I really appreciate everyone who’s been reading me and commenting in this new cycle. I certainly don’t write the way I used to, and I don’t want to, even if I do cherish some of my old poems. It still means a lot to me when someone cares enough to read, especially those that return despite the change.
Both cited lines are from Kafka’s Blue Octavo Notebooks.
In his Orphée, Jóhann Jóhannson sampled the voice from a polish number station that, throughout the sixties and seventies, syncopately reproduced numbers in a haunting, disconcerting fashion. A Song for Europa, it is called. Zwei, acht, null, fünf, sechs. ACHTUNG! One month today marks the passing of my grandfather, and never have I been in such a loss of spirit nor have I felt so earnestly that which is the weight of things, thus, I will allow myself once the honesty of words, though I’d otherwise reject it. It is important that I write, and, knowingly, as I rekindle a silence I seek solace in, it’s no importance I can yet grasp, but one that comes to me in washes.
Manner, like art, has a sense and travels frontwards. My grandfather put on his sunglasses, since only with them could he sleep, and to sleep he went. Restless, as he always was, he got up, arranged a rope, laced it poorly around his neck and fastened it to the frame of the hennery door, from which he lunged. His knees were 13 centimetres from the ground. He was wholly able to get up throughout the entire process of asphyxiation, and unstintingly unwilling to do so. Anne Carson writes, in the end of her Plainwater, that “on the other hand death, yes stealthy enough, ignores no one and never sleeps.“. Literature, flawed as it is, accounts for life with its feverish stupor. My grandmother called us all, and then stood as still as a burning mountain. Flashes of life went by, some wept, some screamed, unleashed some sort of performance that I hadn’t yet learned but observed candidly, and my mother was a month to every moon, cycling between, or rather navigating through, a small planet rehearsing its never-ending collapse. The rope was cut by the time I got there, but I still saw a body. I recall seeing a body, I do not recall the body.
It took me a lifetime to realise that stillness is a habit. One doesn’t grow accustomed to stillness, but instead learns to simulate oneself and to inhabit the simulacrum, as if under a keratinous shell. That is not a process of defence nor one of cowardice, but of paralysis. One poemifies the skin, the eyes, the mouth, the pores. The shedding of the leaves causes one as much a wound as does the visions of a dying society, as the light of renewal is undermined by the contamination of the self, and so, leaves are shedded and so are we, brushed off from the nape of a running horse. Each daylight becomes critical. My dear friend warns me of mourning: it causes one to see death in everything, and to feel it pulsate. She’s right, and not just slightly. I see death in everything because I notice everything dying. “at times i think that flowers bloom after being cut. war is also that: a body-time falling upon a living-time. when the chronic swells up, it isn’t any death, but one that adds up, therefore things change beyond the end of changing. like the sun doubles a mountain in the impression of its shadow, so too does the end impress on time the tilted trauma of its violence.“, I had written, addled, but not by grief, but for the lack of it, as any manner of written grief is the lack of it. Only after. “the slight smile of the horizon surges also from me. i’m not more now than i’ve once been, and the sun twirls, reviled, dilating itself in its homicidal light.“ I recall seeing a body and I recall the rest. In me, cities have been flooded. There’s nothing I cannot recall in immense and cruel detail, and when the detail lacks cruelty or immensity, I become a poet. A poem is something remaining, and the something is fabrication, and the fabrication is human, reeks of it, like a factory reeks of it, or Berlin’s opera house, whose colours bleed that ghoulish human scent, or Artaud’s plague, that too reeks of human, like all plagues do, and so did my grandfather leading up to his death. He already sported that odour of humanity as if it had finally latched onto him, a parasite in limp, aged flesh. Weeks before his suicide, and for the first time in my conscious life, he had cried to me, saying his only wish before death was to see me married to a woman. Death is also that, or, said differently, death is not just dying. Death is also inherited. One inherits death like a painful seed, and when the dying begins, there’s a sprout, and the sprout is a flower that only blooms after being cut, scented like Artaud’s plague, or any plague for that matter, and then it compels you to pass it on. It is too painful to keep. A viperous catch: there’s no passing. There’s only dying when you reek of poetry.
“You can hold yourself back from the sufferings of the world: this is something you are free to do and is in accord with your nature, but perhaps precisely this holding back is the only suffering that you might be able to avoid.”, said Kafka, in his Blue Octavo Notebooks, and it is as if we were reading Hölderlin’s Panthea as she witnessed what wasn’t quite a suicide (what wasn’t quite a suicide):
Not only in the blossom, not only in the purple grape
Does holy force inhere; nourishment
Of life derives from sorrow too, my sister!
Life drinks the way my hero does,
Imbibing gladly from the cup of death!
I, too, have a sister. But mine is as far from Delia as I am from Kafka. The day of the wake was a linguistic emprise. Historically, the parish my family comes from is a fissured place, since it is far too small and underpopulated to have as many churches as it does, but the entire region fell under the favour of a particular queen who was remarkably fond of building neoclassical churches. The centre of our municipality has an astounding seven churches for a measly nine-thousand people, and the village in which my grandfather died has three. One of which, the most opulent one, is the only one where sacraments take place, and the other two are used for special occasions. My grandfather, a victim of self-killing, had no right to enter the kingdom of god, nor had he ever asked for entry, and thus, at request of his family, the priest, who does not favour life-takers much, relegated us to the most worn down chapel of the bunch. The keys were picked up at dawn and delivered promptly the day after (I made sure of that). Neither he nor anyone was sent by the church. It’s frugal, still, this sudden honesty of the spirit, because who hasn’t lost? When something is deeply ubiquitous, it manages to feel strikingly cold, almost repulsive. Death has always been that to me. My sister and I jumbled through at least a dozen different iterations of suicide in portuguese, without, of course, ever saying the word itself. Flocks of people would wave in an out of the purportedly haunted chapel (as haunted as any chapel to S. Sebastian). We registered: their favoured expressions were “aquilo que ele fez” (that which he has done) and “desta/dessa forma” (in this/that way). They would subtly collect together, like galls in a flume, and these figures, many of whom had only seen me as a child, now commented on my alienness and weirdness. Some said I was much too thin, or much too weird, or much too slender and odd, as if I was a black hand flitting around, severed from its body and hosting some sort of diabolical apathy towards said separation. What is suicide, really? I had also only seen them as a child, and now I saw their flesh wrap around them with seething unkindness. Time seemed solid there, like a foucauldian heterotopia, and its solidity was a sea congealed, and they, who had all the while been hardened inside this claustrophobic architecture, had the entire solid sea collapse suddenly upon them, and I, still young enough to decline holding myself back from the sufferings of the world, felt that sea collapse inside me. No, but what is suicide, really? At the end of the day, we struggled with the silicon fake candles as we could not find the button to turn them off. We chuckled. Laughter here is tinted with alien ink. One can feel the sting of compunction with every laugh, and it is always followed by a slight sigh: pain escaping. I took my mother home. We talked the whole way through about menial things; where to put the ashes, the diligences, which wood would burn better, quicker, with less noise. Noise is also death. I left my mother home at 2 A.M. and had an hour long return to my own. I wept the whole hour long, audibly, entirely perturbed; from me erupted an age-long drone. Sadness is a graceful, fragile thing. You are sad when you see a homeless person wobble down the road, and it sticks to you for hours, that sadness. But this isn’t sadness. What is a suicide? I did not care that he died, most of us didn’t. But we cared that he died. I dropped my mother off and one day she too will die, and I want to start weeping now. My hands are gaping maws, this world pushes me out. Nourishment of life derives from sorrow too, my sister, but I must learn of sorrow yet, I must learn of sorrow too.
