Last summer, I started a project to translate the Azorean poet Pedro da Silveira’s first book A ilha e o mundo (The Island and the World), which came out in 1952.

I had reviewed the late George Monteiro’s translation of Silveira’s last book, published in a bilingual edition by Tagus Press in the States and simultaneously by Letras Lavadas in the Azores in 2019 as Poems in Absentia & Poems from The Island and the World. In fact, the second half of that title was a misnomer; the book included only a few poems from Silveira’s first book–poems that had previously appeared in a Gávea-Brown anthology from the 1980s and sort of slapped on to the end of the book. (Silveira was born on Flores Island in 1922 and died in Lisbon in 2003.)

What struck me immediately about Silveira’s poetry—in Monteiro’s translation first and then in reading the facing Portuguese—was the depth of its feeling, the simplicity and directness of its language, and the brilliant tapestry woven by strands of memory, naming, and observations of nature. Indeed, all aspects that are found in my own poetry; hence, I felt a certain kinship with Silveira’s work straight away.

And yet, I was equally struck by the dearth of his poetry available in translation. How could such a seemingly important poet be so little represented in English translation? How much richer would the world of poetry–and the world of poetry-in-translation–be with Silveira’s body of work. And how much richer would be our lives in the Azorean diaspora with his sentiments, steadfast observations, and steady poetic hand. 

I started with the second poem in the book, “Ilha”; this was likely the first poem I ever read by Silveira in translation, from that old Gávea-Brown anthology previously mentioned.

Here is the entire poem in its original Portuguese:


Só isto:

                 O céu fechado, uma ganhoa

pairando. Mar. E um barco na distância:

olhos de fome a adivinhar-lhe, à proa,

Califórnias perdidas de abundância.

As I tend to do in my method of translation, I first read the poem straight through and then wrote an impression or literal reading as I understood it:

Just this:

                        The closed sky, a heron

Hovering. Sea. A boat in the distance:

Hungry eyes guessing, at the prow,

Californias lost of abundance.

A bit clunky and prosaic, and probably unworthy. I prefer to not read another’s translation (if there is one) while translating a poem lest I be influenced by it, so Monteiro’s sat on the shelf.

One thing troubled me, however. The bird. Where did that heron come from? Surely, I remembered it from Monteiro’s version. “Ganhoa,” at first, I thought was a misprint of “ganhou” – who won? – but that made absolutely no sense, so I went with heron. But what was a heron doing in this scene? Were herons even found in the Azores? 

Reluctantly, I checked Monteiro’s translation. Sure enough, there it was, “heron.” It struck a dissonant chord with me now. A heron. Really? Again, I wondered whether herons were found in the Azores and turned to the Internet. 

Yes, there were at least ten species of heron that have been noted on these islands, including great blues and little egrets, which according to the website have been sighted, but “not regularly”; the species is classified as an “uncommon vagrant” on the islands. And, most recently, a confirmed sighting of another species, the yellow-crowned night heron (Nyctanassa violacea) was described in a scientific paper by João Pedro Barreiros. Most likely, however, this one was blown east by a strong, errant wind from the west. Several herons were known to stop-over on their migratory path from Africa to northern climes and back. 

Still, heron didn’t seem correct, to me, given the scene described. The use of Mar all alone. And the boat seemed to imply open waters rather than shoreline. 

Herons are marsh-dwelling, shoreline species for the most part, so I was perplexed why they might be hovering “at Sea” or the “open ocean,” as I envisioned it. Were they blown off-course and out of their range? That would surely change the nature of this poem, which I assumed was about emigration or the emigrant returned or the desire to emigrate but also remain tied to the island. If it was not a heron, what was it then? What else might “hover” over the open ocean? 

I typed “ganhoa” into Google. The almighty, all-seeing Google asked if I meant “ganhos” earnings; no, I did not. This was not a poem set in the halls of finance or a casino in Monaco. So, I clicked on “search instead for ganhoa” and up came a page from Priberam dicionário. I had my bird! The yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis atlantis)…surely this bird would hover over the prow or bow of the boat, and even the stern, looking for a handout. A ganhoa recupera os seus ganhos. (The gull recovers its winnings.)

Here is my version of Pedro da Silveira’s “Island”:

Just this:

                    The closed sky, a yellow-legged gull

hovering. Open ocean. And a boat in the distance:

Hungry eyes, at the bow, divining, 

lost Californias of plenty.

