a tiny little bigger than the whole universe
released february 2013
a tiny little introduction to this project:
“genius? at this moment
a hundred thousand brains are busy dreaming of themselves as genius
and history will not mark – who knows? – even one.
and nothing but manure will be left of so many future conquests.
no, i don’t believe in me.” fernando pessoa
these words above, were written by one of the greatest poets that ever lived, and thus he foresees his own failure and destiny, erroneously for our sake. it is nice when the poets pretend that they are pretending and fool their own history, rebuilding it in many shapes, labyrinths, peoples and horoscopes. each poem is a denied conquest and a promontory trespassed thoroughly only by persistence and beauty and daring – one poem will die and the other be translucent and another forgotten and yet another be rediscovered in the future. the poet vanishes then to be a past and become the sense and purity of poetry herself/itself . to write and speak too much about poetry is not to feel it.
the challenge we took with ‘a tiny little bigger than the whole universe’ (a poetry line by fernando pessoa) was to compile a solid and mesmerizing little collection of original compositions inspired or related to fernando pessoa and at the very same time to all poets and poetries of the world. so we pretended like the poet pretends and produced this album as palimpsests and tiny labyrinths to be lost on and last on them also, persisting and searching for the allure and gold of the poetry in musical notes and noises. so, instead of talking about pessoa and his poetry, instead of choosing poems of poets since immemorial times we built this fortress of imagined landscapes on its foundations. the artists themselves predisposed an availability of altruistic values and poetic sense, an alteration of words into sounds and then constructed this space to live on and upon. the artists transmuted themselves also into other art forms, illustration, literary fiction, photography.
this project was started and curated by eerohz when he was remixing a tune for tunedin52 and using some field recordings of bells and a line of pessoa kept coming to his mind: ‘the bells of my village...’. being a sucker for bells he disposed of them on the tunedin52 remix and produced the original version of ‘a tiny little bigger than the whole universe’, the first track on the album, using the field recordings he made in mosteiro da batalha in portugal and tintern abbey (monmouthshire, wales), and treating them electronically and even using a copper ashtray with campanabile properties. as he wrote:
"this dichotomy between real/false, true/invented, memory/reconstruction is the pillar of the work: the hands that creates bells are the ones who create solidity from the malleable metal; which respond to the call of the created object into churches and monasteries and which live in the drones of indoctrination. the furnace of the creation of bells is the same furnace of the subjugation by the church(es.) the hands that create also kills in name of the religious dominion.
this recycling of memories and sounds is for the artist the ourobouros, the eternal return and the fear for the loss of the past represented in the hands held in prayer and of the echoing bells calling to mass of his childhood."
camphor cinnamon myrrh
spider fabriquing silk web’s atom’s mazes
grass growing gently whispering violet blues
stone starring sculpture diaries
churches chewing chaps in hopeless devotions
windows wondering behind closed shutters
voices volcanoes dormant viperine vespers
in anger of silent sorrow:
i see the wheels spiraling into oblivion
roads to nowhere but names of sites,
camphor signals oboes of directions:
i see them going hallucinated
the young men of my age
of dark ecstasy cellars, no-where to hide:
i see the wheels of despair on their hands
holding chords and tears, knowing nothing i forecast those aren’t my hands:
my music belongs to another within atmosphere,
solitude my music, steel cathedrals of silence,
stone vitriol turmoil
wind distorted sky.
i am a whisper.
and this is what is here, free to be shared to all the ones of distinct and different sensibilities. we do hope that this project may expand itself and other editions of this kind will surface here in the catalogue of wonders or in other houses and labels.
photo: (c) 2013 moody alien
next > fiction:
lisbon [photo (c) benjamin silva-pereira]
When Angels Dream Of Poets
(extracts from a palimpsest novella)
Benjamin Silva-Pereira, draft, 2004
One learned how to dream very recently. The mechanics of dreaming are still rudiments and gears one is processing and fixing, odd indeed why humans have to rest and dream to wake up exactly the same way the next day. Doesn’t make much difference to be awake or sleeping, I reckon. Even the use of the ‘I’ is impertinent, but one must get used to it and other bizarre habits and costumes, like wearing clothes and talk. One is making admirable progress.
