Friday, 20 January 2012

Sophia Maria Luiza Adília

Whenever someone thinks of Portuguese poetry – and who honestly does that? – my humble experience tells me that people think only of Fernando Pessoa. Perhaps brave souls will try our national epic, Luís de Camões' The Lusiads. But other poets, even translated into English, pass away in silence: Eugénio de Andrade, Jorge de Sena, Alexandre O'Neill. Well, if that's bad enough, when it comes to our poetesses, they're practically invisible. And that's a pity because we have (and had) many women writing excellent poetry too. So here are four good ones, most of whose poems are impossible to find in English, of course:

1) Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen (1919-2004)

The most popular and admired in the 20th century was Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen. Her poetic oeuvre was finally collected in a single volume two years ago: it’s a massive tome of some 800 pages. She started publishing in her twenties and her career spanned six decades. She mixed a strong humanist voice with an appreciation for ancient Greece, its mythology and arts. Her poetry is focused on nature, especially the oceans, as befits our national mythology as a country of seafarers. There’s a pitiful collection of her poems in English called Log Book; I think it’s out of print:

Fúrias

Escorraçadas do pecado e do sagrado
Habitam agora a mais íntima humildade
Do quotidiano. São
Torneira que se estraga atraso de autocarro
Sopa que transborda na panela
Caneta que se perde aspirador que não aspira
Táxi que não há recibo estraviado
Empurrão cotovelada espera
Burocrático desvario

Sem clamor sem olhar
Sem cabelos eriçados de serpentes
Com as meticulosas mãos do dia-a-dia
Elas nos desfiam

Elas são a peculiar maravilha do mundo moderno
Sem rosto e sem máscara
Sem nome e sem sopro
São as hidras de mil cabeças da eficácia que se avaria

Já não perseguem sacrílegos e parricidas
Preferem vítimas inocentes
Que de forma nenhuma as provocaram
Por elas o dia perde seus longos planos lisos
Seu sumo de fruta
Sua fragrância de flor
Seu marinho alvoroço
E o tempo é transformado
Em tarefa e pressa
A contratempo

Furies

Banished from sin and the sacred
Now they inhabit the humble intimacy
Of daily life. They are
The leaky faucet the late bus
The soup that boils over
The lost pen the vacuum that doesn’t vacuum
The taxi that doesn’t come the mislaid receipt
Shoving pushing waiting
Bureaucratic madness

Without shouting or staring
Without bristly serpent hair
With the meticulous hands of the day-to-day
They undo us

They’re the peculiar wonder of the modern world
Faceless and maskless
Nameless and breathless
The thousand-headed hydras of efficiency gone haywire

They no longer pursue desecrators and parricides
They prefer innocent victims
Who did nothing to provoke them
Thanks to them the day loses its smooth expanses
Its juice of ripe fruits
Its fragrance of flowers
Its high-sea passion
And time is transformed
Into toil and the rush
Against time

(trans. Richard Zenith)

Descobrimento

Um oceano de músculos verdes
Um ídolo de muitos braços como um polvo
Caos incorruptível que irrompe
E tumulto ordenado
Bailarino contorcido
Em redor dos navios esticados

Atravessamos fileiras de cavalos
Que sacudiam as crinas nos alísios

O mar tornou-se de repente muito novo e muito antigo
Para mostrar as praias
E um povo
De homens recém-criados ainda cor de barro
Ainda nus ainda deslumbrados

Discovery

Green-muscled ocean
Idol of many arms like an octopus
Convulsive incorruptible chaos
Ordered tumult
Contorted dancer
Surrounding the taut ships

We traversed row on row of horses
Shaking their manes in the trade winds

The sea turned suddenly very young and very old
Revealing beaches
And a people
Of just-created men still the colour of clay
Still naked still in awe

(Richard Zenith)

Da Transparência

Senhor libertai-nos do jogo perigoso da transparência
No fundo do mar da nossa alma não há corais nem búzios
Mas sufocado sonho
E não sabemos bem que coisa são os sonhos
Condutores silenciosos canto surdo
Que um dia subitamente emergem
No grande pátio liso dos desastres

Transparency

Lord free us from the dangerous game of transparency
There are no corals or shells on the sea floor of our soul
Just a smothered dream
And we don’t really know what dreams are
Silent conductors faint songs
Which one day suddenly appear
On the broad flat patio of disasters

(Richard Zenith)

