A little excelsic composition to decompress.
A little while back (I seem to start all my posts with this phrase), I started writing a book of actual fiction, as in, not poetry, called Brass Towers. With less and less time on my hands, and still trying to finish the various projects of poetry I have ongoing, this one got a bit lost, but I still have some hope it might see light of day. Here goes a rough-cut excerpt that I like, considering I don’t have nearly as much experience with prose as I do with poetry:
(A reminder, this is a character in the work, and not actually me writing about myself, although… it’s probably both)
As I lay my head against the bed-frame, I hope for better days. Some hope for those, others hope for better nights, and along those plaguing and exhausting hours of sleepless thought: we hope. As human misery goes, we hate hoping as much as we require it, since it fuels our glimpses of those better days, because hoping is somehow less painful than anything else we could be doing. We hope for days when we won’t need to hope anymore, in that sickly irony of circular thought, and those better days have knocked our wooden doors thousands of times over, banged, even. They scream to be claimed, but we are busy at the moment, we are busy hoping that they will come. We are addicted to hope, and in such woven spheres of contemplation, even knowing how much hope can hurt and how much misery it can bring, we keep hoping… for days that aren’t as miserable, for days that never come.
If only, perhaps, the sciences of the mind or arts of the psyche could provide a more easing method of withstanding life and its barrage of variables, we could stop the cycle of hope, and we could once-and-for-all close that wretched box Pandora opened so long ago, or even erase our understanding of human inadequacies and undo Eve’s apple eating habit. But closing a box or un-eating an apple are far too mundane to syphon our hope, no, they are insufficient. We yearn tragedy, great loves tossed into the claws of cruel oceans, even greater minds felled by their own ambitions, high spiritual connections with concepts that have far evaded our reductive minds, all grandeur, all splendour and garish displays of agony, because we already have hope to give and sell, but a fictional character only translates fully into our reality when it becomes hopeless, because hopelessness takes the highest courage, and because it is the most tangible thing we could never be.
With my head still laid upon the bed-frame, I look back: my childish years, filled to the brim with hope hidden between rays of sunlight, I hoped pine cones would fall so I could harvest the seeds and eat them, I hoped my words could convince Felicity to join me into the endless quest of fantasy awaiting beyond those pines. My adolescence, stacked with confusion and hopes for lesser confusion, a deep yearn for better days in adulthood, those that we produce, direct and act inside our minds, running so smoothly and beautifully, with liberty as the soundtrack and hope… always there, writing the screenplay. Now, an adult, nothing runs as smoothly as I’d hoped, Felicity never joined me behind those pines of magical wonder, she instead moved to Delaware. And as fate would have it, the pine cones were barren and seedless. I still hope for all the same themes under different guises, all a match of semantics duelling within ones mind. Felicity was my hope of love, which I never felt; pine cones were my hope for luck, which I never had; and life beyond the pines was my hope to escape, which I never did.
I still hope for all those things, all those days, as much as I miss them, and between missing hope as it was and hoping for it to cease, there is little of me left, and even that little me seems to be annoyingly hopeful.
Following the string of compositions from when I initially started posting, you might sight some of the most primitive and uninspired works of web-poetry around, and along those lines of frozen time, you might even find a generally negative disposition I have towards my work, as well as a strong hostility directed at my own artistic development.
I believe, albeit probably wrong, that any artist of any craft holds little to no love for a product that is finished, because its the process and the journey that must be loved and nurtured, and the final result: an outburst of pain compounded with shame, a linen woven by acid needles that thrust with every line, every paintbrush and every note of a melody. It is natural to hold hatred towards our own creations, not necessarily because they are parts of ourselves we shed into a piece, but because they are willingly given away and lost, they are mirrors within mirrors and whatever they reflect has been traded at the highest cost: the peace we once found in producing them, now inhabits the piece, now… its gone…
And not only is it condensed into the work, it also constitutes an energy that dances around our own, creating a thick mist of unbound chaos, and we rush to perfect it, to alter it and reprise it. It is never done, never complete, it haunts us while it exists, because it could be so much more… and why isn’t it so much more? Why isn’t it the piece that will propel the next century of artists into unrest and endless creativity?
It is necessary to find balance, as with everything. I do not have shame towards my older work, I embrace it, because it allows me to gage how I’ve grown, what I’ve become, it gives me a tangible example of my evolution and the rewards I was able to reap from my effort. But still, I cannot read any of them, or rewrite any of them in any way.