(Translated from the Portuguese by Scott Edward Anderson)


(This text was adapted from a paper delivered at the Colóquio celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of Pedro da Silveira, “Pedro da Silveira – faces de um poliedro cultural,” at the University of the Azores in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, in September 2022.)

Speaking of the Azores: I am excited to host a Writing Retreat there from 13-18 October 2023! Join me for 5 days of writing and immersion in the nature, food, and culture of the Azores. We’ll explore the island, focus with deep attention, expand our horizons, and tap into the stories within. Details and registration at

My friend and colleague Leonor Sampaio da Silva published her first collection of poems last summer, Quase um Carimbo (Companhia das Ilhas, 2022). 

Born on the island of São Miguel, Azores, Leonor holds a master’s degree in Anglo-Portuguese Studies from the Universidade Novo de Lisboa and a PhD in Anglo-American Studies from the University of the Azores, where she has taught since 1991.

Having published a number of academic papers and contributions to various books, anthologies, and literary magazines, Leonor made her literary debut with a book of short stories, Mau Tempo e Má Sorte – contos pouco exemplares, which received the Daniel de Sá Humanities Prize in 2014. She is also the author of ABN da Pessoa com Universo ao Fundo (2017) and, with Carlos Carvalho, Pouca Terra – Fotografia e Literatura (2019).

“My idea for [this] book was to talk about the experience of isolation caused by the pandemic,” Leonor explained to me. “In which we lost contact with others and forced ourselves to face situations such as the vulnerability of life, how to make sense of each day, how to live with routine.”

Some of the poems read like diary entries, the poetic voice spoken by characters representing, as Leonor notes, “the others that exist within and outside of oneself.” 

“Carimbo,” it may be useful to note, means “stamp,” the kind used to mark or authenticate official or private papers. Another meaning of the word, however, is “timestamp” (although usually written as “carimbo de data/hora.”) and, in this collection, each poem is marked by a timestamp: morning, afternoon, or night, as well as an action–I wake up, I sit down, I get up–as if to indicate stage direction. 

It’s as if the characters in the poems are actors in their own play, marking their time, the pandemic imbuing even the most mundane tasks with the aspects of a theatrical production. 

The book title translates as “Almost a Stamp,” which leads the reader to a question: if it is “almost,” what is it? An approximation? What is reality? The questions are heightened by the ending of the book where the theatrical stage suddenly becomes cinematic, play becomes film, language shifts in tone, the curtain falls, a wind picks up, a torrential rain pours down, and fallen leaves return to their trees. The speaker remains lonely. The book ends with one last action: “Adormeço” (I fall asleep).     

“Poetry,” Leonor argues, “is a way of putting us in touch with each other and exploring new languages.” She carries this thread throughout the collection, whether using “the more intimate language of the diary/newspaper” or “the more social language of the theater,” demonstrating that “everything happens as if on a stage” and shielding us from loneliness and death.

Quase um Carimbo is an impressive debut poetry collection and I hope to translate more of it in the future.

Here are two poems by Leonor Sampaio da Silva in the original Portuguese and my translations into English:



uma personagem pragueja baixinho
pela noite mal dormida

o que farei se um Comboio transformar
a geografia deste lugar?

pensar no improvável tem sido
passatempo habitual
quase uma Obsessão

preocupa-me em demasia
a falta de uma Estação


I wake up
a character curses softly
over the sleepless night

what will I do if a train transforms
the geography of this place?

thinking about the improbable has been
a regular hobby
almost an obsession

it worries me too much
the lack of a station




deve estar um dia quente a avaliar pela
temperatura do quarto

o corpo, o que é um corpo?

uma madeixa cortada
vivendo por um fio
enquanto aguarda reunir-se
à cabeça que dela se esqueceu

uma madeixa que se deixa
torcer em caracol
alourar ao sol

o sol, o que é o sol?

um corpo


I wake up
it must be a hot day judging by
the temperature of the room

a body, what is a body?

a severed lock
living by a thread
while waiting to be reunited
with the head that has forgotten it

a lock that lets itself
twists into a curl
glistening in the sun

the sun, what is the sun?

a body

–Leonor Sampaio da Silva, from Quase um Carimbo

(translated from the Portuguese by Scott Edward Anderson)


Speaking of the island of São Miguel: I am excited to host a Writing Retreat there from 13-18 October 2023! Join me for 5 days of writing and immersion in the nature, food, and culture of the Azores. We’ll explore the island, focus with deep attention, expand our horizons, and tap into the stories within. Details and registration at 

My dog Calvin died this year. He was fifteen and losing his ability to move. The last time I saw him, he was responsive, yet it was clear he was increasingly uncomfortable in his body. He always lit up when he saw me; sadly, I think he was always thinking, “At last you’ve come home.” I was not.