2) Maria Teresa Horta (b. 1937)

Lots of women writers debuted in Portugal in the 1960s, ready to challenge many patriarchal assumptions, and Maria Teresa Horta was at the heart of what you could call our feminist movement. In 1972 she was involved in a lawsuit against one of her novels: Novas Cartas Portuguesas (New Portuguese Letters), co-written with Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa. The title was a play on the French erotic classic Letters of a Portuguese Nun. The dictatorship in power at the time seized the book's copies and prosecuted the three authors in what became known as the case of “The Three Marias.” (That was used as the title of the English translation.) The authors were charged with pornography, indecency and offending the country’s Christian customs. Its real crime was denouncing society’s sexism and patriarchal values which turned women into second-class citizens, and also daring to portray women as sexual beings. Ironically the prosecution backfired on the dictatorship because it made the case internationally famous and even prompted the publication of the book into several languages:

Emily Dickinson

O seu olhar adiado
perde-se lá fora na luz
muito lento e arguto

Insustentável brancura
por demasiado tamanho
nos servir de reparo

Toma para si a poesia
tornando-a sua desmesura
de claridade e luzeiro raro

Doendo em si mesma
imortal
tamanho o desamparo

Emily Dickinson

Her suspended gaze
lost in the outdoor light
very slow, and sharp
       
Untenable whiteness
born of a vastness
that helps us to see
       
Takes over poetry
owns it immeasurably
through clarity, rare brightness
       
Thoroughly sorrowful
immortal
such its forsakenness

(Ann Hudson)

Português

Se a língua ganha
a dimensão da escrita
E a escrita toma
a dimensão do mundo
       
Descer é preciso até ao fundo
na busca das raízes da saliva
que na boca vão misturar tudo

Mas há ainda a pressa do papel
que no tacto navega a brusca seda
Se a sede se disfarça sob a pele
descendo pela escrita essa vereda

E já se inventa
Enlaça
Ou se insinua

Se entrelaça a roca e o bordado
que as palavras tecendo
lado a lado
querem do país a alma nua

Aí podes parar
e retornar à boca
Esse espaço de beijo e de cinzel

Onde a fala retoma a língua toda
trocando a ternura
por fel

Um lado após o outro
a dimensão está dita
O tempo a confundir qualquer abraço
entre o visto e o escrito

Espelho e aço
Nesta fundura boa
e mar profundo

Para depois subir a pulso
O mundo

Portuguese

If language gains
the dimension of writing
and writing takes on
the dimensions of the world
       
We must go deep
searching saliva’s roots
in the mouth where all is mixed
  
And there’s still the paper’s haste
its touch steering rough silk
Even if under the skin the disguised thirst
streams through the trail of words

And already it creates
Envelops
Insinuates

Interlaces the spindle with the stitch
as the words weave
along the line
wanting the country’s naked soul

There you can halt
and return to the mouth
That space for the kiss and the chisel

Where the voice reclaims the whole tongue
exchanging tenderness
for bile   

First one side then the other
the scale is settled
Time fusing the embrace
between what is seen and written

Mirror and steel
In this pleasing depth
the sea unfolds

Then with effort lifts up
The world

(Ann Hudson)

3) Luiza Neto Jorge (1939-1989)

She wrote most of her poetry in France, where she lived between 1962 and 1970. After returning to Portugal, she stopped writing poetry and devoted her time to translating French writers, including Paul Verlaine, Jean Genet, Boris Vian, Stendhal and Eugene Ionesco. Her small poetic oeuvre, however, continues to be read with much love:

A Dívida

Viva no instantâneo lábio do punhal
na hora diariamente imóvel

As dívidas crescem já são ásperas
magoam a pele já são pus

O dia começa pela sombra
como um povo começa pelo pó
Luz e morte coincidem hora a hora

A dívida alastra   abre as asas
leva-me sonhos débeis tudo a tenta

Atrás do meu gesto
a mão sozinha os dedos conspirando
assimétricos
salientes do corpo até à morte

Já hoje os doava se pudesse
Com que arma porém os separar de mim?

A dívida mais cresce
enquanto eu penso

The Debt

Alive in the dagger’s instantaneous lip
in the daily arrested hour

The debts grow they’re already rough
they hurt the skin they’re already pus

The day starts out from shadows
as a people starts from dust
Hour after hour light and death coincide

The debt spreads    it spreads its wings
it seizes my weak dreams everything tempts it

Behind the gesture I make
my hand is alone my fingers conspire
asymmetrically
sticking out from my body until death

I’d give them away today if I could
But what weapon can separate them from me?