The good thing about being a someone not belonging to these lands, fast and cruel, but sweet and tender if one can stop for a moment, is that one can observe the so called humans on their minute preciousness. Like on that amazing invention that is the talking movies! Things astonishingly fabulous happen on these films, as they are called too, even if one doesn’t fall asleep on a park bench in the summer and dreams of a writer on Christmas evening. There are films entirely dedicated to these men and women with feathery wings! Possibly I’ll have time to return to this ramblings.
One like oneself can jump in time and space, wondering, wandering, and searching for the peculiarity and singularity of this race. We’ll return to the Lusitan poet, as he is indeed necessary to the economy of this little story. All can happen on these lands. They have small beings they call children, miniatures of themselves that grow tall and have to be taught how to learn and thinking! They have these beings with wings so called angels that exist only on this race’s imagination. While I was searching to the solution for a problem of mine, I’ll return to that later, I found this little girl, one morning, staring at the back garden, incredible and pretty as the little beings are. I jumped to other time through the mirrors and I fell just besides the window.
One day the trees stopped growing. The wind didn’t hiss and the sea didn’t come to kiss the rocks in its repeated wrath. The sun got tired and went to sleep not returning, like always it promised and now obeyed. And there was once upon a time a little girl that woke up in this story in which the time stopped. She opened her eyes astonished! A miracle happened when she woke up in the morning and everything was very still and quiet, frozen.
Every morning the little girl gave breadcrumbs to the robins and magpies in the garden. But all the little birds that every day would come to eat from her hand, all of them were mute or run away that morning. But against reason and her wide-open eyes, the dinning room clock didn’t stop and was telling her the time of everyday, the one the body was feeling.
So the little girl entertained herself counting the stars and the planets in the sky of that frozen odd morning, very odd indeed. Lady Moon up in the morning sky, and Lady Moon was the name the little girl called it, with a cloud glued tickling it and it was smiling at her. But Lady Moon didn’t move, didn’t say good morning. Lady Moon was so still with the cloud kissing it that the little girl went to pick up a pencil and a paper sheet to make a drawing.
On my chest
And solitude, my love,
Where are you, as well sad?’
In that moment the little girl’s eyes opened so much! And from the skies fell, very slowly, rose petals so thick in perfume that soon all was a sea of fragrances and delicate dreams. The little girl’s mother was singing an old English madrigal while her father accompanied it with also an old and pretty mandolin. The little girl smiled as all the little girls do and she wrote in the Lady Moon drawing: The music is of the red roses in the sky because the day didn’t wake up today. But everything is so beautiful. So she sings a song to herself.
‘And afar the mystery
Desire of pain,
Come, hold me, my ethereal good…’
There is quietness, the kind of silence that more implies with an interior world, that more identifies with a dreamlike and beautiful land it can be in this earth, still. She sang about the sea, the love of a sailor, the siren was she, singing to Lady Moon. Around her just silence, and noting else. Silence; peaceful silence, an island of possible dreams. The poems want to be palimpsests and are odes to the simplicity that uniquely one can feel – with a puerile suffering tear. Does this make sense? The little girl smiled and continued to sing. The twenty-fifth of December, the presents unwrapped, a new doll of a face so shinny and pretty, made of China and an embroidered dress! Mummy and Pappy where listening to her singing! How she loved them, little Teresa!
‘Missing is your smile
Your hands tenderness
Oh! what torture,
Of your chest,
lisbon [photos (c) benjamin silva-pereira]
Someone said that the writing is an unspeakable mystery, yes, for sure! And the voice of Teresa, the little girl? What can it be that voice but a mystery of purity that invade us and leave us dead of vivid solitude, joyful, a sad joy like the one of fado that melancholy and poetry, sadness and joy on the song Teresa’s personify, the mystery of the ancient Lusitan soul, a secret soul of nostalgia that pierces us of pleasure and pain, truly Portuguese. Tears, yes. Returns the motto and theme of that unforgettable and beauty of a film: the music is tears and nostalgia. What can it be but that, the voice of little Teresa? The talking movies, well, they don’t exist yet in this time, one knows that, but there songs like the little vira she is singing to the doll.
What can one want more of these songs and playful ballads, too emotional of spring sunsets, far away and a distant fado, echoes of memories, echoes of tellurian calm, poetry flowers of tenderness: a beatific racing of the heart and soul, yes, of the soul as if it exists.