The last time I saw Calvin.

In fact, I lost Calvin in my divorce over 10 years ago and, after a few years of occasional visits in Brooklyn, I stopped getting to spend regular time with him. I know we both missed each other. (I’ve had a number of dogs in my life; we got Beverley in 2015 and, when she does something I wish she wouldn’t, I remind her that she’s neither my first dog nor my last.)

I wrote two poems about Calvin, both of which appear in the anthology, Dogs Singing. One, in the voice of Calvin, recounts his origin story, based upon what we were told by the PASPCA. The other is not so much about Calvin as about my growing restlessness in the home of my previous marriage. Calvin serves as a character, if not a symbol, along with mining bees and a redbud tree.

Because Calvin was put down earlier this year, Emily Berry’s poem, “Dream of a Dog,” which appeared originally in Granta last February and in her most recent collection, Unexhausted Time, struck a particular chord in me when I read it. Berry’s poem appears about a quarter of the way through the book and, after a series of untitled poems, it is the first poem with a title in the book and closes the book’s first, unnumbered section. (As readers, poets always look for things like this in a collection; there is usually a significance to such placements, signaling an intention on the part of the poet, as if to say, “pay attention to this one.”)

It’s also one of the few poems in the collection where, in the words of critic Steven Lovatt, writing in The Friday Poem, “the tone is for once gentle, undemonstrative and open to outside impressions.” Berry’s work has always struck me as characterized by a so-called “flat style,” which Noreen Masud, in an article in the journal Textual Practice, explains “involves postures of poetic melodrama which state themselves ‘flatly’, without apology.”

Berry’s “Dream of a Dog,” while it does use a flat style, also consists of one long sentence, or rather a fragment of a sentence, for it ends not with a full-stop period, but an ellipsis. The ellipsis hints there is more to come or, perhaps, that the reader could circle back to the beginning of the poem for it ends where it begins, with the words, “My life” as if the poem could be an endlessly cycling dream. 

It also causes me to question, is it the “dream of a dog,” as in, the speaker is dreaming of a dog (line 19 begins, “if I had a dog”) or is it a dream a dog is having, complete with its sighs. (My dog Beverley barks in her dreams, along with sighs, and chases things; I wish I knew what.)  

Emily Berry is the author of three poetry books published by Faber in the UK: Unexhausted Time (2022), Stranger, Baby (2017) and Dear Boy (2013). You can read more about her and her work at:

Here is her poem, “Dream of a Dog”:

Dream of a Dog

My life, and all our lives, I said sleepily,
so soft now, like the neck of a sleeping dog,
I lay my hand on it, as you have lain your hand
on mine (on my life), this tenderly, as the dog
noses deeper into sleep, as she sighs the way
a dreaming dog does, I wish my life was in
your dream, dog, I think it is, and she turns
onto her back so her stomach rises pale and
softly furred, and your words are travelling
through me, or, no, they travel over me, the
way a breeze makes fabric touch us, the fabric
of half-drawn curtains billowing from an open
window, as I pass and glance out on such
a day, the dog whimpering softly in sleep;
perhaps it’s that you say I should have faith,
or that you have faith, in increments, while
my shoes are nosing through leaves and the
dog is alert or disappears (but she comes back),
if I had a dog she would be a kind of faith,
I would lift her onto my shoulder, the points
of her ears very elfin and her face, serious,
tilted to regard you, she would listen and run
and then, from a distance, up a slight incline,
when I call her, look back, then run on,
and I do believe in increments, as when
the dog brings me, in her dream, pinecones,
when she wriggles in my arms, her ribcage
strung like an archer’s bow, when her paws
bend at the wrist in supplication, I do not see
the slow wheels in my blood turning, but
I ride them, I do not see what I know
and everything beneath that, which I may
come to know, or may not, the slow slow
discernment of the deep layer, air bubbles
rising from the dead zone, the dog in her
dream talismanic on a hilltop, the soft tips
of her ears in sleep, a slight sigh, all my life.

