Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Fernando Pessoa: A Poet for Poets

The true poet is all the time a visionary and whether with friends or not, as much alone as a man on his death bed. ~W.B. Yeats

Last night there was a poetry reading at the Pineapple Arts store in downtown Duluth that I'd hoped to attend. Inasmuch as time is a bit inelastic, I deferred this gratification. Inasmuch as the poetry scene seems flourishing at this moment, I suspect there will be more opportunities to hear local poets express themselves in this manner. For example, I believe October 11 there will poetry read somewhere during the Twin Ports Gallery Hop. And on October 17 there will be readings by a group of local poets in conjunction with their book release. (Bound Together: Like the Grasses by Deborah Cooper, Candace Ginsberg, Ann Floreen Niedringhaus, Ellie Schoenfeld, and Anne Simpson -- Clover Valley Press. Trepanier Hall-AICHO, 212 West Second St., Duluth.)

A little over two years ago I was introduced to the poetry and writings of a Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, 1888-1935. More than one friend has noted for me that Pessoa is something of a national treasure in Portugal. In addition to being a poet he was a prolific writer, literary critic, translator, and significant literary figure. Harold Bloom, author of Closing of the American Mind, referred to him as "the most representative poet of the 20th century," along with Pablo Neruda. He was trilingual... Portuguese, English, and French. And remarkable.

I often like to relax at the end of the day by reading. Last night I was sifting through a book of Pessoa's selected poems titled, A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe. This untitled piece can be found on page 307 of the Penguin Classics edition, translated by Richard Zenith.

Whether I'm happy or sad?...
Frankly I don't know.
What does it mean to be sad?
What is happiness good for?

I'm neither happy nor sad.
I don't really know what I am.
I'm just one more sould that exists
And feels what God has ordained.

So then, am I happy or sad?
Thinking never ends well...
For me sadness means
Hardly knowing myself...

But that's what happiness is...
20 August 1930

If this poem intrigues you, you may enjoy my meditation on another poem that Pessoa wrote... with my own unique application.

If you're a poet yourself, or simply enjoy the poetic form, you will probably enjoy this page of quotes about poetry. The first on that page is from the pen of Leonard Cohen: "Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash."

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Embrace it!

1 comment:

ENNYMAN said...

For the record, the next edition of PROOF Magazine is calling for submissions. Poets: check out the details here.... https://www.facebook.com/events/522900024447155/523151861088638/?notif_t=like