maundering relics #2

Lucilações“, by Telémaco Augusto Santana, published in 1946.
The inscription reads:
Ao Ex.mo Sr. Pedro Valentim Nova — Lembrança afectuosa de Telémaco A. Santana, 5/8/1946
Translated:
To Excellent Sir Pedro Valentim Nova, an affectionate keepsake from Telémaco A. Santana, 5/8/1946

Little exists in record regarding Telémaco Augusto Santana. From some spotted newspaper publications regarding his work, to some handful of poultry donations made to the parish he inhabited, his name seems almost like a dent in an ancient structure; part of a gestalt of ages, another function of the uniformity of time. A texture, almost, void of essence, void of movement.
Curiously, and from what I gathered, he was anything but a quiet adornment during his lifetime in Lisbon. Any perspicacious eye upon his poems would quickly detect the lavish aura he emanates as a figure of social class and probity. An authentic “flâneur“, an ogive filled with grandiose ideas and a profoundly refined inclination for the aesthetical. An indication of his zesty and obstreperous spirit can be found in the curious preface he wrote for “Lucilações“:

A Short Statement

Poetry in Portugal has no true market.
The few exceptions are revered poets, and only when these are edited by publishers with a strong commercial amplitude.
Most of the literate public does not read books of verse… They lightly peruse them. I decided, then, to not make this book a commercial publication.
To my Friends and Critics that have accepted to appreciate my modest poetic works, I intend to offer a unique edition of this new book. And shall do it with much pleasure, since I never thought of myself as a bookshop success.
Poetry is the expression of beauty through image and the highest expression of the spirit. —

The image is the medullary substance of Poetry. It is its vital essence. When Poetry achieves its maximum simplicity, it finally enters the realm of maximum beauty. Therefor–says a great Master–, the highest poet among all must be that who, without bombastic artifices nor loud resonances, still manages to impress our sentiment, thrill us, commove us, and imbue us with the fluid and luminous harmony of his verses.
I know that all my poetic flights do not reach such grand and delightful heights–but, even then, as the only indelible compensation, I received the profound satisfaction of seeing my verses worthy of flattering words from demanding critics, and from notable and famous poets alike.
Some of them do not know me personally, which further values their compliments.

To all who transmitted their appreciations that I deem sincere and very honouring, here I leave my deepest gratitude.


This opening text is bounteous in its richness; we, the poetic dilettantes, oft complain about the economic impracticability of our verses. Poetry, indeed, does not sell easily, nor has it ever sold easily. It’s of some strangely dim warmth to see those concerns echoed in the somewhat-distant past of 1946, a decade that saw the artistic beginnings of Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, E.E. Cummings and Richard Wilbur, among myriad other illustrious poets of the modernistic 20th century. Telémaco himself enjoyed a pleasant hue of success and was both frequently vaunted by critics in publications, and respected among Lisbon’s literary circles. Beyond his concerns regarding the state of sustenance through verse, we find a lucid interpretation of poetic production during his time: simplicity, imagery, sensitivity. Although I’m not completely certain of who the great Master is, after some brainscouring, I now believe he might be referring to Alberto Caeiro, an heteronym of Fernando Pessoa that enjoyed publications from as early as 1925, and was commonly referred to as “the Master” by his other heteronyms, as well as many other poets of the same era, due to Caeiro’s sensism and connection to the simple and natural.

The only surviving remnants of Telémaco‘s life are his books; though diffuse and often of expensive collection, most of them exist in various antiquaries in Lisbon. I found “Flores da Minha Alma“(1942), “Lux Bruxoleante“(1941) and “Revérberos da Poente”(1945) all available for purchase, though all at prices a bit beyond my means. I have never found “Lucilações” available elsewhere, which is unsurprising, since it had no commercial publication of any form, unlike the other books he has produced. The word chosen as the title, however, was completely unknown to me. “Lucilar“, in an elder form of Portuguese, means “to glisten”, making “lucilações“, “glistenings”.