–Emily Berry, from Unexhausted Time

I stumbled across Martha Sprackland’s debut collection, Citadel, in Desperate Literature, a wonderful little bookshop off the Plaza Santo Domingo in Madrid last month. The poet, originally from Liverpool, now divides her time between London and Madrid, and she thanks the bookstore in the acknowledgments of her book. The collection intrigued me because of its size–a bit taller and thinner than the old City Lights paperbooks–and the paper wrapped around it proclaiming it as a staff favorite.

Inside, I found a captivating mix of poems that seemed to alternate between, as the back cover indicates, a “composite ‘I’–part Reformation-era monarch, part twenty-first century poet.” The monarch is Juana of Castile, “sixteenth-century Queen of Spain and daughter of the instigators of the Inquisition,” the so-called “Joanna the Mad.” The book was published in 2020 and shortlisted for the John Pollard International Poetry Prize in 2021, the Forward Prize for Best First Collection in 2020, and the 2020 Costa Poetry Award.

Cocido madrileño is a traditional stew from Madrid with meat and vegetables in a chickpea (garbanzo bean) base. I picked this poem to share because it is indicative of Sprackland’s gift for moving between the present and the past in this collection. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future. 

Here is the poem in its entirety:

Cocido Madrileño

It was an unexplainable hunger, like a gravel pit,

and it wouldn’t go away. Sickness like a fingernail moon

around its darkness. Juana went to the bodega

and bought six tins of cocido ridged

like braziers, Litoral stamped in red along

the white coastline, the meats reclining

in an adoring harem of chickpeas.

Juana’s faith was on the wane but pork would prove it.

Morcilla, chorizo, tocino de ibérico, panceta,

soft white lard and blood and bone and smoke

tipped over the lip and into the pit, like a body

she desperately wanted to be rid of.

This, she believed, would sate her, save her.

–Martha Sprackland, from CITADEL

Learn more about the poet: Martha Sprackland

Click here to purchase Citadel directly from the publisher, Liverpool University Press.

My Year in Writing: 2022

November 28, 2022

SEA books published in 2022.

Now is the time, between my birthday and the end of the year, when I take stock of my year in writing. It’s been a pretty productive year, considering it also included a move from Brooklyn to the Berkshires:

Published Wine-Dark Sea: New & Selected Poems & Translations (Shanti Arts)

Book launch for Wine-Dark Sea online with Kathryn Miles (Feb)

Appearance on Portuguese American Radio Hour with Diniz Borges (March)

World Poetry Day/Cagarro Colloquium reading (March)

Book launch with Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute (March)

Book signing at booth at #AWP22 in Philadelphia (March)

Wine-Dark Sea gets “Taylored” by @taylorswift_as_books on Instagram! (March)

Lecture at University of the Azores: Mesa-redonda Poesia, Tradução e Memória (April)

Azores launch for Wine-dark Sea and Azorean Suite/Suite Açoriana at Letras Levadas in Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Azores, with Leonor Sampaio Silva (April)

Açores Hoje television interview with Juliana Lopes on RTP Açores (April) Reading Series with Joe Wilkins and Betsy Aoki (April)

“Phase Change” and “Under the Linden’s Spell” reprinted in TS Poetry’s Every Day Poems (online/email)

“Midnight Sun” and “Shapeshifting” reprinted in Earth Song: a nature poems experience (anthology), edited by Sara Barkat and published by TS Poetry Press

Named Ryan Observatory’s first Poet Laureate

Mentored 2 students in Creative Nonfiction for Adroit Journal Summer Mentorship Program (June/July) [UPDATE: one of the students I mentored got accepted into the University of Pennsylvania, early decision! So proud of her!]