Forever. "This is what my learning
Teaches," the Aquarian said,
"To absorb life through the pores
For the life around you is dead."
The sun came out in the capital
Just before it set.
The lovely death's head shone in the sky
As though these two had never met.
The summer air vacuums up. It has been hotter than it is now. It never felt hotter than now. I can imagine everything flitter. I hold my chest, half-eaten now, expecting something to fall out. Nothing does. The pigeons alight all at once, and all at once they settle. There is no longer an outside, and everyone goes through this process, this moulting. Loss is an exercise. To become is ambitious, to accept is hypocritical, and to change is religious, which is nothing but the mixture of them both. No, I did not become, I have not accepted nor changed. If I now raise my hand to the sunlight, it gathers up in my cupped bones like liquid fire.
(My grandfather was a terrible man. I knew him as much as I knew he was terrible. I know he never liked me, even though he made it clear he didn’t dislike me either. He once held up his hunting rifle pointed at me and threatened me with an ax when he realised he hadn’t reloaded. He drank a lot. He was miserable, and I knew him as much as I knew he was miserable. The father of my grandmother also hung himself, but from what I’ve heard, he was much sweeter. What is this, then?)
My nights are feeble habitats. They jumble around me like flaxen thumbs. My body is a neckless around the night. I remember the romantics, their intermittent dreams, the Schlegels, the Chamissos, the Goethes. Death is also fragmentary. It comes to me the pleasant smell of blindness. I want to be seen, listened to. I fear being seen, listened to. The Waves is up in the theatre near my house. Bernhard makes me cry, then Rhoda. Death is also Rhoda. Afterwards I sit, I talk, the world, the war, the rights, the immigration, the culture, pitter-patter, so lucky we are, so unlucky we are, and I drift back into a kingdom of moments that never touch other moments. Life becomes this plain land in repose. I dread not having sorrowed, but what can I do? What is there to feel sorry for? The imperative of doom has that delight. The sky is now two mirrors circulating blood. The trains in Antwerp churn to-and-fro opening discoloured gashes as they go, like nails upon sheepskin. I make plans to travel, I make plans to live in Berlin next year. I am tremendous. I ache all the time. I spasm with indifference, this world pushes me out. It pushes us all.
I’m sorry for the absence; the silence. I haven’t been able to write. Writing isn’t easy. Sometimes I lose it entirely. It’s somehow such a bland thing to say. It’s not a block, and it’s not precisely the inability to string words together and make something out of them — that’s not writing. Sometimes I create something and I feel as if it contains nothing true of me; it did not inherit, perhaps because the spoils are scarce, or perhaps because it didn’t have to, but that’s not writing. Or it might be, but it’s not what I’m about. I’ve thought of deleting this website, start fresh somewhere else, recreate something freer, shapeless, but how long then until I’m here again? It’s within myself that I am stuck, not in what surrounds me. If it was the latter, I would be able to write. This is where being creative has unimaginable worth, telling blue from green, sadness from sadness. I miss it terribly. I really do.
Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão Three Poems from Três Rostos (1989)
I think, sometimes, my capacity of understanding is as mantle of light deposited upon the world, and its endless, patina-like nature allows me to see things as hallucinations. It’s an othered feeling, a removal of the envy one often feels for the levity (and brevity) of everything else. The undiluted sentiments one had as a child attain absurd proportions in one’s own mind throughout life, culminating in their revival, and the rabbit burrows by my grandfather’s home, cradles of both personal mythologies and the motion of the world itself, are not only aesthetic experiences, but links, through something, into something. Perhaps everything. Fiama was a privileged, upper-class child, seeing a world of rurality which she spectated and a natural world whose ebbs of violence and augustness were displays and spectacles, things to be admired as poems or melodies chaos had strung together with meticulous carelessness. There is beauty in her visions in part because she acknowledged her distance and her reverence. I recognise now more than ever how these reconnective experiences are symptoms of a growing frustration; a sort of separation anxiety to whatever was lost and is continuously lost, an absence felt only in outlines, in gusts, in dreams, in colours, in chaos.
António Ramos Rosa was born in 1924 along the southern coast of Portugal, the Algarve. I went there often as a child, even wrote some prose about it once. It is an inspiring place, but that inspiration reached Ramos Rosa with different streaks, different impressions. He is still regarded by many as a poet’s poet: cunning in his usage of our most complex grammatical constructions, terribly overbearing in his persistence to also abuse our worst ones, and, above all, meticulous, incredibly meticulous, plagued by the same lack of fluidity that Wallace Stevens has, but with much of the same unimaginable twisting of depth Stevens was so fond of. I will mark this translation for revision someday, as I’m sure returning to it multiple times will produce inevitably different outcomes, but it is still a poem a find moving regardless of the language, and, as always, largely (or fully) untranslated. Richard Zenith is, so far, the only one who has translated his work, and he has done only for a dozen of compositions that would go on to integrate translated anthologies. In the ocean-sized work of Ramos Rosa, which is now being fully made available in two separate tomes exceeding 2000 pages, a dozen poems represents less than a drop of water, though any real efforts of translation, considering the peculiar complexity of his work as well as volume, would no doubt be herculean. Still, I have some other poems of the first tome already translated and some yet to translate, and I’m slowly collecting funds for the second tome, which I shall purchase eventually. Below I will include the PDF of the translation as one large document page as seen here, for those with difficulties reading the image format or those who would like to keep it.
Fiama Hasse Pais Brandão Three Poems from Três Rostos (1989)
Portuguese literature lacks no female contributions; in fact, to every great female portuguese author, I can name an equally grand male counterpart, and this pairing game can go on for as long as there is a memory capable of absorbing that many names. None stands out, to me, as glowingly as Fiama. Born in 1938 in the same Lisbon as I was born in, having studied Germanic Philology, the same field as I studied, in the same University and Faculty, and being in a state of permanent confusion and clarity, as I am, and sporting the same sort of maritime soft-spokenness as I do, I could hardly imagine anyone as oddly myself as she was. In fact, I believe her to have been more myself than I currently am. Where we differ, however, is in our writing: Fiama stops inside her poetry; breathes; and things continue, often without her. I could hardly fathom such a thing, or such a distance. But since my youth, I’ve always been deeply infatuated with Fiama, and the third poem of these first translations, Demonstration that the Tagus runs near Lisbon, stands as one of my most imprinting and unforgettable readings to date. Perhaps because the Tagus truly runs near me, and because at times, I can be dominated by its presence, and I can be dominated by its absence. João-Maria.
The second poem contains a translation from the latin Nulla in mundo pax sincera, from Vivaldi, though it isn’t entirely verifiable if he wrote it or just used it in his motet. Either way, that’s where I got it from. Nothing else to report. Happy traditional celebrations and thank you for reading, João-Maria.