Coming from a post-war era that glistened with fertile poetic ground — insofar as it generated some of the most potent authors of our collective history — and, concomitantly, enjoying such a pronounced respect from literary critics and a wide breadth of relevant influences, it’s difficult to cogitate how it is that Telémaco managed to wane and be forgotten, even among our national lyrical pantheon. Upon opening the book, those doubts become nubile vapours rather quickly:


The Monster

In that town the bloodthirsty Mars
showed the fear that dominates most.
— Satanic vision!… And everywhere
mounds of corpses and birds of prey!…

Sounded the triumphant hymn
of the rational beast.

Blazes danced, smiling
with joyful and tragic effects,
like the ideas of repulsive men
that only in evil feel satisfied,
unknowing of the light
of Jesus’s Verb.

Rises now the hallucinating pain
that in children is more feared and strong:
In the smoldering, annihilated town,
two small children, through death,
sought to find
the gods of their home.

Hand-in-hand, calling for their parents,
they hopped from rubble to rubble.
They were featherless eaglets
that, orphaned, were afraid of everything…

–War!… Feral chess
where playing we feel
from blood, the inebriation!

And the Sun was already dying.
Covered itself in a glittering mantle…
and the orphans, in a plangent pain
translating so much naive love,
still clamoured, through long laments:
— Oh, dear parents!… where do you lie?…
and only the horror of Death replied!

With high indignation
the Wind portended.
With kisses of emotion
gracing little angels.

— Oh false world, of eternal mystery,
from a human Heaven to an earthly Hell!

If Fernandes de Sá was of difficult translation, Telémaco is tortuous at best. His Portuguese, though eloquent and highly expressive, suffers from a terrible contortion in order to establish a rhyme. This is, in fact, an issue often seen in many lyrical poets of any historical era: one cannot sacrifice fluidity for melody, since there is no melody without fluidity. Telémaco shows a puerile and sequacious tact with his own productions, whose subjects nearly always fall upon Christian mythology, verses on nobility and the pious deeds therein, and courts of love.

Telémaco was likely a man of wealth and stature; a nobleman, a cavalier of abound polish with a deep influence on the social strata of his time. The reviews I’ve read show a trend of vacuous and sycophantic praises of what he wrote, and considering he decided to include these reviews on the last pages of this privately published book, one might assume he was greatly proud of them. Even without an affirmed status, it is not inconceivable that he’d enjoy mild success during his lifetime; his poetry was, after all, congruent with the times, and was virtually riskless in form or content, which only further asseverates his apparent erosion through the tidings.

INEFFABLE DESTROYED WORLD

The soul of a good Mother is a large world
all made from love and highest caring.
A love so pathetic and profound
there isn’t a plume that can describe it.

It is born indelible and fecund,
and is a blooming field, always beautiful,
even when the trembling of destiny
overstays inside the kingdom of torture.

The most anguished human pain,
from the martyr Mother is intensely cast,
shattering the motherly heart.

In front of the death of her loved child…
— Oh! what world, ineffable and destroyed
and what longing from a volcano of tears!

“Reviews of «Reverberations of a Sunset»”

“From Alexandre de Matos (Most inspired poet and distinct publisher):

«From all literary species, poetry is that which most easily expressed ideas and sentiments; but prose isn’t far behind it. Well, in its small “Aerial Preface”, so lovingly filigreed, there’s proof that Telémaco even in prose is a poet.
…Reading the “Symphony of the Heart”, for me the most interesting part of the book, I was able to listen and enjoy, executed in seven poetic compositions, the sonata of harmonies that pulse within his heart!»