They are foreign to me, the poetic subject has shifted, and my older self that indeed wrote those pieces, has now risen walls of solid isolation and sheltered within them. And the reason I cannot go back to them is relatively simple, as its commonly said – we are our biggest critics – and it serves well to be so, but we mustn’t become our biggest tormentors, striking hot iron into the flesh of our past tenses, attempting to gather enough information that justifies the inaptitude of what we were, and especially, of what we are now.
That is also why I’ve insisted on not trying to become an author at such tender age, not for lack of confidence in my body of work (although that also exists very strongly), but also because that would entail presenting work that would be worth paying for, worth spending time over, worth being read and invested, and my work isn’t there yet, and it won’t be there until every ounce of liquid pride I possess can be applied to such creation, and I understand that this unrealistic concept equals one of chasing geese around a prairie, but it allows me to find peace in my ever-so flawed and inept poems, they are a product of my dedication to a craft that, eventually, might be as shifting and influential to someone, like so many have been to me.
But that is eventually, and meanwhile, I relish in the sensation that any poem I publish today, will be something I cannot read a year from now, and that evolution of the self and its relation to worth, is such a beautiful inner process on its own, one that already compensates any ill-feeling over my own work. I’ve grown and will continue to grow, what else could I ask for?
I’ve always held quarrels against the structural basis of Nihilism.
It strives in devouring any worth behind worldly constructs, and does so mercilessly, because the charcoal that fuels it seems made from the cinders of a society in ideological flames. I’m twenty-two, which represents that hopefully, most of my life still awaits me, yet… I, akin to the vastest numbers of my generation, have been raised under cruel forecasts and outright dooming patterns: senseless acts of moral terror spawning almost daily, a scientific community that insists on a very real factor of life being irreversible altered by the selfish and hedonistic acts of humanity towards Nature, tendrils of corruption and interest crawling under the skin of powerful figures, some of which hold nuclear arsenal capable of turning this blue marble we have known to be (so far) the only planet that harbours life, into a wasteland of volcanic winters and centuries of acid fall-out, rendering it just another barren planet into a myriad of trillions we’ve learned to observe.
All of this, thrusting and gushing into an already exasperated youth, constantly in contact with a global world that – by expanding – seems less and less just and predictable by every inch touched. All of this, and a haunting sensation that whatever could matter, and whatever does unavoidably matter in our lives, is but a passing lucid dream we hopefully cling to. But, in the hopes of what?
Nuclear arsenal isn’t going anywhere, because power in intimidation is an acquired technique that simply cannot be reduced, only expanded, because a powerless superpower is… well, no longer a superpower.
Pollution became so intense that reversing it would require an immense amount of resources and funds that are only held by, coincidentally, the corporations that most pollute, and outlawing those practices or forcing those corporative bodies to shift funds into that cause is met with the ghastly and evasive front of lobbying and a fleeting justice network.
Terror is no longer confined to the exterior, but instead, engineered within us by a previous fear-ridden generation (for good reason, might I add). For me, the Outside seems far too similar with that zoo pet that frightened me when I was young, but “do not worry, it is more scared of you than you are of it”, but now, we are that zoo pet, we shiver and cower under a world that moves far too quickly, recklessly, and aiming at no direction. And in turn, that world fears us lightly, because we are the wood that burns above that charcoal, we are the cinders of that Nihilistic brazier.
To face such cemented futures everyday – and more than face them – to be assured constantly by a barrage of information that, this is not a possibility, this is no less than a reality, is to enter an Age where the deconstruction of all mattering concepts as a shield against their inevitable loss, and moreover, that constantly approaching loss. That mechanical disassemble of things we would otherwise be naturally in love with, is to me the grimmest crime one could commit against itself. We tear and shred all semblance of emotion towards a genuine experience, inasmuch as we reach our core and overlook the fields, and there is nothing there, not a glimpse of substance, not even shallow waters, but a bleak void holding all features of reality, or put in a simple latin word, “nihil”.