While I’m thinking
the debt keeps growing

(Richard Zenith)

Acordar na Rua do Mundo

madrugada. passos soltos de gente que saiu
com destino certo e sem destino aos tombos
no meu quarto cai o som depois
a luz. ninguém sabe o que vai
por esse mundo. que dia é hoje?
soa o sino sólido as horas. os pombos
alisam as penas. no meu quarto cai o pó.

um cano rebentou junto ao passeio.
um pombo morto foi na enxurrada
junto com as folhas dum jornal já lido.
impera o declive
um carro foi-se abaixo
portas duplas fecham
no ovo do sono a nossa gema.

sirenes e buzinas. ainda ninguém via satélite
sabe ao certo o que aconteceu. estragou-se o alarme
da joalharia. os lençóis na corda
abanam os prédios. pombos debicam

o azul dos azulejos. assoma à janela
quem acordou. o alarme não pára o sangue
desavém-se. não veio via satélite a querida imagem o vídeo
não gravou

e duma varanda um pingo cai
de um vaso salpicando o fato do bancário

Waking Up On The Street Of The World

early morning. footsteps of people going out
with a definite destination or indefinitely stumbling
the sound falling in my room and then
the light. no one knows what goes on
in this world. what day is today?
the bell solidly tolls the hour. the pigeons
smooth their feathers. the dust falls in my room.

a pipe burst open next to the sidewalk
a dead pigeon was swept away in the torrent
along with the pages of an old newspaper.
the slope rules
a car went under
double doors close
our yolk in the egg of sleep.

horns and sirens. it’s still not clear
via satellite just what happened. the alarm
of the jewelry shop went haywire. hanging sheets
fan the buildings. pigeons peck

the glaze on the tiles. those who woke up have come
to the window. the alarm won’t quit. the blood
seethes. the precious image via satellite didn’t arrive the vcr
recorded nothing

and from a flower-pot on a balcony a drop of water
falls and lands on the bank teller’s suit

(Richard Zenith)

Mulheres de Henry Moore nos Jardins

O cheiro da chuva inquinou os jardins
mulheres de Henry Moore sorvem os ares.

E tu alvejas-me, filho, camuflado
na recôncava brandura desses seres.
“Morta! estás morta!” rejubilas.

Entre os mágicos projécteis à deriva,
já crisálidas, já arcas no dilúvio,
pedem paz elas num sossegado corpo
com a terra, seus regos, suas relvas.

Naves nossas de regresso ao solo?

Henry Moore’s Women In The Gardens

The smell of rain has infected the gardens
Henry Moore’s women inhale the air.

And you, son, take aim at me, camouflaged
in the cavernous whiteness of those beings.
“Dead!, you’re dead!” you exult.

Among the magic projectiles adrift
– now chrysalises now arks in the flood –
they ask in their calm bodies for peace
with the earth, its furrows, its grass.

Are these our ships returning to the soil?

(Richard Zenith)

4) Adília Lopes (b. 1960)

She self-published her first book of poems in 1985 and continued publishing through small publishers, attaining a sort of cult status. However, her popularity has increased to the point of her having become one of those rare poets simultaneously enjoyed by the public and admired by the critics. One of her poems was published in English in Wayne Miller’s New European Poets:

Um figo

Deixou cair a fotografia
um desconhecido correu atrás dela
para lha entregar
ela recusou-se a pegar na fotografia
mas a senhora deixou cair isto
eu não posso ter deixado cair isto
porque isto não é meu
não queria que ninguém
e sobretudo um desconhecido
suspeitasse que havia uma relação
entre ela e a fotografia
era como se tivesse deixado cair
um lenço cheio de sangue
porque era ela quem estava na fotografia
e nada nos pertence tanto como o sangue
por isso quando uma pessoa se pica num dedo
leva logo o dedo à boca para chupar o sangue
o desconhecido apercebeu-se disso
é um retrato da senhora
pode ser o retrato de alguém muito parecido comigo
mas não sou eu
o desconhecido por ser muito bondoso
não insistiu
e como sabia que os mendigos
não têm dinheiro para tirar fotografias
deu a fotografia a um mendigo
que lhe chamou um figo