Poetry may be found in tones and places of unusual precedence, I learned. And the jewels can be of paper and little ethereal songs, a small conglomerate of paper sheets or a round plastic record may be a treasure of immense undiscovered value. A river that flows lightly, slowly by the sides of a city, Lisbon, water licking the bare feet of two lovers. The smell of words evaporating, page after page, ballad after madrigals, calmly felt. I could find these delicious flavours in precious foreign and strange songs, enormous of pleasures and still beauty. How can one describe the melismatic qualities (for those who do not understand the Portuguese words but feel them anyway, or the pure poetry of the melodies? The bottom of the well where lay, abandoned and happy, the fresh body of summer? Vigorous words and songs like the air that one breathes, the water that one drinks, the fire that feeds and devours lovers and blood. Teresa singing is a lullaby of gentile silence and saudade, of tears or of one sole tear, hot and humid, salty and sweet.
Mister Pessoa could be here in this house with a moss garden, outside in the cold weather collecting the empty dried shells of snails and call them fossils of Troy, maybe observing the spider web in the pine tree covered with frozen stalactites of dew, a strange architecture for these days, reminding one of glasses in tall buildings where people one day will sit in front of flicking and coloured machines filled with numbers, zeros and ones, more than others. Mister Pessoa would understand this correlation and surely he would smile, that shy smiles of his, and invents other relevant and revealing coincidences. I wish I could take him on a little travel to know other grey and smile shy gentleman I found the other time in another city, interesting. I can’t remind his other name, starts with that delightful letter K. it will come to my head, I’m pretty sure; he is a writer as well and his little stories are filled with men transforming themselves into fears and insects, he writes about a continent he has never been, America, that’s it. Mister Pessoa is my treat at the moment, his black hat shadowing his eyes behind round glasses, a pale skin, a raincoat as apparatus permanent, a defiantly innocent black tie… I wish he could be here listening to Teresa, the little girl, singing a lullaby to Baby Jesus, humming carelessly it to the world that one day it will listen to it in another voice. I wish to be understood, so one must stop these enigmas.
lisbon [photo (c) benjamin silva-pereira]
The sphinx of the confectionery cupboard, as he is known in the future, Mister Pessoa with whom I start to be familiar, dresses to go out in the streets. He is hungry and feeling, not surprisingly, lonely and sad. I am intrigued by a word these peoples from this quadrant use, not very frequently as they feel it more than speak about it; saudade, one that I am using in my senses and try to catch a glimpse of. It makes me ‘drunk’, another one of those states I am getting used, or abused to. He misses something he can’t recognise yet, as he never met him or it or she, it doesn’t matter. For he is feeling saudade of a tangential moment in his life, something infinitely pagan and religious, powerful enough for him to write about it in the first person and in the name of his own peoples, the Lusitan, as he calls them, Portuguese for me that is much easier to assimilate. He wishes this loneliness to vacate the place of his heart, but he can’t avoid this empty fulfilment, the best definition I can find for saudade. He wants to be happy but he adores being melancholy and to see things on this prism, time immemorial occurs inside of him, the sailors and widows of ancient times flooding his memories, the salt of that imperial sea that is made of tears and monsters and discovery of enchanting new civilizations; he is almost crying doing his tie on the top of a simple and old inn of Lisbon – Christmas it is and he is thinking of a fragmentary portion to write, a letter to send, a card to invent to Ophelia and thousands of other things; can’t one understand this powerful and Sybil mind that guesses not thinking, he feels anything around him, he knows what the others will say in the afternoon in the taberna by the Tagus, the same river that sent the flag of his imaginary country to savour other tastes and colours, chronicles of fables and worlds, an Empire as I thought, but an Empire of ideas without space and machine and techniques and spaces and times; no, no, he things of his Empire as the realm of thought and poetry, he enrages himself as he wishes to be the Navigator, the anchor and the astrolabes guiding the ideas into the future beloved the past and constructing the future; this is Mister Pessoa himself a labyrinth! Yes, he makes me drunk with humanity, and I am very glad I found him one night by the river. He can teach me more than thousands of other humans, he is my saviour and new Master, only him can teach me how to pretend and achieve my own labyrinth, he’ll give me back something I never thought I had, a spirit, a purpose, a soul, a body, an intelligence, a defiance I can feel for the first time while he writes down a sheet of paper and I shout to the universes, God wants, Man dreams and the Work is born! I, ands I repeat that beautiful and awesome ‘I’, wish he was less obscure and melancholy, but he is my own Baby Jesus, you guessed by now. I have so much to learn and practice; to live is an insubordinate thought, what a happy fragment, delirious and simple. How much I was losing, not knowing I existed! What new parables and miasma’s of masks and lives, boys on the beach laughing loud and pure and completely innocent for the world that surround them, oblivious of a carnage killing millions in Europa old of thousands of years, no, they don’t know the stigmas of others, they give their hands and build a sand castle, scribble messages in