Strung together strangely from a restricted form, (mysterium) is to be part of three independent but thematically linked compositions illumed by the mystical phrase “Mysterium, tremendum et fascinans“, though I believe no unique part is to be distinguished by its focus, rather, to be analysed conically, which was a welcomed formal challenge. Echoes of antediluvian lyricism add to a sentiment of distensibility: verses are presented as rhythmic pairs with a distance that forbids any true pairing, colouring a sense of ruthful or dramaturgic positions of meaning. But the clearings where the metric hits are whetted blades, as shocks of approximation or complete collisions. Another attempt in form was made by an over-preference of the first person — which is my most used — and shall be followed by one mostly written in second and another in third, in the order given by the alighting phrase, as to suggest degrees of repulsion and fascination with the mere instrument of gramatical person and without having to reduce the poems by contaminating them directly with what are otherwise automatic associations. The first person was, obviously, the hardest, and had to necessarily integrate the blindness of which it stands as the regent of. Not so much a blindness of sense, but one of direction, since that too integrates its native meaning. Either way, returning to creativity after dormancy can feel terribly artificial, but it does seem necessary.
I’ve been reading a lot. I try to quarrel with the stillness, though I’m prescient to its victory. My day, languid as a drop, was spent strolling through very empty treks and phantom-fields, as if one inhabited a painting, or was, by some violent concatenation or sortilege, the last living element of a preserved landscape, or a particle of dust bobbing about in a memory. Lesser than the wisdom of times is the wisdom of wounds. Scrapes in an earth that cannot heal. Blows of terrible assortment. That gash or scar, perpetual, in something forgotten, twice betrayed. This poem is in little ways dissimilar to what I made when I began writing poems, which would be no lesser haunting a sensation than that by it accited were it to be written a couple of months ago, but now, strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, it assuages me. Confirms me. I try not to be too sad, and I never am. Sadness is disequilibration until one falls into oneself, and then it is something else entirely. But sadness can also be peace, if one is not enthralled by its fluctuations, and then everything is peace. The remnants of a war can seem like all of this: a deepity, not less, but an honesty, when admitted by smallness. The admitting, despite indicated by the when, is not the difficulty, and then, by lack of contrast, we are only left with smallness. João-Maria.
Inspired by a coalescence of Alice Oswald’sSevered Head Floating Downriver (and truly all of Falling Awake), John Ashbery‘s Three Madrigals, Herberto Helder‘s Servidões and Rilke‘s Death. Mostly an exercise in form, or trials of mathematising form. In fact, only the last of the madrigals has my formal signature. I have been finding it hard to understand creativity, lately. Signifiers and significations. Sometimes I feel claustrophobic.
There is some glory left in the fragmentary: it requires entirety and demands plenitude. Unlike the poem, which exists only in the fullness of itself, the fragmentary cannot overspill nor wound in outburst. It is a slow, percolated humiliation. It is not the Art of the Perpetual, but a manner of deconstructing the frigidity of this former form. A fragment cannot extend itself into infinity; it cannot reach all dimensions of a self it comes in contact with; it cannot kill nor turn living some sapling of aesthetic. There is no sense in the fragment but the limits of its architecture, and that palisade is the structural blade that further fragments, like a trauma, like an issue, like some uncurated motion of desistance, beyond the temperance of exaltation, beyond the exception of feeling. To say the fragmentary is “just words” is to define the fragmentary fully. The fragments exhibit the justice that poems can only dream of; the justice poems seldom dream of, because there is no justice in the realms of the full, only tolerance.
She, for many mornings since some irrecuperable point in time, would sit in her garden, looking; lost. There was exuberance in her eyes as she gazed nothingness with abandon. All of herself was in that act of looking. She would call for Clarita to bring her pen; for days on end she did this. Rarely, if at all, would she write a single word, but she wanted to be ready for that word, as that word, thick and solid, made from the most refined materials of looking, was at once a florid instance unmistakably actualised and a tombstone; a gravestone; a headstone. A word as a mark and a prayer, but also word as a sight and as a motive; the lid of something mute and irresponsible. Something selfish in this world, which is given and transformed once where it enshapes finalisation. The word as fatality and the word as constancy; and, like a spring, the word as a mystery.
She, despite her age, became reckless in autumn; entirely mad and soaked with the most arduous scents of stillness. Clarita would hold her hand and cry, since her son had died not two years prior. It was Clarita’s only son. Her only word. The art of grief that so delicately shawled Clarita was a mountain in its entirety and solitude, and the world, respiring excessively in its seasons, was feminine and obliterating and stuck in that impossible amalgamation. She, ineradicable as she was, asked once more for her pen, but was visited instead by the pure strangeness of Clarita’s absence. There was no Clarita, but a space in form of Clarita which her eyes could not penetrate fully. She sprung and surged for a pen, because now she had a word, or the shape of a word which was not yet all which it amounted to be, but a cloud as those hauling the brand of a timid sun, lambent and transient:
«My daughter, I realise now that I am not a person, and at night and other deforming times, I’m convinced that I always knew this. It is not uncommon for knowledge to stretch her wings so superbly that all life seems encompassed by their span; as if life has been this great solemn slumber of which one has continuously just awakened. I feel I have just become and am restored, and this feeling comes precisely from my certitude that I am not a person. Clarita, just the other day, asked me what a person was, for me, so that she was sure I did not qualify as one. I do not know, because I’ve never been one. She spoke of language and the qualities of a human. Language — I said — entirely exceeds me, and is rooted so far beneath and beyond what it signifies that it feels, to me, in each moment, entirely brutal, intolerable and diabolical. Perhaps it does hold the domains of the personal and I’m merely incapable of conceiving words outside the torture they must endure from such conception, but I fear for them in my abominable lovingness. I care for them as if they were wind and water, and their lives wafting and streaming in spite of me are excellent, inebriating heartbreaks which isolate me. I reject the personhood of language.
And the qualities of a human: that emboldening, that unloosening, that violence and love, they are the presence of a worldly architecture that rejects them and by which they are measured. I do not feel such rejection nor mensuration. I do not feel it because I am not a person, no, I’m new grass in spring.
I’m new grass in spring. I’m that black sun murmuring over Tønder. I’m a silent spider, a silent morning, a silent sleep. In this terrible beauty, I do not demand, but am demanded, and as I rush, like a fluid, through each atom of light I can capture, my memory too seems to expand with the most unnatural motions. I am not a person, and at dawn and other deforming times, I’m convinced that I never was…»
Clarita returned, looking bigger and bigger. Her face, otherwise territory of inchoate tears, was now smoked out and released, and her arms as she picked up the cup and the letter were fraught with the most ethereal lightness.
She, unaware of which day or what time, resumed her looking. That stoic and complicated looking of hers, like an entire horde of horrors was just at her nape.
He approached Sabros and felt an inexplicably nervous density. It was sadness, he was sure of it, but not any sadness. This sadness, such is the nature of its absolute absence, cannot chill nor hold by virtue of its forms, and one feels instead in some aeropause by it created, like orbiting a body of subtle force but oppressive mass. The only manner in which to live despite the divinity of this sadness was to deposit it in some voiceless space, such as a fir caddy or a glove compartment, and always walk, breathe or eat or do any matters of life not ten metres from it.