(the other two reviews follow the exact same lines; sometimes, with the exact same expressions. There are also ten additional pages of different reviews)

“Lucilações”, although not the most augmenting of reading experiences, was a generous exercise in conception for me. I can picture Telémaco having extensive colloquies with his literary consorts, or ardently complaining about the insuperable shedding of leaves from the Chilean peppertrees that line the central avenue of Campo d’Ourique, where he most likely lived. I can picture him, a stern and stolid man, a true homme du temps, with a decorous modesty and calm spirit. I can picture him in cafés, reading his esteemed Júlio Dantas, or regional papers like “Alma Nacional” or “Ecos de Sintra“, and, more sprawling still, is the tact I can have with what he felt and how he felt it; how he distilled what he saw, the beauty of it, the sense in its beauty. I can compose how delicately he saw his spirituality, how fervently he saw his God, a distensible and glowing figure that centralised him inside a dazed and conflicted world. I can mimic the dehiscence of his smile whenever he received a warm review of his verses. I can, during moments and with much force, be an echo of Telémaco within my mind, and thus, for a brief moment, he exists once again, and may now feel the glorious pungency of the peppertree that lonesomely guards my own street.

Poetry, no matter its value or commercial viability, will never be destitute of its singular most convex purpose: to condense the spirit which orders the hand; its pain and pleasure, memory, pulse, texture, skin. It’s a print, henceforth indelible and eternal, even if just in the minds of those who’ve read it, which, as the tendrils of some immortal creature, seeds further the existence of a collective being, through Art, in Art. One last tether between us all, beyond the tiring artifices of social maintenance, of having to.

I truly hope Telémaco had a wonderful life distant from the wounds of his period on Earth; I hope, similarly, that as Telémaco, my creations might inspire someone, far in the future, to wonder how I was, how I lived. I wonder, then: what would they come up with?


Best regards, and thank you so much!,
João-Maria

maundering relics #1


Before the world spun suddenly into this crucible of fear and solitude we identify today, I had plans of collecting forgotten relics of the Portuguese written arts. Lisbon is thronged with “alfarrabistas“, stores with the unique purpose of selling rare and used books, many of them bought in bulk from personal libraries found by folks once they lay their relatives to rest. These libraries often contain, besides various editions of World Literature classics (your common James Joyce “Ulysses” and Leo Tolstoy “War and Peace“), an even more interesting assortment of gifted-re-gifted books that bounce from generations without much thought to their existence. They are to bookshelves what pebbles are to beaches; but I’ve always taken a special interest in these books. Unfortunately, I was only able to find two before the entire globe crashed atop itself:


Encontro (Poemas D’Amor)
Albino Fernandes de Sá

The inscription in the second image reads:
Ao sempre querido e inesquecível amigo Hélio, a quem este livro deve, em grande parte, o seu aparecimento, com um almoço de eterna gratidão, oferece:
O autor Albino Fernandes de Sá

Translated:
“To my ever sweet and unforgettable friend Hélio, to which this book owns, in large part, its existence, I offer, along with a lunch of eternal gratitude: Encounter (Love Poems).
The author, Albino Fernandes de Sá”


It’s rare to find a book of limited printing, especially one such as “Encontro“, which was printed in 1954, fourty-one years prior to my birth; but rarest still, it seems, is to find one such book that was gifted by the author himself to the friend that inspired it. One is often given to reflections regarding the loss of being, that shedding, and concomitantly, where the scales of our shedding might lie; foundered in some sea-floor, rived by caracoles and barnacles, or earth-bitten under metres of soil, near a tall building or pile of rubble. None of us hold much of a clue regarding the destination of our droplets, our scales, our shards that stamp upon things our sole impression of what they are.
Not much can be found regarding Albino Fernandes de Sá. Some registries of old, lost publications, indicate that he might have published, in collaboration, a series of treatises and short anthropological works regarding the old Portuguese-African colonies. Bibliographic guides have cited Governador da Hulía, a book he wrote apropos the ever-shifting political powers in the region of Hulía, Angola, is one such example (though most documents I’ve found cite this as a reference to Mozambique and not Angola, and the reason for such has eluded me thus far).
Fernandes de Sá, however, was not a colonial native. By reading poems in “Encontro“, I rapidly gathered his place of birth to be Barcelos, in the Northern Portuguese region of Minho. It’s likely that he wasn’t from the city itself, since he mentions a village in the poem “A minha aldeia“, and later the river Neiva, in the aptly named poem “O Neiva“.