the sand and laugh; how very good is to laugh and forget – this time my Master is dead; long may he live incognito and boring, thus my love is to these races of belligerent and heroic. I need to watch this fellow multiplied on several, I am drunk with him, and it feels marvelous, I triumph because I am a failure, isn’t that absolutely delirious and funny, contradictions makes me alive, ready to start my biography, as I do not have one, never had. I am descending and falling astonishingly fast, time is a moebius I wish to forget, I just want to be, delirious, frantic, beautiful, imperfect future of mine – I am seeing it, foreshadowed, and all started with Mister Pessoa. When I wake up from the dream on the bench of a garden, I want him to watch me and see what I learned with him, a human of frail sounds, almost as I am learning how to walk and say the first words. A voice to alert me of myself, life, life, life is more than a shadow I was, never doubting of the reality other than my past one. I want to give him my hand and stare at the sun, walk on a beach with giggling children building castles in the sand, to get drunk in the tertulia with him. Tertulia! Such a beautiful notion, I have to wake up and look at him, speak of wonders to be seen inside of me, be a part of a group of friends discussing the sex of angels – and that is so exciting, imagining other lives than the one of oneself, give me your hand Mister Pessoa, teach me as the other you taught Baby Jesus how to be human. Let’s write together the most beautiful poem in the world, the very same one when I observed you writing one night, completely absent of this world, navigating on your own sea of discovery, more real than the existing ones, let’s write and learn together how to survive our own lives – let’s be happy, you and me both, forget your little brother Jorge died when he was one and your father when you were sic and never forget coming from the other side of the world just to be on the same streets where he walked and took his hat off to the ladies and ministers in the court – that’s courtesy, such pretty notion, respect and admire others than ourselves, that’s so pure and simple! Let’s go to your friend’s tertulia and talk about the king of letters and of the future, the poems and novels they are writing, Almada and Botto, and the Orpheu and the press that went not that well; teach me the secrets of words, the composition of this reality you live in, let’s measure the width of your little room in the inn and allow yourself to discover that it is much bigger than those walls where you live and multiply yourself in other voices and mysteries, Bernardo Soares, will you be Bernardo today or Caeiro, tell me if you can – I believe that you couldn’t understand your own poetic soul, no one understands the poet’s souls – only the roses and the flowers can understand a poet’s secret pains, because they are one and only thing. You see, I am drunk with Mister Pessoa, and for a second I could re-write those precious words of yours, ‘on a noon at the end of spring, I had a dream like a photograph.’ Other works afflicted him, notions of the past mixed with the future he was constructing, words, words, his world was made of words and ideas, philosophies to invent and books, encyclopedias and atlases and poems and poems and letters and articles to be written, only if he had time and money, conditions to free all inside of him! Things like this one: eternity, unknown and unidentified, the silence holds! Mister Pessoa never stops composing, even if there is no paper and no quill, his mind composes an immense bibliography, parallel poems to other realities: the poet is a pretender, pretends that lives not living his own life; how could he explain his heart that beats in other realms and other rhymes? Mutinous and desperate of a man, I, he thinks walking down the avenue, walking like falling and rising again, over and over again, thinking and not thinking, feeling the joy and despair of the world, mutinous and desperate of a man, I. He had to move on, and he will certainly move on, even if his room is empty, he will recognise some faces, some people will recognise him on the bars and tertulias of words and glasses of red wine; that’s for sure – he will allow himself to these voices inside his mind, he has to; that will be it, he is the scribe, barely audible to his secret audience of a few, barely audible his melody, Mister Pessoa thinks staring at the window of a goldsmith, the rings and the watches ticking time away… He had to move on, even if it is too early, but he can walk, he will walk the town he loves so much, Lisbon of prostitutes and little boys selling the news with poor clothes and bare feet, the Lisbon of the boats of mysterious adventures and jumping fishes, the bells tolling chords of angels – his secret own Lisbon of Medieval cathedral up by Saint George castle, the fado house where sometimes he goes to listen to echoes of sadness and of the past, a melancholy but yet powerful memory… Lisbon, the city of the seven hills where Ulysses arrived one day and stayed for commerce and industry and poems and beautiful girls, spiral of history and fake stories, the Lisbon where the whole nut like caravels departed to that extinguished story of other scents and luminaries, and saints and sailors, the spices heavier and more expensive than gold; the same docks where king Sebastian went to be lost forever…A monument with moons fat as pregnant, tallow moons vigilant and witnesses, over the meadows and swamps, aligned in the skies watching the graves and the empty houses of courage and illusions, Lisbon could be a dead city, he thinks. He knows he lives on a desert of imagination surrounding him, maybe there is a secret garden of leaves and moss and snail conches, he is aware of a wilderness of shadows following him. Perhaps his silent face is nothing but a nuisance of desolation and solitude.