It’s hard to navigate these topics and not feel a certain weight of sensibility, when did we become frigid beings that leap at anything remotely worthy of our appreciation, exhaust it, and then cast it upon a sea already paved with isles of human waste, both physical and metaphorical?…
Suffice to say, I’m not a fan of Nihilism, but it seems to run so deep within me, that it almost doesn’t matter what outlook I have on it, it will grip with the same resolve, ever-hungry and all-consuming…
Y’all, I’ve been reading too much American poetry, so I’m going through this mixed phase of modernism and romanticism, I hope something good comes out of this because its certainly weird for me to write like this.
Disclaimer: bulletless doesn’t seem to be a real word, but I don’t get why, so I’m gonna use it anyway.
Disclaimer 2: I’ve since revised the second part of the poem, so if you’re reading for a second time, you may find it different than the original. If you seek the original, you can find it here.
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.
And its portuguese, original version:
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.
For a while, I’ve been scouring for ways to convey which poets have influenced me the most, who I hold highly as I navigate the gears of my own production. Certain verses, stanzas, poems, move me to a level I cannot fully explain, and those feelings are what I work so hard to translate within my own poetry, often with failure, but always with tenacity.
One platform I’ve never given much thought to, although pleasantly succinct at times, presented itself as a nice medium to share these small shards of brilliance, and that is Twitter.
I’m not sure how it will fully work yet, but if this is something you are generally interested in, I will be attempting to post at least one exhibit a day of these poetic capitulations, with the sole purpose of their inspiration and diffusion, if possible, at the following address – VERIBUS.
I’ve created it as a project of hobbyist nature and I do not intend to reap any tangible rewards from its maintaining, as to not inspire the usage of others work as a commercial medium. It is done simply as a modus for me to idolise a bit more those who are so important to me.
If VERIBUS ever reaches a point of impactful influence, it would also be a great medium for diffusion of amateur and wordpress-based poetry I’m fond of, as there are so many kind-spirited and talented individuals on this platform I would love to, in any way I’m able, somehow help.
Not everyone has the honour of living in an award-winning country, or better yet, not everyone considers that an honour. I was born in a small parish with 110 inhabitants just outside Lisbon, and my youth was paved with finding small water streams among fabled stretching woodlands, watching my grandfather plant potatoes all the while leaning on our dogs and watching the verdant sunset sink. I look back fondly at those memories, and my circle of social life was restricted by those hundred familiar faces all into my teenage mists.
When I was a docile and sensitive boy, one thing was generally known, we were an enclave of the modern world, a tender collapse between edging western development and a deep connection to land, humility, poverty, and pain. In the yet-to-explore sacred and scarlet hills of Portugal, we roamed the sun-lands searching for an oasis that spawned the entire rectangle garden planted sea-side. We quested for a beauty that was already there, and after centuries of isolation and regret, we found a rooted longing for days that never came, for an evasive beauty that time did not look kindly upon.
Those were the days of yore, nowadays, the scopes have shifted. Portugal, now a growing and bursting experience of culture and history, the brand new Jurassic Park without deadly dinosaurs, conveniently docked at Europe’s lonely and serene edge, offers a way to mitigate the pains of modern existence at a manageable driving distance. As we now live among kind visitors and explorers, we listen to those praises of beauty. How sunny are our lands, how old our cities, how beautiful our forests and endless our beaches, and above all else, how deep is our sadness.
As I write this humble prose, I can listen to goldcrests chirping atop that peppertree, and at 20:00 there is still clarity outside, the sun still faintly shines, as it tends to. Faint yet enchanting gypsy music booms at the distance, I can still pick apart the variations of the low-voiced man who is singing to the rhythm. I remember being young, the sun shone its golden-hue with all the same brightness, the buildings and asphalt roads vibrated to the heat, the summer cicadas already knew the ancient lyricists before any of us did, and at the sidewalks of this beautiful block of candour we’ve inhabited, I was already sad, already longing. We all were, and we still are.
It’s difficult to pinpoint why we exist this way, but I’ve convinced myself that it’s only a natural consequence of this paradise we’ve created. In these hills where marine order takes form of beautiful composure, what other sadness could we compare it to than our own inner demons.
And that matching pendulum of innate sadness strikes harder every time, painting Portugal more beautiful and we, sadder, abandoned at a seaside beauty created to evaporate.
And Lisbon, my current home, the city-port of poetry and fado, only seems to reflect that ever-so-strongly, as it tries to grip it’s fainting identity while this bombardment of globalised exposition occurs, which it has always done. The only city where walls still cry, those colourful walls that close upon our dreams and limit our solitaire nightmares.