Friday, June 13, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Just a small post to note that it's the 120th anniversary of Fernando Pessoa's birth. Fernando Pessoa was/is Portugal's greatest poet and that is saying a lot, in a country of poets.

He dedicated his whole life to writing, whilst keeping jobs on the side to sustain him economically. The most notable fact about his writing was his like for creating heteronyms. The experts have mentioned there were over 70 of them! He created these characters, gave them names, ideas and a specific writing style and he wrote the poems in their names. Let's call it the many faces of Gemini.

For instance his heteronym Alberto Caeiro was really fond of nature and very connected to the Earth. Ricardo Reis was a neo-classical poet, he inherited the themes from Ancient Greece. Álvaro de Campos is more concerned with issues of the modern times, he's very intense and wants to feel everything intensely. They all had specific private lives and jobs, they even wrote letters to each other.

Pessoa also wrote epic poems: he wrote a collection called Message about the past, present and future of Portugal. Some occultists consider this to be prophetic. Pessoa himself was very interested in Occultism and Astrology, one of his heteronyms was an astrologer, he made birth charts for his greatest heteronyms and made the chart of Portugal too. He was also interested in the philosophical issues of his time, writing essays about specific schools of thought.

He even wrote for advertising. If I'm not mistaken he created the first slogan for Coca-Cola in Portugal.

For this and much more he should always be remembered.

I Am Tired

I am tired, that is clear,
Because, at certain stage, people have to be tired.
Of what I am tired, I don't know:
It would not serve me at all to know
Since the tiredness stays just the same.
The wound hurts as it hurts
And not in function of the cause that produced it.
Yes, I am tired,
And ever so slightly smiling
At the tiredness being only this -
In the body a wish for sleep,
In the soul a desire for not thinking
And, to crown all, a luminous transparency
Of the retrospective understanding ...
And the one luxury of not now having hopes?
I am intelligent: that's all.
I have seen much and understood much of what I have seen.
And there is a certain pleasure even in tiredness this brings us,
That in the end the head does still serve for something.

'Selected Poems' translated from Fernando Pessoa by J.Griffin. (

Link: - an impressive website with english audio of Pessoa's greatest book and animations. It's not how I usually read him but it's interesting.


Niall said...

Thank you for bringing to my attention the poet and the poetry. Do you know when you read the poetry of someone really gifted, it makes your heart leap and cry out 'Yes...that's it!..that's how I feel!'..and leaves us wondering why on earth we couldn't have written it.That is the true gift of the put into words the heart and truth of the matter and to say the words that we all have within us, but can never utter in the same way. I don't know about you, but when I read such words, it causes me to tremble somewhere deep inside...

( I deleted the first comment because when i read it back after publishing it, I'd made some really stupid spelling errors..)

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I really enjoyed that poem. I'm a big fan of poetry in general.

Scholiast said...

I'm a little tired too, celebrating my 4 little ones (who share Pessoa's birthday) through the whole weekend...

Devil Mood said...

Niall: Exactly. That's good poetry but excellent poetry is being able to do that whilst playing with words in special ways to provoke a Wow factor.

Chrispito: If you do, Pessoa should be in your bookshelves :)

Scholiast: I can imagine! (I didn't mention them here because I thought it was your personal business; they're not bloggers so I shouldn't bring their personal life into this ;)

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Dr.John said...

An interesting poet indeed.

missalister said...

What a neat turn of events to know you and thus be introduced to a new poet to study. I feel tired like “I Am Tired” both because I am and because he is. But I think my favorite is “Your Eyes Go Sad.” As I read it I got a distinct picture of a woman and how she looked, beautiful, perhaps with Angelina Jolie lips, looking away, squinting toward an open window, watching the clouds blow across the sun. I thought I could tell how she felt listening to his same sad words about himself and his reality which are not her and her reality. And so the cycle of the strained smile goes, neither caring to understand the other anymore.

Violet said...

Fernando Pessoa is my favorite poet, and i don't like poetry, because I have saturn-mercury, but he is a genious. nothing i've ever read compares to him.

Devil Mood said...

Dr.John: Glad you enjoyed it.

MissAlister: It's interesting to read those love poems because Pessoa is not a love poet. He has a few love poems of course, but he's mostly a lonely poet I think. But it's still very interesting to read what he has to say about love!

Violet: Couldn't agree more. He is beyond poetry and I'm not a poetry lover myself, having Mercury-Saturn too - I never thought of this aspect this way, interesting! But I also have Mercury-Venus so...bah. lol

Violet said...

i have venus-mercury too. but the saturn aspect is much stronger, and it makes u really critical of people's communication along with your own of course. makes u cut to the chase. i get really annoyed with most poetry, seems really useless :)
but Fernando Pessoa is like niall said, he expresses the debts of my soul in a way i could never do, and the feeling is the opposite of frustration, it's liberating.

Devil Mood said...

Yes, my Mercury-Sat is stronger too and I have it in Capricorn. Flowery words don't do it for me neither, I want the plain and simple "truth" and that's exactly what you're talking about.

Cynthia said...

"in the soul a desire for not thinking" - oh yes!

Devil Mood said...

Cynthia: But is it possible?