lisbon [photo (c) benjamin silva-pereira]
There he is, Mister Esteves on his kiosk selling tobacco by the once, disgusting habit, smoking, I mean, and news papers with compositions on the war on the North sea and in the Serbia, in France and Tannenberg; maybe there is a reference on the pages to the existence of a god representative on this earth, yes, a so called Benedict XV so insecure and sad that can not enjoy the luxury he lives in and not a single word against the carnage on the fields and streets of Dusseldorf, a sadness one can excommunicate and deny, all in heaven in boring and stupid as the Roman Catholic church as Mister Pessoa wrote back in March when he was someone else, a shepherd called Alberto Caeiro, a tutor for Baby Jesus, so earthly and serene , knowing a flower is anything else but a flower, the one who ‘saw Jesus Christ descend to earth.’ I am sure Mister Esteves is oblivious of these things, he has a family to raise and war and popes do not wonder in Lisbon of caravels and refugees travelling to the other side of the ocean, the Atlantic, immense and today very calm, filled with iodine and promising smooth travels, Mister Esteves doesn’t have any concerns regarding the future of the republic or the war, those things are indifferent and far away, ‘alhures’ as Mister Pessoa would say, afar, distant and inconvenient. There is ration of goods, but Mister Esteves sells his news papers and magazines, and candy and lollypops and buttons and ink and paper; life goes on, though he thinks the foreigners look very sad and anguished, poor souls, he thinks, travelling without much of a hope and a certainty, what is the future represent for them, far away from their wheat fields, their offices and their friends, life for them should be so small and slow, in a strange country, begging and waiting for a steamer by the docks, forging documents and hopes, crying and eating crusts of stale bread, spending their last family gold to buy the captain of a ship, bleeding for a voyage to freedom; they should stay, Mister Esteves thinks, he likes them whatsoever, life and people deserve a second change – and Lisbon is full of spies and Germans and the secret police is watching them, as usual. But apart for sympathy Mister Esteves doesn’t have other thought or repentance. Oh! Look at Miss Teresa, how pretty does she look today on her laces and colourful dress, she came to buy his father two ounces of tobacco, you must know Miss Teresa that I just can sell you only once and with the ration tickets, but you look so beautiful today; it’s Christmas as well, there you are, my lovely little girl, two ounces of fine tobacco, and Merry Christmas to your mum and pappy, and a happy new year.
The doubter of reality is walking slowly to the kiosk, good morning Esteves, how are you today? This is a nice morning for the twenty-fifth, how unusual, isn’t it? I’m not buying the news papers today; I have a busy day ahead. Any news of the war? Mister Esteves doesn’t smile, there is a ugly war going on, it’s true, and it seems that the republic will be in trouble if things go on like this, Mister Fernando, don’t you know they occupied Cyprus and Basra, the Germans were defeated on those Malvinas islands, Falklands as the monarchs calls them! It’s the end of the world, he says, giving Mister Pessoa his cigarettes and a bottle of perfume, would you like me to wrap it, Fernando? No, there’s no need, after all there’s a war going on. Was that Teresa I just saw on the street? Yes, Miss Teresa came to buy two ounces of tobacco, I couldn’t refuse it, Mister Albuquerque is one of my oldest customers, one can’t ignore it’s Christmas. How delighted was she with the chocolate bar I offered her, she was so happy! Bless her, Little Teresa. For sure, replies Fernando lighting a cigarette. How delightful it would be if he could eat a chocolate bar so innocently as Miss Teresa, perplexed he was with that simplicity, eating a chocolate bar, what should he think about, to be what he thinks he is? Here he was again lost on his perambulating raving thoughts, a genius dreaming of a genius dreaming, but there were so many geniuses like him in the Lunatic Asylum! If you see Bernardo can you tell me to call on my inn? Surely, Mister Fernando, have a merry Christmas! Hope your writing is going well! Writing, yes, writing, Mister Pessoa thinks, even last night he dreamt he had a strange Niponic guest and he had to write a letter to Baby Jesus, he was sure he would be in a sanatorium soon enough if things continued like that; madness and nothing but madness, he was a mad man walking in one street of Lisbon on Christmas morning, smoking a cigarette, going to meet his friends downtown for a little talk. It was a private joke in between them two, Mister Soares would come to visit him, he was sure, but only when he would be