Translated Pedro da Silveira’s A ilha e o mundo, his first book of poems (1952)

Excerpts from Corsair of the Islands, my translation of Vitorino Nemésio’s Corsário das Ilhas, published in Barzakh Magazine (online) (August)

Panelist/presenter at Colóquio: Pedro da Silveira – faces de um poliedo cultural, University of the Açores: On Translating Pedro da Silveira’s A Ilha (September)

Lançamento da obra Habitar: um ecopoema, Margarida Vale de Gato’s translation of Dwelling: an ecopoem, published by Poética Edições, with Nuno Júdice, Luís Filipe Sarmento, and Margarida Vale de Gato, at FLAD in Lisbon (September)

Guest lecturer in Creative Writing at University of the Azores (Leonor Sampaio Silva, professora)

Panelist/presenter at 36th Colóquio da Lusofonia, Centro Natália Correia, Fajã de Biaxo, São Miguel, Azores: reading from Azorean Suite/Suite Açoriana with Eduardo Bettencourt Pinto (October)

#YeahYouWrite Catskill Reading at Fahrenheit 451 House, Catskill, NY w/Stephanie Barber, Laurie Stone, and Sara Lippmann (October)

Guest Writer at UConn Stamford creative writing class (Mary Newell, professor) (October)

Poet & Astronomer in Conversation (with Derrick Pitts, Chief Astronomer of the Franklin Institute) at Ryan Observatory at Muddy Run, PA (November)

With Derrick Pitts at Ryan Observatory.

“Wine-Dark Sea” (poem) published in American Studies Over_Seas (November)

20th Anniversary of residency at Millay Arts and writing of Dwelling: an ecopoem (November) [UPDATE: Got asked to join the Board of Millay Arts in December.]

Selections from Habitar: um ecopoema published in Gávea-Brown (US) and Grotta (Azores)

Book reviews in Gávea-Brown and Pessoa Plural [Postponed until 2023.](December)

My essay, “Açorianidade and the Radiance of Sensibility,” accepted by Barzakh Magazine for publication in Winter 2023 issue. (December)

What a year! I am exceedingly grateful to everyone who has supported my writing over the past year. As Walter Lowenfels wrote, “One reader is a miracle; two, a mass movement.”

Like I said last year, I feel like I’ve been blessed by a mass miracle this year!

Tonight @ 7PM ET!

In person at Ryan Observatory at Muddy Run or live stream via

Join us for a lively dialogue between Chief Astronomer of the Franklin Institute, Dr. Derrick Pitts & Ryan Observatory Poet Laureate, Scott Edward Anderson.

Our conversation will center on the many ways art and science enhance and complement each other.

Telescope viewing & laser guided star tours, weather permitting. Rain or Shine event.

For more info, go to

Scott Edward Anderson, Suzanne Roberts, and Derek Sheffield at AWP 2022, Philadelphia.

Tonight, I’m reading from my new book, Wine-Dark Sea: New & Selected Poems & Translations in’s reading series. You can join us by registering here for the event. Hope to see you there!

I’ll be reading with two other poets, Joe Wilkins and Betsy Aoki. Betsy is an associate poetry editor with Terrain, which has published several of my poems over the years. Her colleague, Derek Sheffield, will be our host. Derek is a fine poet in his own right, and he has a new book out called Not For Luck, which poet Mark Doty selected for the Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize, and it was published by Michigan State University Press.

Derek has been called “a post-romantic nature poet,” in a recent review and, as the reviewer went on to say, his “poems are colored by a sense of separateness from nature and a recognition that language itself impedes any immediate communion with the world.” (Those of you familiar with my book Dwelling: an ecopoem, will understand why I find Derek’s work interesting and simpatico.)  

I should also mention that he wrote a great blurb for my new book, for which I am truly grateful. And he has some of the longest poem titles I’ve ever seen (the one below is not even close to the longest), which is always fun.

Here is Derek Sheffield’s

“At the Log Decomposition Site in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, a Visitation”

Below thick moss and fungi and the green leaves

and white flowers of wood sorrel, where folds

of phloem hold termites and ants busily gnawing  

through rings of ancient light and rain, this rot

is more alive, says the science, than the tree that

for four centuries it was. Beneath beetle galleries

vermiculately leading like lines on a map

to who knows where, all kinds of mites, bacteria,

Protozoa, and nematodes whip, wriggle, and crawl

even as my old pal’s bark of a laugh comes back:

“He’s so morose you get depressed just hearing

his name,” he said once about a poet we both liked.

