How should I know what I'll be, I who don't know what I am? / Be what I think? But I think of being so many things!
May 4, 2012 2:09 AM   Subscribe

oops, missed another previously
posted by juv3nal at 2:10 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't recall hearing of this author before - an intriguing story, for sure.

It is crucial to make the distinction that Pessoa's "others" were heteronyms rather than pseudonyms.He insisted that they were separate from him...

He wrote and wrote—in the daytime when he could, or else at night, and usually while standing up. On March 18, 1914, he had a kind of breakthrough: "I wrote some thirty-odd poems, one after another, in a sort of ecstasy, the nature of which I am unable to define," he recalled. "It was the triumphant day of my life.… What followed was the appearance of someone in me to whom I immediately gave the name Alberto Caeiro. Forgive the absurdity of the sentence: In me there appeared my master."

from the "I don't know" link:

I note in the margin of my reading
What I thought I felt.
Rereading, I wonder: “Was that me?”
God knows, because he wrote it.

posted by dubold at 3:31 AM on May 4, 2012

New to me too, but I am liking him - them - very much indeed.
posted by Segundus at 3:38 AM on May 4, 2012

There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Are we all adrift in a multiverse our personalities, consciousness lingering here or there. Vonnegut alluded to the mind roaming time and space. What if you awake some elsewhere?
posted by pdxpogo at 4:08 AM on May 4, 2012

If you like the poetry, I highly recommend the posthumous assemblage of prose fragments The Book of Disquiet, which is very much in the vein of Wilde, Proust, Borges, and any other artist for whom life is mostly a sometimes acceptable stage for more interesting things (that is, for art).

One warning: it is almost impossibly rich. In fact, to this day I've only read half of it because at the time I was trying to write a dissertation on indolence and art but realized I would have to write about Pessoa instead if I kept going.

A couple samples:

"To say! To know how to say! To know how to exist via the written voice and the intellectual image! This is all that matters in life; the rest is men and women, imagined loves and factitious vanities, the wiles of our digestion and forgetfulness, people squirming — like worms when a rock is lifted — under the huge abstract boulder of the meaningless blue sky."


"Everything stated or expressed by man is a note in the margin of a completely erased text. From what's in the note we can extract the gist of what must have been in the text, but there's always a doubt, and the possible meanings are many."
posted by Idler King at 4:24 AM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pessoa is my favourite poet. Thank you for this post. He is a comet of brightness in a very bleak period for Portugal (that has not ended yet).

The heteronyms is not something one can understand lightly. His feverish thist for life and perspective can be better appreciated in the last verse of his "Ode Triunfal" when he gives up by saying

"Ah, that I am not everyone in every place!"

While I mostly agree with the saying that Poetry is that which cannot be translated, I will translate some parts of "Ode Triunfal" because this post made me reread it three times. Sorry for the translation's shortcomings.

Ode Triunfal (1914)

Under the painful light of the big electrical lamps of the factory
Fevered I write
I write grinding my teeth, feral to the beauty of this
To the beauty of this totally unknown to the ancients.

Oh wheels, oh cogs, eternal r-r-r-r-r-r-r!
Strong spasm contained in the furious mechanisms!
Furious outside and inside of me,
Throughout all of my dissected nerves,
Throughout all of the taste buds outside of everything I feel with!
My lips are dry, oh great modern noises
From listening to you too close,
And my head burns from wanting to sing you with an excess
Of expression of all my sensations,
With the contemporary excess of you, oh machines!

Fevered and looking at the engines like a tropical Nature -
Great human tropics of iron and fire and force -
I sing, and I sing the present, and also the past and the future,
Because the present is all of the past and all of the future
And there is Plato and Virgil inside the machines and the electrical lights
And pieces of Alexander Magnus of century perheaps fiftieth,
Atoms that will be feverish in the brain of Aeschylus from century hundredth,
Move through these mechanical belts and through these pistons and through these wheels,
Roaring, creaking, cycling, shaking, hammering,
Giving me a flood of caresses to the body in a single caress to the soul.