Candy

She dropped the photograph
and when a stranger ran up from behind
to give it to her
she refused to touch it
but you dropped it miss
I couldn’t have dropped it
because it isn’t mine
she didn’t want anyone
and especially not a stranger
to suspect there was any relation
between her and the photograph
it was as if she’d dropped
a blood-soaked handkerchief
because she was the one in the photograph
and nothing belongs to us more than blood
which is why when someone pricks their finger
they stick it right in their mouth to suck the blood
the stranger understood
it’s a picture of you miss
it may be a picture of someone who looks just like me
but it isn’t me
the stranger was a kind person
he didn’t insist
and since he knew beggars
don’t have money for taking pictures
he gave the photograph to a beggar
who ate it up like candy

(Richard Zenith)

A Elisabeth foi-se embora
                                   (com algumas coisas de Anne Sexton)

Eu que já fui do pequeno-almoço à loucura
eu que já adoeci a estudar morse
e a beber café com leite
não posso passar sem a Elisabeth
porque é que a despediu senhora doutora?
que mal me fazia a Elisabeth?
eu só gosto que seja a Elisabeth
a lavar-me a cabeça
não suporto que a senhora doutora me toque na cabeça
eu só venho cá senhora doutora
para a Elisabeth me lavar a cabeça
só ela sabe as cores os cheiros a viscosidade
de que eu gosto nos shampoos
só ela sabe como eu gosto da água quase fria
a escorrer-me pela cabeça abaixo
eu não posso passar sem a Elisabeth
não me venha dizer que o tempo cura tudo
contava com ela para o resto da vida
a Elisabeth era a princesa das raposas
precisava das mãos dela na minha cabeça
ah não haver facas que lhe cortem o
pescoço senhora doutora eu não volto
ao seu anti-séptico túnel
já fui bela uma vez agora sou eu
não quero ser barulhenta e sozinha
outra vez no túnel o que fez à Elisabeth?
a Elisabeth foi-se embora
é só o que tem para me dizer senhora doutora
com uma frase dessas na cabeça
eu não quero voltar à minha vida

Elisabeth Doesn’t Work Here Anymore
                         (with a few things from Anne Sexton)

I’ve already walked from breakfast to madness
I’ve already gotten sick on studying morse code
and drinking coffee with milk
I can’t do without Elisabeth
why did you fire her madam doctor?
what harm was Elisabeth doing me?
I only like Elisabeth
to wash my hair
I can’t stand to have you touch my hair doctor
I only come here doctor
for Elisabeth to wash my hair
only she knows the colors and scents and thickness
I like in shampoos
only she knows how I like the water almost cold
running down the back of my head
I can’t do without Elisabeth
don’t try to tell me that time heals all wounds
I was counting on her for the rest of my life
Elisabeth was the princess of all the foxes
I needed her hands in my hair
ah if only there were knives for cutting your
throat madam doctor I’m not coming back
to your antiseptic tunnel
once I was beautiful now I’m myself
I don’t want to be a ranter and alone
again in the tunnel what did you do to Elisabeth?
Elisabeth was the princess of all the foxes
why did you take Elisabeth away from me?
Elisabeth doesn’t work here anymore
is that all you have to say to me doctor
with a sentence like that in my head
I don’t want to go back to my life

(Richard Zenith)

Não gosto tanto

Não gosto tanto
de livros
como Mallarmé
parece que gostava
eu não sou um livro
e quando me dizem
gosto muito dos seus livros
gostava de poder dizer
como o poeta Cesariny
olha
eu gostava
é que tu gostasses de mim
os livros não são feitos
de carne e osso
e quando tenho
vontade de chorar
abrir um livro
não me chega
preciso de um abraço
mas graças a Deus
o mundo não é um livro
e o acaso não existe
no entanto gosto muito
de livros
e acredito na Ressurreição
dos livros
e acredito que no Céu
haja bibliotecas
e se possa ler e escrever

I don’t like books

I don’t like books
as much
as Mallarmé seems
to have liked them
I’m not a book
and when people say
I really like your books
I wish I could say
like the poet Cesariny
listen
what I’d really like
is for you to like me
books aren’t made
of flesh and blood
and when I feel
like crying
it doesn’t help
to open a book
I need a hug
but thank God
the world isn’t a book
and chance doesn’t exist
still and all I really like
books
and believe in the Resurrection
of books
and believe that in Heaven
there are libraries
and reading and writing

(Richard Zenith)

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