Perhaps it’s the rust-red hue of his cheeks

in the spill of woody bits. Or something in the long shags

of moss draping every down-curved limb. He’d love to be

right now a green-furred Sasquatch tiptoeing

among the boles of these firs alive since the first

Hamlet’s first soliloquy. He’d be in touch,

he said in an email, as soon as the doctors cleared him.

When this tree toppled, the science continues, its death

went through the soil’s mycorrhizae linking the living

and the dead by threads as fine as the hairs appearing

those last years along Peter’s ears, and those rootlets

kept rooting after. That email buried in my Inbox.

Two lines and his name in lit pixels on my screen.

What if I click Reply? That’s what he would do,

even out of place and time, here in the understory’s

lowering light where gnats rescribble their whirl

after each breath I send.

–Derek Sheffield, from Not For Luck, originally appeared in Otherwise Collective’s Plant-Human Quarterly

When Samantha and I were back in São Miguel two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to place a plaque at Emigrant Square in honor of my great-grandparents José and Anna Rodrigues Casquilho, who emigrated from the Azores in 1906. As the wind whipped up on the plaza, swirling around the large mosaic globe, and the ocean waves crashed against the rocky north shore, I had the distinct impression my bisavós were making their presence known.

The ceremony was emotional for me, especially because several members of my Azorean family attended. I delivered a speech in Portuguese—although much of it may have been lost on the wind—and placed the plaque in the square that had been reserved for it. I couldn’t help thinking of my bricklayer great-grandfather when I nestled the plaque into the fresh mortar.

(Coincidentally, outside Letras Lavadas Livraria the night before, where we were launching my books Azorean Suite and Wine-Dark Sea, stone workers were busy replacing the basalt and limestone calçadas and street paving stones right up until we started talking—another sign that my great-grandfather was present.)

This got me thinking about other emigrants from the islands and about Millicent Borges Accardi’s new book of poetry, Through a Grainy Landscape, which, as another Azorean American writer, Katherine Vaz, puts it, explores “what heritage means to those descended from immigrants long established in the place of their dreams.”

Accardi’s books include Only More So (Salmon Poetry, 2016) and she has received a Fulbright, along with fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), CantoMundo, the California Arts Council, Yaddo, Fundação Luso-Americana (FLAD), and the Barbara Deming Foundation. She lives in Topanga, California, and has degrees in writing from CSULB and USC. In 2012, Accardi started the “Kale Soup for the Soul” reading series featuring Portuguese-American writers.

Here is Millicent Borges Accardi’s “The Graphics of Home”

Were broken by the Great

Depression, the textile mills,

and the golf ball factories.

We came from The Azores

and the mainland and Canada,

settling in Hawaii and New Bedford

and San Pedro, the original

Navigators. No one was documented.

Here was what I learned at home

thru the lifecycle of a shirt.

Polyester and cotton, it arrived

in the mail, from Sears,

sent as a hand-me-down

from Fall River, carefully washed

and ironed and pressed,

in a tomato box that had been

repurposed and wrapped in brown

paper and smelling of stale

cigarettes. That shirt was worn

and washed and used many times,

as if it had been new. When they

frayed, the elbows were mended

and torn pockets were reconnected

with thick carpet-makers’ thread.

When the sleeves were too worn

to restore, they were scissored

off to make short sleeves and then

the new ends were folded and hemmed

until no more and then there was the time

when the sleeves were cut off

entirely, to create a summer top

or costume for play time, sleeveless,

perhaps a vest for a pirate.

When outgrown and too worn

for even that, the placket of buttons was removed,

in one straight hard cut along the body

of the shirt front, through and through.

The buttons were pulled off by hand,

for storage in an old cookie tin,

the cloth cut into small usable pieces

for mending, for doll clothes, for

whatever was left over. The rest, torn

into jagged rags for cleaning and, if the fabric was soft,

used for Saturday’s dusting of the good furniture

in the den. Whatever was left, was sold

by the pound, wrapped and rolled into

giant cloth balls, sold to the rag man

who made his rounds in the neighborhood

all oily and urgent and smiling as if

his soul were a miracle of naturalized


From Through a Grainy Landscape by Millicent Borges Accardi, New Meridian Arts (2021)

Nemésio and his translator. Painting by Henrique Mourato, 1992.
Photo by Ana Cristina Gil, University of the Azores.

My apologies for not being on top of my game with regards to National Poetry Month Mailings this year. Samantha and I just returned from an emotional trip to our beloved island of São Miguel, in the Azores, after two years away.