Ah, to be able to express myself like an engine does!
To be complete like a machine!
To be able to go in life triumphant like a latest model automobile!
To be able to at least physically penetrate myself with all this,
To fully rip me open, open myself completely, become permeable
To all the perfumes of oils and heat of coals
Of this stupendous flora, dark, artificial and insatiable!


Oh factories, oh laboratories, oh music-halls, oh Luna-parks,
Oh battleships, oh bridges, oh floating docks -
In my turbulent and incandescent mind
I take you as if taking a beautiful woman,
Completely take you like a beautiful woman you do not love,
That you casually encounter and find supremely interesting.

Eh-lá-hô store-fronts of the big shops!
Eh-lá-hô elevators of the big buildings!
Eh-lá-hô ministerial reassemblies!
Parliaments, policies, budget speakers,
Falsified budgets!
(A budget is as natural as a tree
and a parliament is as beautiful as a butterfly).

Eh-lá the interest for everything in life,
Because everything is life, from the shine of the showcases
To the night, mysterious bridge between the stars
And the old and solemn sea, washing the shores
And being mercifully the same
That was when Plato was really Plato
In his real presence and in his meat with a soul inside,
And spoke to Aristotle, who would not be he disciple.

I could die shredded by an engine
With the feeling of delicious loss of a taken woman.
Throw me inside the furnaces!
Stick me under the trains!
Spank me aboard the ships!
Masochism through mechanism!
Sadism of something modern and me and noise!


Ah and the common and filthy people, that always look the same,
That uses swearing as common words,
Whose sons steal at the doors of grocers
And whose daughters, at the age of eight - and I find this beautiful and love it! -
Masturbate decent looking men in the back alleys.
The scum that walks on the scaffolds and goes home
through streets almost unreal of narrowness and putrefaction.
Wonderful human people that live like dogs
That are below all moral systems,
For whom no religion was made,
No art created,
No policy destined for them!
How I love you all, because you are such,
Not even immoral of so low you are, neither good nor evil,
Untouchable by every progress,
Wonderful fauna from the bottom of the sea of life!

(In the noria in the backyard at my house
the donkey goes around, goes around,
And the mystery of the world is the size of this.
Clear the sweat with your arm, unhappy worker.
The sunlight chokes the silence of the spheres
And we shall all die,
Oh dark pinetrees at dusk,
Pinetrees where my childhood was something else
Than I am today...)


Eia! eia! eia!
Eia electricity, sich nevers of the matter!
Eia wireless telegraphy, metallic sympathy of the Unconscious!
Eia tunnels, eia canals, Panama, Kiel, Suez!
Eia all of the past inside all of the present!
Eia all of the future already inside us! eia!
Eia! eia! eia!
Useful iron fruits from the cosmopolitan tree-factory!
Eia! eia! eia! eia-hô-ô-ô!
I don't even know that I exist inside. I spin, go round, engineer myself.
Hook me up in every train.
Load me up in every dock.
Spin me inside the propellers of every ship.
Eia! eia-hô! eia!
Eia! I am mechanical heat and electricity!

Eia! and the rails and the machine houses and Europe!
Eia and hurrah for me - everything and everthing, machines working, eia!

Gallop with everything on top of everything! Hup-lá!

Hup-lá, hup-lá, hup-lá-hô, hup-lá!
Hé-la! He-hô! H-o-o-o-o!

Ah that I am not every one in every place!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:37 AM on May 4, 2012 [5 favorites]

And spoke to Aristotle, who would not be he disciple.

should be:

And spoke to Aristotle, who would not be his disciple.


Eia electricity, sich nevers of the matter!

should be:

Eia electricity, sick nerves of the matter!
posted by CautionToTheWind at 4:46 AM on May 4, 2012

There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

I'm sure Shakespeare meant, "Let's believe anything!"
posted by Fritz Langwedge at 5:56 AM on May 4, 2012

Damn. Another author I've been meaning to read but haven't gotten around to yet.

Thank you for posting this.
posted by jason's_planet at 8:56 PM on May 4, 2012

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