His former home was the basin for the most asperous dreams. The blue and teal enamel of the flowerpots was itself spiny-skinned was he to think of them, and in a sense, his certainty that such sensation was to be produced from his touch was enough to echo some domestic disgust within him; but seldom logical are the thoughts of home, and how scrambled they become, palely scattered and labyrinthine and exhibitive of the most retorted expressions. The entrance has this mandarine tree which his father had planted somewhen; and it never bore fruit, no matter the richness of her green nor the cast of her health. His father said — he was reminded — that it had to do with her being planted after the first light of June, «an inch too late», he said, or perhaps «seeded an inch too deep», or the sun, an «inch too angled», and this was the particular aperture for the world and its numinous aspects of error. The tree, now, with her inhuman halo, bore torrents of mandarines every year since father died, insofar as the ground of her shadow is a russet membrane of rot, but heavenly rot, celestial rot. He thought at first that it could be confouded with something primordial and living, as if himself, his bones, his thoughts, his memories, and perhaps all bones and thoughts and memories were at one point spoil from a series of springs vengeful of that inch-borne error. It will not be possible for him to look at himself again after the mandarine tree, as he has been transfigured completely in that poem which was the mandarine tree. He was now in her and he was simultaneously an ear in search of winter. All of the times in which he moved were fabrications in swift dissolution. He could not be moved; but his rot was not heavenly; rather radical and repugnant.
Most magnetic was the flower. Neither him nor I know which flower it is, nor are we in any way able to describe it. He doesn’t quite remember it, but it is not forgotten. I hold no memories of the flower, but I understand the flower, because the flower isn’t and I am not. Her petals waft but their substance is so overcome with barbarous beauty that they are at once insulting and impossible in their magnitude of perfection, but in this description I acquiesce my understanding of the flower: now she is and I am. He assumes that the flower is and isn’t concomitantly, perhaps atrociously. It is a bellicose silence too big and spaced and sad to be entirely present at any given moment. Thinking himself made of something else, he fails to truly see the beingness and unbeingness of the flower. He accepts it. He does not enter the house. He leaves.
When a poem can’t quite make it as a poem, and does not become, is not renewed in a clash too pertinent to the veins at which it tugs, well, it becomes a fragment. A fragment is not a poem. A fragment is a non-poem in place of an object in need to be left alone. A fragment is a not a wound and not a scar, and while a poem becomes brutally and permits itself to remain becoming, a fragment haunts us in its stillness, in its mockery, in its disinterest. A fragment thus is not a lesser poem, but rather a crack in a lesser heart that lacks the poetry of becoming.
It has been an odd year for me and most, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have met many wonderful figures here and shared Art that I love with you along with Art that I love making. I’ve never been too fond of writing about writing, as it often feels infatilising and dulled by harmless cynicism, but I’m afraid this year has worked me into a creative halt; a stagnation of sorts. I do not like to write now as I would yesterday nor do I expect to write in this manner five days from now. I will only create, albeit perhaps wrong in my approach and albeit perhaps faulted by my attrition, while I feel movement, since movement is to words what colour is to a painting or a photograph. I’m unsure of what the future holds for my writing — be it that anything is being held — but I am wriggling myself out of my entanglement slowly and I do hope 2021 will fair as well if not better than 2020 did, and I do genuinely adore all of those still patient enough to read me. Even silent, I often read many of you, but for those that do know me, you know that I cannot comment without absolute substance and artfulness in my contributions, and that is something that I’ve been desperately lacking.
Thank you so much and a have gleeful new year, João-Maria.
I hope you’re doing well. School has recommenced for me and I’ve been tasked with an unprecedented flurry of obligatory readings, from books to papers to papers on books and books on papers. COVID-19 severely shortened the semester and one must toil to fit so much voluminous theory in such a thin amount of time. Among these readings is the Iliad, which I’ve read before in its entirety when I was fifteen but have now returned to what seems to be an entirely different work. The Epopee is remarkable for its many poetic subtleties that run as gutters between the branched type-scenes and cloned verses; once in a while, a descent mirrors nightfall, a spring is ripe with darkness or a tree punctuates a weakness or is a weakness and a tree. Perhaps the quality of things so vast and dense is that they will strike brilliancy if only by insistence. Ílion still slumbers in the fabric of our songs, as intact as it is besieged, as standing as it is fallen, and in all of its many echoes, Andromache first and last saw Troy for what it was, and no other account of it ever equaled hers. I found it a rather charming interpretation. João-Maria.
Forgetfulness has no worth by itself; it lacks an economy of space. Past our brutal archway of knotweeds and spruces, the pathways opened only to an abandoned garrison. Sucessive instants of nature hued the rubble with that superlative ghost of placeness and immortality, which is so rarely reflected in insomnia. The cabinets had illegible files and expired medicine. We sat on the desks; their dense plastic fibreboards weren’t neither fit for rotting nor eating, but still fit enough for the dangling old art of carving incomplicate symbols. Writing now feels much the same — this hum/urge/daub against the crudity; an attack, a volley of landfilled fragments of emotions that never quite found a fitting elsewhere. A b(l)oom.
There’s grace in this coldness we feel, he said. I disagreed. There can be no corollary to nothingness. I always found myself to be cruel and lavishly dramatic; my cinders were in agony if they could ever be fumed to digladiate at all; I’d defend agony with the tint of selfhood; I’d idol trauma as a tribal rain-god. The all-dissolving empathy of this world, chiller even than an arctic gale, was yet to prove how dramatically undramatic I truly figured. It ends up being an ourobouric realisation. You mustn’t blur revolt with sadness, he said. I agreed. I must feel mit bewegtem Ausdruck¹, as if the factionalism of thoughts could be dammed in or transferred like an equalised liquid, escaping only when our inner kingdoms inch in a certain manner or another. There’s so much to keep in, so much to keep out. There’s as much frustation in quantity as there are frustrated quantities; serried columns of hurtful notes overspilling like piles of sand or roadside weeds. It’s dark, I must phone home, and so do I. Somewhere right before some iron-sounding annihilation. After the hum/urge/daub. I tear up. The molds and lichens, captives of this senseless calaboose between heaviness and conscience, transude that humid odour of digging as the dusk brays across the clouds. There goes the performance, the anger, and so much disappears. How you’ve let yourself be polluted, he tackles, to this point, he digs in, to this point of irreparability, CLINK, he hits the bedrock. How noxious a sentiment; how synthetic; how opposite of tribal. There’s nothing moving about irreparability; nothing expressive at all. Tragedy can be unbearably dull when it is conceived to be lived and not performed. Our freedom to conceive of it is precisely as mythological as the rain-god. Out there where the moon sears the dense curtain and bones thud against each-other with wails of longing we wait for a golden spear to emerge from the earth and unclutter the theatre with a white undomesticated light. A beacon gobsmacked where no one can find it. Out there and not here where we’ve abandoned the prospect of spatial economy. Out there and not here where we’ve composed effigies out of instants of hunger. Even the pain, he scribbles, ends up as hunger, he closes deeper into the fibres, somewhere between coming and going, CLINK.
¹ – with a moving expression, a musical composition by Anton Webern.