too tired and bored, maybe with a few glasses of red when things happen to be horrid and volatile, when he was about to enter another vacuum, thought Mister Pessoa. Private joke, yes, no one ever saw Mister Soares because he was nothing more than his shadow, immense sphinx staring at the fog on the river, one and very multiple! If he was to confess to Mister Esteves that his friend was himself, he would laugh, placing his hands on the belly and then curly his fat moustache and say, Oh! Mister Fernando, what a caricature and funny man you are! Friends you have that eclipses one comprehension, but it’s Christmas and life is beautiful for a few moments; who cares about imaginary friends? What pranks you is, bless you! Mister Esteves was from the Beiras, reddish fat face, a honey voice and good simple manners, eyes bright as stars, even early in the morning when the news arrived and he had to cut the strings and display them, so organised one would think it was a public library; his kiosk one of the best in town. How good would be to unwrap the tin foil of the chocolate bar and eat simply without thinking about it, anything had a different meaning to him, eat your chocolate, pretty Teresa, there is no better metaphysic than eating a chocolate on the street, little girl. What of dreaming of philosophies and Empires? I wasn’t born for those, for sure, I do not believe in anything; the world is a blur, I am an idiot little girl, there is not secret meanings in anything – salvation is to know there is no salvation, like you I’d throw the tin foil to the street, unimportant and banal, common and vulgar, a prostitute of myself. Mister Pessoa says goodbye to Mister Esteves. All these familiar faces and buildings were so strange, foreigner to himself, another reality he happen, casually, to wake up for, drunk with masks and sublime, a gypsy on his own homeland, alone, fatherless, his mother on the other side of the globe. Perhaps he would be very happy that, instead of writing verses and smoking cigarettes and speak of metaphysics because he was moody, perhaps he would be so very happy if he could marry someone simple and without complications, someone singing on the veranda up there on the third floor, the one with the rosemary pots and dying flowers – he would be happy to live like others, without ideas and projects and friends with ideas and projects and friends writing and painting and sculpting new manifestos and open letters to newspapers that didn’t care at all, buried to the fantastic open universes of languages being invented – Oh! How happy he would he be to marry the laundry lady’s daughter, of vast breasts and ankles and with a smile where existed all the doctrines of the world, her eyes more pure than all of Hegel and Kant and Nietzsche commandments… There is she singing ‘your lips desire so felt, here on my lonely belly the gone pleasure… Have pity of me, she sings, have mercy on me, come yet again my love, take this pain away from me, I, so alone in this world…’
lisbon [photo (c) benjamin silva-pereira]
With the brightness that human hope brings to one’s mind I followed him thought the empty streets of the capital, the smell of burnt chestnuts wrapped in news paper invading his thoughts and mirages. Mister Pessoa stopped in a taberna for a glass of red, that thick one that comes from the North, from Minho, and it is only ten in the morning; alas, poets are allowed this kind of behaviour, one knows he feels lonely and melancholy, let him indulge on these rituals, what can one say or do, intervene? No, life is sacred; Mister Pessoa taught me that. He speaks of trivial things, stuff I didn’t know he talked about, the saudade, that word again, he had for the king and the monarchy, but, alas, I do like this expression, alas!, for the times to come, nothing new! How is the family, Madam is cold, it is the result of the weather, you know? Baby Clotilde is fine, that’s good to know, he says, smiling, she’s a very chubby pretty girl, learned how to say Daddy, that’s good! Ghost city, you are right Mister Pessoa, no one around. You don’t look very well, what’s going on? Oh, nothing but nothing my dear fellow, just didn’t sleep well. Yes, yes, mother wrote me a letter from Durban, it’s summer there, wish I were there for this Christmas. But that’s life, that’s life. It goes on and on, isn’t that true? No one can stop the glove from gyrating, endlessly gyrating into the future. The war, will it come to our shores, Mister Pessoa? As a man of letters and superior understanding I’m sure you must forecast if we’ll be invaded. One can not speak freely anymore, spies are everywhere, especially the Germans, like dogs they are, one can tell if they are spies, Jesus! How indiscreet they are, Mister Pessoa; I miss the king as well, that’s for sure. It’s the end of our world, as we know it?
