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.
«‘But Bernard goes on talking. Up they bubble — images. “Like a camel,” . . . “a vulture.” The camel is a vulture; the vulture a camel; for Bernard is a dangling wire, loose, but seductive. Yes, for when he talks, when he makes his foolish comparisons, a lightness comes over one. One floats, too, as if one were that bubble; one is freed; I have escaped, one feels. Even the chubby little boys (Dalton, Larpent and Baker) feel the same abandonment. They like this better than the cricket. They catch the phrases as they bubble. They let the feathery grasses tickle their noses. And then we all feel Percival lying heavy among us. His curious guffaw seems to sanction our laughter. But now he has rolled himself over in the long grass. He is, I think, chewing a stalk between his teeth. He feels bored; I too feel bored. Bernard at once perceives that we are bored. I detect a certain effort, an extravagance in his phrase, as if he said “Look!” but Percival says “No.” For he is always the first to detect insincerity; and is brutal in the extreme. The sentence tails off feebly. Yes, the appalling moment has come when Bernard’s power fails him and there is no longer any sequence and he sags and twiddles a bit of string and falls silent, gaping as if about to burst into tears. Among the tortures and devastations of life is this then — our friends are not able to finish their stories.’»
Virginia Woolf, The Waves.
Along my inclement journey with literature, towards which I’m always shackled into a sentiment of certain rain-shadow, no book entreats more envy to me than The Waves, despite not even being my most favoured book. That writing, itself suffusing in one’s mind like luminous vermillion ink thrown at the solid shadows of a nightly sea, manages to collect the summonings of a graceful elm whose leaves command delicate beams of light that lick the hairs of ancient Gods, and whose roots silhouette skeletons quivering and thrilling with allegories of forgotten heroes. I would readily give much of what I have — which isn’t much at all — if I could write with her convex descriptions and concave emotional realisms. Virginia dawned lives inside herself so ravelled and ornate, one should only feel the perpetual shame of inhabiting a world in which a soul as hers could ever meet a fate so ruthless. But I lean against my stile to find the watery-eyed posture of loss trailing my memories of her, serenely laden against her own, looking at the threaded colours diluted in the glass, conjuring the whirlpools of vivid sorrow that I and so many others readers have been entranced by, and I’m happy to fit silently into her designs. Extremely happy with the chance of doing so, at least.
In the passage above quoted, Louis catches Bernard be betrayed by his own oneirism and enchanting absurdity for the first time; this laceration is one that any wordsmith is far-too privy to, when we feel our phrases with such intensity yet they become miserable attempts at flight once they leave their tidy homes within our minds. This heartbreak is inexorable, and, as children, we are lured into it as the carps of a pond whose surface ripples with breadcrumbs; the world, as in others, as in natures, as in images, cannot resist the prestidigitation of padding our hearts full of prismatic lights only to fracture it with one stealthy strike. Percival delivered that strike to Bernard, but I do not have any literary account of who delivered that strike onto me, but rather, a series of blows along the coastal remains of my life in shape of dense black spots in a beach brimming with whiteness. They grow; they grow once remembered, once any is added, some coalesce and obscure further hideouts of my youth, some are so intimately cruel that they seethe with a purple, purulent aroma, and those I cannot ever approach, as they hold the tyranny of possibilities.
Once, at a swift nightly escapade with my friends in the dusk of Lisbon, I broke down in a self-liturgy pulled from my own sense of decay. Those friends, some actors of considerable talent, some writers containing what, to me, were the greatest possible stories, all of them liegemen to the Arts which I, due to cowardice, so vehemently denied to ever stand a chance of creating anything worthy of the inheritance those Arts so severely cast upon their creators, these friends stand both as the Atlantean pillars of my dreams and those black and grim holes of memory; constant reminders of my timid and inept attempts at existing half-formed in a world that seduced and daunted me in equal magnitudes. I broke down as Bernard did, fervently portending my own doomed reality in which my story would never be finished, but scattered among others; I was to die as a liegeman to them and not to the Arts they served; a pathetic being in a frail cocoon that I, frailest still, couldn’t shatter. And that was a task and fate that disappointed me, but did not dissatisfy me, as holding that would elevate holding nothing.
In more ways that those I’m able to count, perhaps like specks of obsidian dusk pairing above a stream, both dark and brilliant, the creation of this website allowed my continued survival. I do not write for posterity or immortality, as those things are uninteresting to me, and it does not bother me that I will be forgotten. I write, now, for interaction, my interaction with both the Art I love and with those who love it as much as I, to exist in a cordon of souls representing both aspects of Virginia’s Percival, those who receive my words as to allow them their chance of flight, their chance of surviving my despotic and cruel rule, and those who are bored by them, because those are the ones who inspire poetry.