Eliogabalus, Shu, Malakbel, Shamash, Sól; under the fragments of your cone reaching the lodes of stillblood; under your numerous risings, emptier and brighter; under you and always under, as broken circles or frangible slopes, the light pools around our fingers and edulcorates the tinge. We realise, now, how nights can be synergistic. How nights can be lawful with their tiered, thick orders. Under you (and always under) our thoughts are wholly purified, as one does not live without the doubled spasm, the squeezing of a nerve and its reproduction elsewhere; a pair under the sun and by it guided, o, lordless god of coloured things, lordless god of solemn rituals that succour the putrefaction and bubbling beneath the sand and the sandstone. As I look for you along the waste and excrement, as I vessel your light in the divine misery that circumscribes you, I see now the shape of my sentiments and how, in gold or silver tones, they are alchemised and roped out of me as if I was hollow and hung by them. As a creature of sacrifice, I’ve seen the blue of your hunger and repulsion and I’ve bled for such tender illusions. I for thousands and I for millions and I in the pythian flumes carrying yet another ewe of blood to where you cannot reach it. Forever shall we pay for the draught of life with the kneeling chill of our extinction; our catacombs run as deep as you hover; o, lordless god, how we venerate you in how we abhor you.
My artifice was underacted. Only when the sycamore expired did I gloss its brief sussurus. My muffled blood takes to the bludgeon of evening and, dry, proceeds to the integration. Sound has since slogged through five varieties of despair. A scream would be mute by the force of merely being. I take note of things as they are quickly chewed off into impermanence. A saltatorial dog gets reprimanded by its owner, the sumac sights, logiest with waiting, circumscribed to smallness. I think of the expansion of things and I’m awakened from the errancy by reminders of effort, of dedication. The logwood signboard, pitted by age and fulgurated by sunlight shredded in an attic-fan, reminds me of the murex snails crushed by the Tyrians in an effort to create a colour not too distant from that of the logwood-tint. Only the scantest droplet could be extracted from a snail insofar as an absurd number of crushings would be required to tint a single purple mantle; a mantle which, more than a thousand years after the ruination and conquering of all historical Phoenicia, came to represent, in a now-Christian Mediterranean Europe, the religious habit of fasting, mourning and penance, three strong radiations of lack. The opulent, imperial purple, deathborne in frigid innumeracy, acme of human impression and predominance upon the natural world, happens to condense too what is, to some, the immense inner laceration of loss, of taking to the point of lacking. The invention of synthetic mauve ended the carnage of snails, and the logwood variety of purple was to arrive shortly after as its own advent of richness. So much optical mass is arranged in a soft and swift emergence, so much of what I receive is already laden with the vitreous enamel of History. A flower-box of syringa comes to mind like a millipetalous bruising of the eye, an evening that seethes of revenge and unshakeable somnolence. My chest yearns it; I am awaited. I have not known pain as I now see it.
She now oft forgets. Memories are volatile, as is the foam of waves and the formication they leave debossed on the shore. September reminds her of wasps, meadows, heat. I’m reminded of jags and seagulls or a deformed field of ashfall. I’ve never heard her express fear of losing the common ropes; my name or that of my mother or uncle, or the age of my sister and her children, or her home, her fields, her flowers. These are the indelible parts while one is idoneous, but that status has now somehow dissolved, like a wave or a phantastical seabird. I sit beside her, involved in some paltry research of German troubadours:
Some lover has spring pinned in his hand and another open where he has loosened a blade and replaced it for a planet. Some hum somewhere slumps into a mire of circles only to rise into a four-toned sky. Some angle of death is braided yet against the carcass of a city. I ask her to point out her unhealables, what parts of her ache with a tingle of sound that cannot be shaken nor reduced. She’s voided, and her eyes tube into the room in search of storms with nameless colours. I near myself to tears as I twist my hands around the neck of avoidance and try to smother out its culminant perfume. I can see but I fail to feel it. I must wait to feel it. I understand: it’s her essence she’s forgetting, not the names. Names are lights, names are suns, things dissolved, things dissolving. And pains are just little watered abstractions. She is one of many to witness an unspeakable withering; flustered, she whispers symbols of home, whistling thorns. The moon hangs high, intense sand-bright convocation of dusts, the waters nearing to delete the prospect of that full-bodied kiss they shall never receive. It’s fine to be smeared, I find, to be torn open, rust scraped off the bone as it is a residue of some nightly relic. The world knows not how to do it differently, we realise. I hold her hand, try to remember. It’s no use, it makes no difference. I know not how to do it differently. It’s fine and it breaks my heart.
Phase two of the torturing duo starts now, I’ll hopefully survive it, João-Maria.
“Books will give rest sometimes against the uproar of water falling and righting itself to refall filling the mind with its reverberation shaking stone.”
William Carlos Williams, Paterson, Book Three (The Library)
The inexhaustible becomes the forgotten. I abhor times of initiation and transition; this science of conjuring aphotic worlds is annealed by a silence which, by nature of the perpetuity of the task, is a material purely chosen for its endlessness. Every sound is an inevitable interruption of form. Wind tortures the reed panicles whose boisterous death is throated fury. The moorhen’s vilipended chucker licks the bulrush like a similar furious gale. The water itself seems bellicose and exuberant, as if all of its threadings required musical punctuation. This is the impression of time hitting the bodies with its venomous silence, a silence I’ve learnt to reproduce because melding with it is the condign manner in which to live; restful, blind, pushing the objects of our impotence onto the margins where such concepts fail to get a grasp. I’m reminded of the iniquity of growing. I’m reminded of a poem. It hasn’t been written, and my mind has the invidious habitude of searching humiliation—my silence already occupies too much of itself. It’s already too corruptive. I’m impressed against the panicles and the moorhens and the bulrushes, my whole body timed and melo-poetic. I’m a unique form infolding the view. I must bear the infelicitous brand of my personalisation: the pains of growing too much, too fast, gobbling up the youthful light like it is the very silence poems seem to be made of.
The seeming, however, is the elusive material, the gilding, the part with any worth, the part with any limitation.
To chronicle the worst months of any year, João-Maria.
By popular demand, I shall put here another translation I had given up on and decided to complete upon seeing the warm reaction in my last translation of Daniel Faria. As I’m noticing that more-and-more folks are becoming interested not only in Portuguese poetry and the translated works themselves, but my method of translation and how the translation itself elapses and is thought-out, I decided to include some of my notes later on the post, so that those interested might better understand the choices I make and how I work around some linguistic issues. I remind everyone that I am still an amateur and work my hardest to provide the best that I can, but I’m still inexperienced in the arts of literary translation. This eight-part composition was one of my biggest challenges, but some parts of it are so rich, I couldn’t help but endure the harder ones.
ORIGINAL TEXT BY DANIEL FARIA
I’ll include here the download for the PDF of all the contents of this post: translation, original and notes, for those who might have trouble reading the images or getting them to load properly, or those who’d like to keep the document for themselves.
This is all incredibly arduous to make and hopefully someday I’ll achieve my dream of getting paid for it, haha, though for now I’m more-than-glad to provide it for free and be allowed to do so, both for the experience and to show you all the wonders of Portuguese poetry, which is incredible in nearly all of its presence, though largely underappreciated. Thank you for letting it live within you, João-Maria.