Pessoa didn’t know how to answer that properly, as the gentleman said, it was dangerous to talk at one’s will, too dangerous. One never knew who was safe to talk to. He simply sipped his red wine and smoke thoughtful cigarettes. The truth is that is mind is busy with the poem he started weeks ago and which draft he was not happy at all; his mind was filled with pages after pages of non sense sentences building fast, archives of emotions and images catapulting themselves in disorder, and he was very tired, didn’t sleep properly, he felt in a mess, not even some centavos to buy the news papers, what would be of his life? The war, gentleman, the war, we are at war each and every single days of our lives, he thought. The red wine waving slowly inside the glass was real enough; his tongue could feel the citrus thick liquid, but the war! How could he feel the war if he fought every second to look straight and feel and think, too many things at the same time, those crazy and hysterical beautiful voices of other lives on his mind… He wished he could answer to the bartender as his friend Alberto, the herd keeper, that not a bit he cared! He imagined the tall and thin man with big fingers cleaning a glass with a stained cloth asking back, but Mister Pessoa, not a bit you care of what? Pessoa could see his lips moving, forming words and thoughts, but not a sound came out, not a bit I care of what? The man stopped cleaning the glass staring at him in awes, what? He didn’t ask anything, what is he rambling about? These poets and writers living in their private world, dementia, dementia. Then Mister Pessoa exclaimed: I don’t know: not a bit I do care! Moreover he wished the other man a good day and a merry Christmas and left to the street without another murmur or looking at him. The taberna owner was stupidly looking at him going, still as a statue, definitely this man was a lunatic!
lisbon [photo (c) benjamin silva-pereira]
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
art (c) john daly
a brief illustration of pessoa:
fernando pessoa, portuguese poet born in lisbon on the 13th of june 1888. possibly the greatest portuguese poet ever, after camoes, and universally acclaimed. his multiple faced work, invented writers and the polemic side of his experiments gave him close friends and brave enemies during his brief life. ‘i don’t know who i am, which soul i possess. (…) i feel beliefs i don’t have. (…) i feel multiple. i am like a room with numerous mirrors that twists to false reflections one anterior reality that is in none and in all of them. like a pantheist feels him a tree and even a flower, i feel as various beings. i feel like living other lives, in myself, incompletely, as if my being participates of all men, incompletely of each of them, by a sum of non-i’s synthesised in a fake one.
his only known girlfriend, ophelia queiros, said of him that he was “very joyful. he laughed like a child, and thinks fun of all things. when he was supposed to go to polish his shoes he would say ‘i’m going to wash my feet on the outside.’ he lived very isolated, no one to take care of him, so he used to complain about that. sometimes he was very confusing. he would arrive and say that today he was not fernando, but his friend alvaro de campos. he behaved completely different then.’
in 1895 departs to durban in south africa to live and study, writing in english and portuguese poetry and inventing ‘characters’, trying to write novels and imitating his ‘influences’. in 1903, in the admission test, he won the queen victoria prize for english style in the university of the cape of good hope; he was 15 years of age. returns for good to the portuguese capital in 1905 where he works as a clerk and translator (of shakespeare and edgar poe, for example).
his work encompasses pages on literature, aesthetics, polemics and politics, poetry, translation, theatre and fiction. ‘the basis of lyrical genius is hysteria. the more pure and narrow the lyrical genius, the clearer the hysteria is’ he writes on an essay on shakespeare and dickens. for the theory of sensationism, a literary and artistic current he formed with negreiros, he wrote that ‘to feel is to create. to feel is to think without ideas, and therefore to feel is to understand, because we know the universe doesn’t have ideas. –but what is to feel? to have opinions is not to feel. all our opinions belong to others. to think is to transmit to others what we think we feel. only that is thought one can communicate to others. what one feels one cannot communicate. you can only communicate the value of what one feels. only one can feel what one thinks. (…) sentiment opens the gates of the prison with which thought shuts the soul. lucidity should only border the edge of the soul. (…) to feel is to understand. to think is wrong. to understand what other person thinks is to disagree with him. to understand what other person feels is to be him itself. to be other person is of a great metaphysical utility. god is all the people’ [from ‘for a theory of sensationism’; 1 – sensationist aphorisms’ 1916]
all in his life was unexpected, the creative process, his poems, his friends and even his death. belonging to the most active tertulia (intellectual bohemian gang) in lisbon he was disconcerting, creativity of multiple directions, profoundly original and, structurally, true to his beliefs.