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…
With some obliquitous regularity, any graphomaniac, any dilettante under the school of words, is bound to think about which space within that school lies vacant for occupancy; what position can we inhabit in order to be visible — not just to others — but also visible to ourselves. When I think of WordPress and how it managed to collect such a magnificently diverse constellation of poets, it is complicated to dispense the thought that WordPress is not a book or a publication, nor is it an amphitheater, nor similar to anything previously responsible for disseminating the Art of Poetry; however, inasmuch as our mediums were shaped by the Art conveyed, so was the Art modified by the mediums it made use of.
I could write an essay on how WordPress changed the modern scope of poetic expression, how the intricate osmosis between various readily-accessible and social poets facilitates a type of distillation of symbols which provides such a rich soundscape, a visual and guttural interactivity reminiscent of older literary circles without the strain of exclusivity. How it manages to contrast so well with some of the corralled, anchorite poetry of yore. But I’m no good at essays, so I shall provide example:
«I often write things that I fear are not worth reading so, I tuck them neatly away fragile thoughts folded in upon themselves the words fade and the pages yellow as a memory floats into view.»
Suzanne is, in my earnest vision, one of the maximum exponents in regards to blog-formed poetry; her diary-shaped thoughts, intimate and percolated through filters of naturalism and sentimental realism, act as a spatter of light over large sheets of luminous blue taffeta; her poems, thronged with both unbridled lyricism and the closeness of a tryst with emotions, exist as imponent bridges between the I living and the I creating, and fit the medium of WordPress so meticulously that I truly couldn’t imagine them anywhere else, feeling almost carved from the stone itself from which this community was made. She exists as a siren of fortitude, a wondrous being that does not resist the churning and turning of days, but slithers through them, collecting what in them means most, and touches most.
«One needn’t have an hourglass To forever turn And so command the moments Within your heart to always burn * As the minutes and the hours fall Joy and sorrow, both therein We seek to collect them each around us In a vain attempt to hold too many all at once It is a fearful thing, this holding And we begin to suffer from the force of it»
There is an immense talent in creating denotation without it feeling overly astringent, Art which I’m yet to master and often couldn’t feel more distant of doing so. Suzanne, however, manages not only that, but also a verse structure that unfurls extemporaneously, with a tune unchained of truisms but still intimately open, so that all of us can drink from it without muddying the pool. Still, it fiddles with the perennial depths of human experience, it does not shy from agonic draws, it does not shy from pain or the cruel beauty of that pain. It is not deceptively positive or stylistically negative, it’s intimate and… experienced, truthful to a point of combustion, a signature of gentility inconceivable to the isolated, selves-within-themselves type of creators such as I, but one I’m endlessly grateful for having discovered, and I urge you strenuously to do the same, if you have not.
«Time doesn’t stand still for questions or answers. They are worth wondering over though. There are places and people who do make a difference, even when they don’t know that they do. A single bowl of soup may not feed the world. But, it may open someone’s heart to a lifetime of wondering.»
I have few conversations which lay vivid in my mind, very few, in fact. I’m one for the dead particulates of experience, objects that don’t move nor breathe, still things, oblivious details, a sort of hyperesthesia which only serves to coif the saturnine adepts of purple prose. And my predilection for «things» is not given by an inflated sense of grandiosity or any specific disillusionment with people, but rather, the fact that I have a sensorial perspicacity about me, I see people as sounds at times, some are colours or tastes, because although those things are as volatile as people, they are volatile in predicable manners, in opposite to people. Thus, I tend to cling to my own clarities, my own bitter domains within, where any disappointment is only my own.