Daniel Faria is a complicated figure of Contemporary Portuguese Poetry, perhaps the most complicated of all. Daniel died young, at twenty-eight, and left behind a literary legacy of seven published collections of poetry, along other small publications found in literary awards and a plethora of other fragments and pieces that his acquaintances donated to the curation of his work, all of them contained in a single volume, “Poesia de Daniel Faria, edição de Vera Vouga“. Daniel was indubitably of enormous talent, but the eagerness of some to see him as a “regenerator”, a herald of a poetic resurgence along Portuguese literary circles, was concomitant with many pressures to publish work that, albeit good, lacks in a variety of fronts, and perhaps the most nitid one is Daniel’s inability to have a poetic register, or inner-ear, that accompanies the veins and arteries of his themes. A tragedy indeed: to have such a subtle and mature mind command a silent orchestra, or one that can barely play. Out of the entire volume of Poesia, which I do not regret reading for a second, as I do genuinely believe he was of incalculable talent, I still maintain the view that only a lithe portion of his compositions achieved their maximum potential, or were even worthy of their space in the books they occupy. Irregardless of this very-personal-opinion, I translated five poems among those I liked the best, and I do hope to see the bulk of Daniel’s work professionally translated into the English language someday.
As of now, and just like Herberto Helder, there are no translations of Daniel Faria being performed or sold, though I’m vigilant as to when they might start to appear.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. In 1964, alongside António Aragão, Herberto would create the first anthology of experimental poetry in the Portuguese language, which punctuated an enormous shift in Portuguese poetic literature. He died in 2015. He wrote the poems above in his book, Servidões, a book also never translated into English. All translations were performed by me. As a last in this series of posts regarding Herberto Hélder, which I hope is a good beginning to a series of translations I’m hopeful to be able to make and post, I’d also like to introduce you to a Portuguese musical artist that I grew up listening to (quite literally). B Fachada came off of a long hiatus to release his latest album, “Rapazes e raposas”, translated to “Boys and foxes”, which are very similar words in Portuguese. The first single and crown jewel of this record is Anti-Fado, meaning Anti-Fate, and though it’s impossible to translate the infinitesimally sharp and intelligent lyricism of Bernardo, I’ll translate the lyrics of the song for you:
B Fachada’s new album can be found on his bandcamp, as Bernardo is also anti-streaming. It is a great purchase if you have a world-music collection and you’d like one of the absolute best Portuguese lyricists of this century.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. His poetry began during the tail of Portuguese Surrealism, after Mário Cesariny, and had as recurrent themes alchemy, mysticism and ancient mythology. He died in 2015. He wrote the prose-poem above in his book, Os passos em volta, a book never translated into English. This translation was performed by me.
Herberto Hélder was born in Funchal, Madeira, in 1930. He was the most influential Portuguese poet of the second half of the 20th century, and by far the most misanthrope, having lived in relative isolation and refusing every prize he ever received. He died in 2015. He wrote the prose-poem above in his book, Os passos em volta, a book never translated into English. This translation was performed by me, and is one of three from the same book, which I will release over three days.
I was inspired to create three compositions on three queer (gay, in this instance) relationships pertinent to Art History. I’m unknowing of why these were the ones that I picked, despite there being quite a few more of weighty impact, some of even more impact that those I chose. I was just reading up on some of them during Pride month and these were the ones that spoke to me sufficiently as to inspire poems. All of them play with some of the elements of the relationships, along with a coalescence of the arts they were occupied with and, of course, my own sentimental hand, which is never too distant of any of my verse. I also include a thin biography of the figures, might they be obscure for some.
Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev (1872-1929), on the left, was a critic and the ballet impresario responsible for the creation of the Ballets Russes, a vagrant dancing company known for the formation of many significant dancers of the time, and one of them was Vaslav Nijinsky (1890-1950), on the right, often considered one of the greatest if not the greatest dancer of his age. After Nijinsky married Romola, a known Hungarian aristocrat, Diaghilev threw him off the company, and though he later tried to form his own company, he failed to do so. Eventually, he fell into madness, spending his last thirty years in various asylums in Switzerland. Diaghilev went on to have a series of male lovers throughout his life. The last was Igor Markevitch, who later married one of Nijinsky’s daughters in what seemed to be the last nail of this turbulent history.
Edward Morgan Forster (1879-1970), on the right, was an English novelist of exceptional talent and one of a very fruitful harvest named the Bloomsbury Group, of which Woolf and Roger Fry were part of. He wrote a few novels, among them The Longest Journey, in 1907, and A Room with a View, in 1908, but the greatest and most lauded was indubitably A Passage to India, in 1924, after a period of fourteen years since his last large work. A Passage to India was special, however, since it was inspired by his greatest love, Ross Masood (1889-1937), on the left in the picture, the grandson of an Islamic reformist and son of a judge and jurist, both from British India. Forster tutored Masood in Latin, and since Masood was ten years his junior, it is believe that the relationship was never materialised beyond its platonic nature. Still and despite that, it is clear through correspondence and the aforementioned novel that it meant much to them both.
Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) was a French composer with an extensive catalogue of compositions and a profound influence to many others as part of the Six along with other composers of his time, like Louis Durey and Darius Milhaud, and Richard Chanlaire (1896–1973), of whom I found no picture but only a painting, was that, a painter, and assumed to be the first actual lover of Poulenc, who had others throughout his life. Despite there being virtually no information on their relationship, I found it of tremendous interest to explore, in verse, the romance of a painter and a musician, both attuned to wordless worlds which can hardly — if in any way — be replicated in text. The usage of the Georgian hymn comes about a citation I found of Benjamin Ivry, a biographer of Poulenc, in which he found that in a copy of his Concert champêtre that he gifted to Chanlaire, Poulenc wrote “You have changed my life, you are the sunshine of my thirty years, a reason for living and working.”.
I hope you enjoyed this small exploration; surely the compositions aren’t as complex or dense, but they have their own place, I find. They do, this time around. And it goes to show that poetry may come from any fount, if our poetic ear is so inclined. Verse, however, might be a bit harder to rope out, but it is certainly always there, ready to be rescued.
I know, I’m aware. When I was little, I feared two things: to be touched, and alien spaceships, though I suppose that dissipated when I first visited one (fun!). The haptophobia, though, never quite took flight, and it only became more extensive, deeper. I have my ways of becoming intangible, of becoming repulsive, of shedding magnetism. When I started posting on WordPress two years ago, my desire was to amplify myself, reach that final and most obscure cycle of creation which is and can only be external and communal. Some poems I’ve placed on here had such a sharp emotional density to me that such an act of exhibition was akin to pleading for the return of a lover. I became increasingly frustrated with my ineptitude at translating what isn’t, nor was ever intended to be, a cerebral or philosophical poetic spine; that’s not what I am. The heart of my poems is that of mine; it’s trauma, madness, rejection, humiliation, and they enjoy the measure of isolation and disfigurement that all of these sentiments carry. I’m rarely ever okay, but I’ve learnt an integral aspect of my being: you either make a monument of your pain, or you monument your pain, and the former is, to me, a necessary but very grievous process. I know my poems are never easy, they are never clear, never idoneous or clean or expectable. I know they are long and, as a cloud that makes me blush once said, (João-Maria waves at the sky), that might detract some folks from reading me. They might leave, and it’s okay if they do, it’s important. But I can’t paint myself of easy digestion while I can’t easily digest myself. I aspire for that parsimony and subtlety; I want that, but I’m not that, or I’m not always that. The composition above pinnacles that statement. But everyone who does read me, and comments, and e-mails me with incorruptible sweetness, you make this process of asking to be loved again incredibly lighter. I know I’ve been timid for a long time and only now am I starting to engage more, and though we all live creativity differently, I hope I’ve been lightening the experience for those that feel it heaviest, or at least doing something positive for you.