It was emotion-filled not only because the pandemic kept us way for two years—we had tried to go back as recently as December, but Omicron dissuaded us—but because in the interim years we had determined that we want to divide our time between there and our new home in the Berkshires and this trip solidified and confirmed that plan.

On top of that, we held a ceremony to place a plaque at the Praça do Emigrante (Emigrant Square) honoring the memory and sacrifice of my two great-grandparents who emigrated from the island in 1906. Joining us were cousins from my family there, the Casquilho family, along with the director and staff from the Associação dos Emigrantes Açorianos.

It was a windy afternoon, and the waves were crashing against the rocky shore along the north coast of the island, as if the spirit of my great-grandparents were making their presence known.

All this to say that I’m behind in my weekly mailings and I apologize. This week, I’m going to share post one of my translations of the great Azorean poet Vitorino Nemésio, “Ship,” which I hope you will enjoy. It originally appeared in Gávea-Brown Journal and was reprinted in my new book, Wine-Dark Sea: New & Selected Poems & Translations. Here it is in the original Portuguese and in my translation:


Tenho a carne dorida

Do pousar de umas aves

Que não sei de onde são:

Só sei que gostam de vida

Picada em meu coração.

Quando vêm, vêm suaves;

Partindo, tão gordas vão!

Como eu gosto de estar

Aqui na minha janela

A dar miolos às aves!

Ponho-me a olhar para o mar:

—Olha-me um navio sem rumo!

E, de vê-lo, dá-lho a vela,

Ou sejam meus cílios tristes:

A ave e a nave, em resumo,

Aqui, na minha janela.

—Vitorino Nemésio, Nem Toda A Noite A Vida



My flesh is sore

from the landing of some birds

I don’t know where they’re from.

I only know that they, like life,

sting in my heart.

When they come, they come softly;

leaving, they go so heavy!

How I like to be

here at my window

giving my mind over to the birds!

I’m looking at the sea:

look at that aimless ship!

And, seeing it, give it a lamp[i],

or my sad eyelashes:

the bird and the ship, in a nutshell,

here, at my window.

—translated from the Portuguese by Scott Edward Anderson

[i] For “vela,” I like “lamp” here, rather than “candle” or “sail,” because it echoes the idea of lighting a lamp to draw in a weary traveler—although I think “salute” or “sign” might also work, although not technically accurate. Also “lamp” hearkens back to Nemésio’s stated desire, expressed in his Corsário das Ilhas, which I’ve been translating for Tagus Press, of wanting to be a lighthouse keeper.

I’m behind in posting this year’s National Poetry Month poems, and I was reminded of that fact by several readers who reached out wondering whether they’d fallen off the list. My apologies!!

We finally made it back to the Azores after two years away and I’ve been busy preparing for a lecture I am giving at the University of the Azores this evening (as I write this) and a book launch event at the bookstore of my Azorean publisher, Letras Lavadas, in Ponta Delgada on Thursday.

Still, no excuse.

Then, this morning, I saw Dana Levin’s poem below, posted by several friends on social media from its appearance in the New York Times Magazine this week, and—given recent events in Ukraine and Sacramento—I decided it was the poem to start with this year.

Dana Levin is a national treasure. Her poetry is both erudite and approachable, a rich combination of everyday observations, science, and deep human feeling. 

Dana grew up in California’s Mojave Desert, earned a BA from Pitzer College and an MA from New York University. Her collections of poetry include Banana Palace (2016), Sky Burial (2011), Wedding Day (2005), and In the Surgical Theatre (1999). She teaches at Maryville University in St. Louis, where she is distinguished writer-in-residence.

Here is Dana Levin’s poem, “Instructions for Stopping,” from her new book, Now Do You Know Where You Are, out now from Copper Canyon Press.

By Dana Levin

Say Stop.

Keep your lips pressed together
after you say the p:

(soon they’ll try
to pry

your breath out—)

Whisper it
three times in a row:

Stop Stop Stop

In a hospital bed
like a curled-up fish, someone’s

gulping at air—

How should you apply
your breath?

List all of the people
you would like
to stop.

Who offers love,
who terror—

Write Stop.
Put a period at the end.

Decide if it’s a kiss
or a bullet.

Here’s how it appeared in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday: Insructions for Stopping.