Yet, one particular conversation clenches firmly, often removing me from my self-centred dalliances; it was a prolonged and especially strained dialogue between one of my clients and I. He, an elderly man likely in the block of seventy and a few; a small and frumpy man who, despite wielding a stern, taciturn conduct, appeared fervently keen of talking once any given body presented itself for the role of listening. Shortsock (which is a direct translation of his Portuguese name) had served shortly in the Ultramarine War at the earliest years of Portugal’s most extensive dictatorship, and upon return he came to be a carpenter much to the likes of my father — with whom he shares many years of friendship — and ceased his working activities as a public servant, profession he only did for a bout. Our conversation began from an interjection, a rhyming couplet he slung towards my sister apropos some awfully unspecific newsreel back-grounding the administrative room, afterwards quickly proclaiming it as his own. A short «do you write?» from my sister, sounding mildly uninterested, led to an answer in the affirmative and a successive «my brother loves to read», a type of statement typically harrowing to anyone as timorous as I, especially when it alights certain aspects of self which one rarely likes to exhibit, if not only for the sense of property they are often dignified with. I proceeded a bit protectively, opting to ask which authors he found most approximated his liking, a question that he dismissed with celerity in favour of maundering how civilisation was so vile and mordant, being that both the reason why he wrote as well as his most versed subject. I asseverated a tad frigidly that political poetry, much in the threads of anything general and distant, failed to captivate my attention entirely, and that I strongly preferred the unique and indelible quality of experience, of humanity in its minute and mercurial essence, experiences which, if not taken to Art and replicated through that instrument, couldn’t possibly endure, such was their particularity; things that I couldn’t have written, things that I couldn’t have lived. Human things, specific, away from the portends of civilisation or the pallor of absolutes. Things that I can’t yet write because I do not know the apposite forms and words necessary to bring them forth.
How careless of an approach, I must have thought immediately. Shortsock transported a grimace of shattering the likes of which I was oddly familiar with, and volleyed me with verbal arrows: «that is because you are young, you do not know what it is like to be in a war-zone, to have children and naught to succour them with, you have not lived this world as I lived, and it is yet to break your heart as it did mine», utterances that did not fail in showering me with silence. It is true, I do not know, and had I been perspicacious of people, something that I’m naturally not, I could have sensed beforehand that he wasn’t disappointed with either the world nor civilisation, he was disappointed with his world, not mine, even in spite of his generalist poems with the purported objective of weaving a better future by diminishing anything current. He did not want a better future inasmuch as he didn’t care much for the current, but simply, to change everything hitherto. His past fumbled him, it was tortuous and insurmountably cruel. While my life satisfied me, I was afforded the vanity of living shards of other lives through Art, if only to compound my own or enrich my experiences, but he was simply never afforded vanities of the like, and I was terribly ice-veined within the first step — a true testament to why I dodge as many interactions as I can — and the innermost fissure that stood between us wasn’t merely a differing focusing lens on matters, or even on what matters, as I initially assumed, but more-so the nature of our memory, that delicate «seamstress, and a capricious one at that. Memory runs her needle in and out, up and down, hither and thither. We know not what comes next, or what follows after. Thus, the most ordinary movement in the world, such as sitting down at a table and pulling the inkstand towards one, may agitate a thousand odd, disconnected fragments, now bright, now dim, hanging and bobbing and dipping and flaunting, like the underlinen of a family of fourteen on a line in a gale of wind.¹», and to me, those thousands of disconnected fragments were mostly joyous and bathed in the rosy lights of dawn, memories of baubles or hazy fields lathered in the green tinkle of emeralds, large tiled walls and the scent of uprooted plants. His were replete with people, the dirges and metallic chimes, pernicious seasons and hunger, lack, dereliction, fury, all bobbing and dipping, pecking his innards, tirelessly demanding. Things are rarely cruel, but people so often are; the former can contain small mythologies, symbols and beauties of perfumed shapes, but only the latter can reach the highest peaks of substance, the most intricately rewarding forms of beauty, especially when it interacts with our own. But things are much more durable than we, «whose frail warmth cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.»²
We talked further about specifics, I engaged in a political discussion in which I was merely the receptacle of information, supporting a manufactured rapt, as I felt indebted to do so, and we soon came upon common grounds, since his daughter had recently ended her own life due to relentless abuse from her former partner, and I had many mental health issues of my own. These morphologies of emotion, often reduced or occulted, often diminished to the farthest extremes of our vulnerabilities, are simultaneously our humanest traits, the ones which carry most force, that are most limpid in our memory. Shortsock wasn’t particularly keen on vulnerability, he was raised by a regime whose greatest weapon was the effacing of expression and sentimentality, but grief is among the hardest sentiments to conceal; he assumed a wounded front, the likes of being stricken by some unstinting bodily pain, and his hands extended like parachutes trying to collect his soul while it disassembled, a comportment I’ve only ever noticed in myself before, when I lost the dearest person in my life as a child. This interaction, which followed one embossing my social inadequacy, was exactly the type of interaction that displays that pith of human experience, that solemn existence, idiosyncratic and inscrutable. The inter-connectivity of our pains, the symbiosis of our joys, the elements that make the cruelty of the title of person not only bearable, but romantically worthwhile. And, strangely, I hold great gratitude to my initial error; it provided such a valuable discovery.
¹ Orlando, Virginia Woolf; ² And Yet The Books, Czesław Miłosz.