Sorry for the bad poem; my styles in Portuguese and English are very divergent at the moment, (thank god, it took me so long to get to this point), but that also means they don’t get a lot of interrelational textures and can’t enjoy proper translations. Besides, I haven’t been feeling my best, which justifies my silence among other blogs I enjoy. I’m not quite sure when I might return to my best, but for now, I won’t be as present, and I do apologise.
The poem was (obviously) inspired by Dzubas, although this was very sensorial to me, as it is abstract art. I just wrote what came to my mind, and I had some verbal assistance from the album Aurora, by the Sensible Soccers, most stressed in the expression “como quem pinta”, “as one who paints”, which for some reason, is a phrase that I really liked, and a song that I enjoyed even more.
Anyway, thank you, dear person, I’ll see you when I see you! (it should be soon)
I’m running out of ink a bit. This poem was initially designed to be part of greater work along with two other large poems that I will release over the next weeks. However and upon council with a dear literati, I decided not to have them all under one title and to instead put them here individually. (notes on the creative corpse) is, visually and stylistically, my most advanced composition yet, and I quite like how it is designed and the sentiments that informed it, so I hope you like it as well.
I also spent some of my Saturday producing this recommendation page in order to promote many WordPress creators that I feel as deeply important for my journey on this website. Be sure to pay it — and them — a visit, and I promise you with all my force that you won’t be disappointed.
Concurrently, I’ve included a donation button in my About because I’ve been noticing some folks searching Amazon in my blog. I, sadly, do not have any publications currently being sold, nor do I preview to have any anytime soon. If you’d still like to support the blog and, concomitantly, my works, you are welcome to donate. (I’d also prefer to sell a book, but my poems are not yet at the point of being worth actual money, or, I wouldn’t pay for them)
Sorry for the maundering, have a nice weekend!, João-Maria
The word, defining, muzzles; the drawn line Ousts mistier peers and thrives, murderous, In establishments which imagined lines
Can only haunt. Sturdy as potatoes, Stones, without conscience, word and line endure, Given an inch. Not that they’re gross (although
Afterthought often would have them alter To delicacy, to poise) but that they Shortchange me continuously: whether
More or other, they still dissatisfy. Unpoemed, unpictured, the potato Bunches its knobby browns on a vastly Superior page; the blunt stone also.
Sylvia Plath, Poems, Potatoes.
I’ve always been prone to early awakenings. As a child, I’d rise before anyone in my home and thread, slowly, like a liquid shadow, the thin corridor that stood between my room and the stairs, both at the antipodes of the house. The white air of dawn was flayed by a series of twisted lines, reminiscent of brambles, cast by delicate fiddlehead designs that adorned the curtains of the upper floor, and their innocent interruption of sunlight would paint the rightmost wall with the outline of a dark tree. Walking through it, I’m suddenly reminded, felt dimly somber, as I figured that in each morning, the tree asked me if I remembered tomorrow. «No.», I would offer, «Not tomorrow», quite insincerely. As the frigid lacquer of the pine steps innervated my feet, I made an unmatched effort to deposit my weight on my wrists, almost levitating, as to not trigger the stridulation of the wood, that little ravenous instrument, and if not for my glaringly audible breathing, I could pass for a bit of wind. This was my preferred method of traveling — in hyalescence.
When at the door, I would sit for a few hours in the front step of my home, where I had recently opened my forehead and where I’d soon do so once more, and perhaps that very place signals some dislodging that I can’t quite shake, as whenever I pass, now, through the front of that assembly of memories that houses another family for nearly a decade now, I can’t help but feel a glassy sentiment of unphasing that I’ve only ever felt by visiting my father at the cemetery. There, everything feels to drain and deaden, and sitting on that marble step, I recall what I now find to be an entirely manufactured memory, likely produced from years of spending entire mornings in some cogitative realm that isn’t this, looking at my mothers dahlias or a large palm stump that I always resented for being too high for me to sit upon. I remember a girl, braided features and withdrawn face that was seemingly under some degree of shade at all times, and her eyes were two dissolving oceans that overspilled over a blank aura, and her hands were rayed and slightly pellucid, and I remember that she caused in me some deep distress, but I was beckoned, as if fear was, then, an unusable tool. She would sit over the sill of the window to my left, her bumblebee t-shirt had this strange image of a coiling forest, distorted from a central point, and with one leg damming the slab of light that would enter the home through the bottom of blinds, which were always left slightly relaxed, and another leg pendulous over the wall, with a subtlety of movement and leggings of a torrid yellow contrasted with white triangular damasks, she would, under certain angles, appear like an enlarged salamanquesa. I don’t recall our conversations, but figments of them, these sparse echoes and elisions; she’d often complain about her father, how mean he was, but not to her, she didn’t exist to him. Her eyes surfed through myriad slides of pain, but they could never find themselves stuck in a purpose, a form, a line that would restrict the sequestering motion of feeling; that’s just it, she darted through a film of her trauma, and in each frame sprawled a condensed figure which sourced it, but she only felt motion sickness, or just sickness, or just that stunning and infinitely involute reality of being unwanted. I wouldn’t say anything to her; well, she didn’t exist. But I remember that, by the end of each conversation — which elapsed whenever the air goldened — if I remembered tomorrow, that desultory question which haunts the asker and the askee, and before I could answer, the spume of her eyed-oceans would seethe, producing a strident gurgling alike water meeting a barrier of smooth cinders, and she would vanish.
I see signs of her tattooed over each of my memories in that house. The kitchen, that was added by a renovation shortly before my birth, since the home did not have one when my parents first bought it, was done so in an odd angle that, like some useless flap of fabric, squeezed every centimetre of space right until the neighbouring building, and in doing so, was shaped like a half-opened fan, and had a large space at the top which my mother filled with a cobalt-hued couch filled with arabic symbols in that torrid yellow that remind me of her. Also, lodged under the stairs, a cabinet would, in an ordered chaos, be the accommodation for dozens of albums and home-videos, many of which were videos of the sea and its undulation, which my father enjoyed to capture in every beach he went to. I’d sit and watch them attentively, waiting for a moment that wouldn’t come, hoping for a moment nowhere to be found with each wave, each simmer. The lines of the cassette would travel, vertically, along the dense lenticular screen of our TV, seeming to be combing the image for a meaning, and always arriving empy-handed. The times in which I would flee from the eldritch entities my mind would conjure from my days of solitude; just flee, without much thought to the matter, into the lemon orchard that backed the house, and look back to see it wither over the visual space, lose the war of colour, drown in distance, and smile, simply and purely, because for a moment it no longer existed. The times in which I’d just sit, alone, attentive to the spume. It didn’t take me long to understand the rest the memory I had fabricated, and how much it seems to shorten the act of remembering my infancy.