calling himself a gnostic christian, he refuted all kind of organised churches, especially the roman. he believed in the secret tradition of christianism of israel (kabbalah) and with the essence of the masons. he was initiated directly as master to disciple, in the three first minor grades of the templar order of portugal, promising to fight against the ignorant, fanatic and tyranny. as a devout monarchist he was anti communist and anti socialist, as well.
his body of work has to be distinguished in two: the ortoronym and the heteronym. explaining in other words, his heteronym travail is not anonymous or pseudonymous, these are the work of the author without or under a different signature. heteronomous work is when the work becomes through the author but outside of him. it’s an individually and complete work created and fabricated by him as if they were of a utter different person. the famous ones are alberto caeiro, ricardo reis and alvaro de campos, entities completely diverse of pessoa, other drama forming another one. pessoa created a whole life of their own, horoscopes, influences, body of work, disciples, et al, including of their oeuvre in magazines and papers. it’s a drama in peoples, instead of acts. it has been suggested that, far from being a conscious literary strategy, this heteronymity was a symptom of multiple personality disorder.
in his own name pessoa published in life only antinuos and 35 sonnets in 1918; english poems i-ii and english poems iii in 1922.
message was published in 1934 as an award of poetry by the portuguese republic regime. message is a hard work of mythical poetry, patriotism, pessoa’s patriotism and not of the establishment, and history. filled with god human soul is superior to martyrdom, loss or defeat, and fate of the portuguese peoples (the lusitan) is to achieve the new (fifth) empire guided by the voices of the past. the blood of the portuguese, as the tears of mothers who lost their sons, the sea and the salt are intrinsic to them, ‘if the soul is not minor’. the mythical providential history of the sacred and the dialectic of necessity, destiny and liberty is so strong in the poem that the portuguese people must face its destiny: the stoicism, messianic-christian, chivalry and arthurian mission is to transcend themselves and become universal.
in 1915 he published the static drama the sailor, in 1922 the anarchist banker and the poems of portuguese sea. heteronyms works published in life were triumphal ode and the maritime ode in 1915, ultimatum in 1917 by alvaro de campos; odes by ricardo reis in 1925.
he created or wrote or co-founded several art magazines, the most famous of them the orpheu, centaur, portugal futurist, contemporanea and athena, with friends like sa-carneiro, almada negreiros, raul leal, luis montalvor, antonio botto, joao gaspar simoes, augusto santa-rita, all belonging to the tertulia that was on the vanguard of the century.
he died at the age of forty-seven, and several tomes of his posthumous work are still being published. the book of disquiet, by pessoa’s alter ego bernardo soares, was published to international acclaim, for instance and translated all over the world. murrough o’brien said of it that “i say ‘train’ and not ‘teach’: the reader is in for a gruelling workout. navel-staring has, in this book, reached its apotheosis, and it would be all too easy to throw the thing down and reach for some ripping yarn with lots of cowboys and indians, a bit of sex and no pretensions of deep. we are given no story, very few characters, not even a stream of consciousness, just a serious of thoughts, the philosophical diary of the 'sphinx of the stationary cupboard’, a portuguese clerk in the 1920’s, charting the seasons of tedium with a precision which is both heartrending and enriching.” o’brien finalises his analysis saying that ‘the overwhelming feeling on reading this book is pity, pity for a sensitivity too acute ever to find spiritual redress.’
pessoana is a common saying when some writing or situation reflects his moods and writings. several pessoana societies exist all over the world producing an extensive and luxurious body of work on the poet and his subjects. there are still numerous original materials to be published. it is estimated that he created twenty-seven ‘authors’ writing around twenty-seven thousand texts.
pessoa died on the 30th of november 1935 of cirrhosis, his liver tortured by alcohol, in the st. louis of the french hospital. his last words sounds like some of his heteronym alvaro de campos: ‘give me my glasses.’ > benjamin silva-pereira, london, 31st july 2004.
an englishman in lisbon
it was 2009 and the gentleman was mister steven lee rees, and these are his impressions of that christmas in lisbon