hard time making friends, so I started watching them play cards in hopes they would interact with me.

The day they did and the days that followed were among the most important in my young life. And at the impish age of twelve, I discovered poetry without ever reading a poem. As Oscar Wilde says and rightly so – from my experience – “A great poet, a really great poet, is the most unpoetical of all creatures. But inferior poets are absolutely fascinating. The worse their rhymes are, the more picturesque they look. The mere fact of having published a book of second-rate sonnets makes a man quite irresistible. He lives the poetry that he cannot write. The others write the poetry that they dare not realise.”

Those men, who I’ve nicknamed “The Four Chestnut Kings” over the years, and have nicknamed me “Crow-boy”, taught me those values of our culture and earth. They taught me living poetry, the likes of which can never be written, only lived, experienced and passed onto those who are open to it.

Along their many lessons that I was far too young to comprehend, one has followed me throughout every bar I had to jump over during my trials: growth should always elevate above pride. Our world, the fragments of those who lived before us and those who shall outlive us, the meticulously woven fabric that runs through our gentle interactions, coursing from the deepest trenches of our beings and effusing everything with a touch of pure selfless humanity, all these concepts require nurture and growth well beyond what one person can contribute. But we all should, we must.

 

My little corner of the world still lives and breathes faintly, and as sure as the Sun shall rise, the pillars of our culture will weaken and collapse. Younglings like me are tasked with preserving the legacy of those who have preceded, and assure that it continues. Whether in our Art, in our strange and fast speech that no one can understand at times, in our cold buildings whose freshness allowed us to prosper during harsh Summers, or even in our strange obsession with wine and piquette. Who I am, and the simple fact that I am, I owe to my rich and ancient culture, and perpetuating it through conservation is beyond imperative to me. For as long as I live, so shall my culture.

 

(II)


The First King, Sr. António, taught me that he would have never been happy had his life been different. Such humility and resolve isn’t a consequence of self-indulgence or denial, but rather, the mere act of seeing endless beauty in the particles of dust visible by sunlight between those chestnut leaves. The same specks we are often reduced to when the large and ever-hungry concepts of infinitude and meaninglessness assault us, giving us sight of a Universe that far precedes our presence and will long outlive it. But we needed’t be small bellow those distant stars, we can instead relish in the fact that we have the ability to see them, feel their heat and radiation, witness their light-year brightness. The simple fact we can conceive these concepts shouldn’t be reason to reduce us, but rather, it should empower our visions and ambitions.

 

The Second King, Sr. João, insisted that no love ever equals the first. Although I’ve always questioned his truth, he seemed headstrong about the universality of what he affirmed. To him, the first time you fell in love was the most important, perhaps not the most intense or pleasant, maybe even short-lived and insufficient. He said it could have lasted seconds, and that still wouldn’t change the magnitude of its influence within our beings. It took me a while to understand, but I believe he might be correct.

The Third King, Sr. Lima, was an avid fan of traditional Portuguese culture, often stating that he would never bear dying outside of Portugal, hence why he never left the country. The slightest risk of not ending his life where it started, he said, would be reckless, because doing so would devalue every figment of his being. Portugal had given him everything, every moment of joyous pleasure and every laughter, the smiles and giggles of children, the sinuous shapes of grape-picking women that he flirted with in his youth. All of it was his, all for him to blossom and grow, melodies made for him to hum and dance to, but more importantly—it was all sufficient.

 

The fourth King, Sr. Zé, would often say that the world always gives us more than we can give back, while the others nodded with certainty.

From that point on, I started looking at moments cinematically. The conversations between my parents as I rode with them across the mountainside dirt roads, the breathing patterns and subjects, everything aligned in a grand display of colours and lights. My first love was this land, and I couldn’t be happy elsewhere. Giving back to it is my singular purpose, through poetry and prose, Art and life, I plan to give every atom of my body to this earth, certain that I shall never be able to give it more than what it has given me. That, in its most profound essence, is comfort. And the cinematic life I’ve been granted in its rawest form, is my living poetry.


Johnny

Part of True-Ultra.