I remember, vividly and uncreatively, sitting over the thick membrane of dead leaves in the orchard, unbothered with the sound they made at the fullness of my weight, and in the sober madness of being both lost and alone, whispering to myself, do I remember tomorrow? «No,» I would offer, «but I must want to.»
More fragmentary poems, thought these are slightly less inspired. I spent the week studying Portuguese literature and my mental linguistics are entirely dissonant. I currently have a small obsession with the composer Eric Nathan and his recently released album “the space of a door”, and have been studiously perscrutating the work of Miró for the purposes of aesthetic sharpening, so that is likely to be the next poetic pairing that I’ll produce. Meanwhile, I’m determined to the writing of these paltry poems (tentatively) everyday, and placing them here from while to while. I’ve read somewhere that it is important for a creative to be so everyday, as to not lose touch with the creative sensibilities. I’m unsure if that is true, but I’m giving it a try.
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.
At the precise moment in which the irreducible tongue of the sun recoiled and became an irregular line trodden by the tremulant eucalyptus leaves, Jorge Guerra first felt the dense phenomenon of solitude so characteristic of birth. His father, António Medes Guerra, was a reputed dipsomaniac of jagged features, of which his black beard was most characteristic, as it felt strangely luminous and always sodden. His drunken paroxysms were so persistent, he saw his position as a bricklayer in the construction of the train-station of Vale do Peso quickly foreshortened.
In fact, just that very night, António is said to have borrowed a Browning shotgun from a cousin, crouched behind some brambles near a hillock by the village entry, awaited until that very tongue of sunlight was besprent upon the hills, and charged at his foreman, José Lobo Branco, in an attempt to intimidate him into the restoration of his job. António, however, did not learn to operate the firearm, and José struck him with a skiving shovel, for which he had to be hospitalised, in a room curiously near to that where his son was just born, although, almost seemingly by some divine order, they did not meet each-other that night.
His mother, Christina Guerra, was of Galician origin, and although she moved to Castelo de Vide at an early age, she knew enough of the mossy pathways of Santiago to feel morriña, the most Galician sentiment of all, which only intensified whenever António would come home, choleric and crapulous, a vile monument of her profound weakness, a vile monument of her profound strength. Jorge, too, would often be beaten by the casuistry of his mere existence, since the anger of António was a dark puddle without perceptible depth; a trap designed to never be evaded. Luckily for Christina and Jorge, however, António died of tuberculosis just shy of two weeks after Jorge celebrated — under the lashing belt — his fifth birthday. His death lunged them both into a state of indigence not too unlike that which they had lived thus far, but, to them, it still felt like an unimaginable relief.
Jorge’s luck, and, concomitantly, his salvation, was Christina’s second marriage: Ernesto da Gama, a literate tradesman from Penacova who, besides abounding in benevolence, had an unabated love for his adopted son and insisted unstintingly on his education. Ernesto was also instrumental in introducing Jorge to a litany of ultra-romantic poets, the likes of Soares de Passos, João de Deus and Garret; and nothing enraptured his thoughts quite as feverishly as poetry. Jorge, by 1916, was successfully formed in the basic faculties and was allowed the opportunity of further formation in the University of Coimbra, in the fields of Law, which, at the time, was the only course with veritable applications outside of Academia; but the pylons of his passions, what moved him beyond his blue, bruised core, was the sprawling and lucid poetry that spawned at his lips and blossomed at the very borders of his cognition; what provided his spiritual existence was his sharp, bucolic soul, sprouted from cycles of tears and condensation, and culled by that jittering blade of sunlight which withdrew when he come-to-be.
In the dawn of 18 of August of 1919, Ernesto was caught in a blaze of massive proportions near Sintra, while returning from an excursion to Lisbon. Though his calcined remains were never returned to Penacova, Jorge insisted on the search; to such purpose, he voyaged to Lisbon the next week, with the intention of only a small interregnum in his studies. Still quite hoverish, as if held by a tight thread, which is common of those whose pain failed to materialise fully and is still but a shade darting below the pond, he was entirely oblivious of the fact that he’d never return to Coimbra, nor would he spend much in search of Ernesto’s cadaver, since Christina, now entirely sclerotic and paralysed in a bout of deep depressions, found it beyond her will to even drink a cup of water on her own. It was then, during the large stretch of years in which he took to her bedside, that he produced «Condolência», the prime and lone book of his authorship.
«Condolência», produced over nearly two decades, seems to cover, in its essence, only two discernible cycles of Guerra’s poetic production: an early, plaintive and ruminating, gleaming with substance and sentimental contamination, named Geminea, and a later, lighter cycle punctured with a levitous, ponderative and pastoral demeanor, named Botania. Their transition of one onto the other, after careful geometries and chronometries were established, seems to have been spun from the event of the departure of his mother to Galicia, a desire she could never quite shake after her recovery from prolonged cataplexy. Jorge accompanied his mother for a short while, in her village of Taboada, near the magnificent natural wonder of Castro Candaz; in this mythical castle, whose sub-aquatic habitation only allowed it a glimpse of breath whenever the rainfall diminished for long enough, Jorge saw himself reflected. He felt as if life never gave him enough dry periods in order for his deserved flourishing. During these months in Galicia, he wrote some of his most impressed bucolic pieces.
In 1921, Christina passed away from a fulminant breast cancer that had annihilated her in the shorter tail of three months and about which little was known at the time, and Jorge, now wholesomely and inexorably alone, decided to return to Vale do Peso. By then, he weighed so little, it felt as if he was a waning vessel, a foundered boat. His phlegmatic disposition, now coupled with his physical macilency, far transgressed any sense of emotive numbness; he simply had no more of himself in this realm, he felt as if objects could not contain the poverty of his sight; furthermore, they were negated by it. He was a walking, consuming force, a space being reclaimed from within, long tired of its own unworthy, fruitless occupation. For a good count of three hours, he sat and looked at the steams fume and flit, one here, one there, in the train-station that brought about the fateful night of his making. For a while, he wondered how many different tones of self-enamouration he could count; how many of them were destructive; how many of them only came about when it truly rained as never before, an authentic deluge of being, of nothingness. For a while, he pondered on the inevitable, before realising that such, when it matters, is nearly always the case, nearly always inevitable.
Jorge’s book was never published.
Disclaimer: Jorge is, of course, entirely fictive, as is apparent. Why I felt compelled to generate an entire mini-fiction regarding a mysteriously unfortunate Portuguese poet from the beginning of the 20th century is as beyond me as it is beyond you. I’m not in a deep state of sanity, these days. Regardless of any particular intention, I found the small path of Jorge quite interesting, and I regard him as an example of what might have happened to many, invariably, since the story is itself composed of some reality. The locations are real; so are the poets accited, the dates and events (including the fire in Sintra), and many elements were inspired by stories I’m privy to. I was also heavily inspired to do this from recently having read Sebald’s “The Emigrants”, though I differ greatly from his (invariably superior) approach.
I hope you liked the read, though since I tend not to post fiction, you might have not, and I’m sorry if you haven’t!, a glorious weekend to you all, João-Maria.
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.
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.