River Neiva, by Jaime Pereira in Olhares

Encontro” chronicles, in punctilious detail, the entire life of Fernandes de Sá. It delineates his birthplace and parents, his favourite flowers as a child, his journeys to the coast and first sight of sea, his first voyage to the colonies, his upbringing with his “bark-haired” loving sister, his first love, marriage, first daughter and son. The hymeneal bliss in which he found himself, as if citterns played everywhere, buoyant as bubbles along the smoothest whiff of air, plays a coronary role in this book. Fernandes de Sá wrote of it all in a-hundred-and-fifty sonnets, which are, thus far, the only creative publication I’ve found under his name; even then, “Encontro” was a personal publication. It never had a commercial form nor was it ever available beyond the copies requested by the author. I haven’t, however, found any other extant copy of the book, either for sale or under private hands. The last record of Fernandes de Sá publicly available was a print of his presence in a literary gathering in Sá da Bandeira (present-day Lubango), dated 1963. I found no evidence of living descendants ever returning to Portugal, but it is indubitable that they exist, albeit perhaps disconnected from the written aspect of Fernandes de Sá‘s life. This leads me to the rather feeble conclusion that this book I currently hold is, with a strong chance, the last remnant of Albino’s personal writings, and that it likely came from the private library of Hélio himself, the friend that inspired its creation.


The Neiva

Nature has its lovers,
that charged with affection, with sugar,
she, sometimes, employs in the making
of vistas glazed in a thousand colours!

Radiated by auroral showers,
it slithers through the moss-green web
of the view, beaming with freshness,
from Antas, the Neiva, lined in flowers.

It seems like a mirror of luminous crystal,
in which my sumptuous village sights
its own profile of emerald and sapphire.

Since my youth I returned its ardent love.
I figure that within my blood runs the dew
that flows in my sweet and beautiful Neiva.

A dream that has not died

A dream that has not died: my Angola.
Since youth, I wanted to give it my life.
It smiled, fair and colourful,
like to the sun smiles a corolla.

Its voice was a coo of a dove
that between the boughs sings invitingly.
I made her my bride, my most wanted,
and she, in sadness, consoled me.

I loved her with passion; in her, my dreams
of love and beauty came to find
warmth and home to live happily.

I then decided to give her my vigour,
my life, my blood and my love,
all of which, far from her, would die.

(Note: these translations are not entirely faithful to the original metric and scheme of the poems, since most of them are written in a form of Portuguese already adapted to sonorific effects; these translations merely intend to mimic the original sentiment of the text)


Those scales — shards of impression — may fall anywhere indeed. It’s uncertain to me if “Encontro” was first produced in Angola, though the date of its publication and the last record of Albino both congruently indicate that it was written and printed there, in Sá da Bandeira, mid-twentieth century. I know not who carried it to Portugal, where it was kept or how long it percolated, from a hand to another, until it was drowned beneath multitudinous old books on the most varied subjects, and lastly, picked up by me, likely due to my profound weakness regarding the shaded outline of spring swallows. Every attempt I make at alchemising a possible story sounds overly poetical and contrasts with my knowledge of this world. This now lonely, diseased, and at times, unbearably real world. What I know is that the words of Fernandes de Sá have found another “encounter” in their subtle existence, and that, at least for now, they have another home in which to perdure, another memory to cling to.


The other book, “Lucilações” by Telémaco Augusto Santana, shares many elements with this one, but has many more elements unique to itself; sadly, in fear of making this post any denser, I will publish it at a later date, but as soon as possible.

I hope you enjoyed this brief journey into the oblivion of words; I have more planned, hopefully, if and when things resume to themselves. I would also like to deepen the prose of these voyages; unfortunately with the case of Fernandes de Sá, I’m not sufficiently knowledgeable of Northern Portugal, nor have I ever visited Angola (only Mozambique and South Africa).

Thank you for reading, as always!,
João-Maria.