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

birth.

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:

Navio

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

___

Ship

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.

In conversation with Kathryn Miles

On #pubday eve, Kathryn Miles and I got together to chat about my new book, Wine-Dark Sea: New & Selected Poems & Translations. We had a wide-ranging conversation about the book, specific poems, finding love at middle age, the idea of home, and the Azores — and I even read a poem in Portuguese.

Have a look here:

The book came out March 1st and is available through the links on my website: scottedwardanderson.com/wine-dark-sea

My Year in Writing: 2021

November 24, 2021

Poster for my talk at the Humanities Forum of Providence College, September 2021

Now is the time of year, between my birthday and the end of the year, when I take stock of my year in writing.

What a year it’s been, deepening my connections to my ancestral homeland of the Azores, as well as my ties to the diaspora throughout North America. Here we go:

  • Signed contract with Shanti Arts for Wine-Dark Sea: New & Selected Poems & Translations to be published in Spring 2022. (Technically signed this at the very end of 2020, but thought it was worth mentioning again.)
  • Interview and review by Esmeralda Cabral appeared in Gávea-Brown and was later translated into Portuguese by Esmeralda and Marta Cowling and appeared in Diário dos Açores.
  • Published four translations by Margarida Vale de Gato from Dwelling in Colóquio/Letras by the Gulbenkian Foundation. And signed contract with Poética Edições for Habitar: uma ecopoema, translation by Margarida of my book Dwelling: an ecopoem. Received funding for Margarida’s translation from FLAD.
  • Associação dos Emigrantes Açorianos AEA video presentation, “Açores de Mil Ilhas” for World Poetry Day.
  • Dwelling featured in a class at Providence College on Environmental Philosophy, thanks to Professor Ryan Shea; spent a week there, including teaching three classes and giving a reading/talk at the PC Humanities Forum.
  • Participated in session with Margarida Vale de Gota’s translation students at University of the Lisbon via Zoom.
  • Finished a draft of my translation of Vitorino Nemésio’s Corsário das Ilhas and revisions corresponding to new (2021) Portuguese edition.
  • Published “Wine-Dark Sea” (poem) in America Studies Over_Seas.
  • Published two poems, “The Pre-dawn Song of the Pearly-eyed Thrasher” and “Under the Linden’s Spell,” in The Wayfarer.
  • Published “Phase Change” (poem) in ONE ART (online poetry journal).
  • Scrapped portions of my work-in-progress, The Others in Me, after consulting with two writer friends about it, but found a new approach through working with Marion Roach Smith, which I will start in 2022…

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.” I feel like I’ve been blessed by a mass miracle this year!

Please join me this Thursday, 3 June, at 7PM EDT, for a reading and talk I’m giving for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which focuses on the connections between the Azores, New Bedford, and Rhode Island, whaling, and other Atlantic Crossings.

Inspired by my explorations into my family heritage, which in turn inspired my book-length poem Azorean Suite/Suite Açoriana, this reading and talk will explore the journeys of various waves of immigrants to America and their connection across the Atlantic to the Azores.

I’ll share passages from Azorean Suite, as well as from my work-in-progress, a research-driven memoir called “The Others in Me: A Journey to Discover Ancestry, Identity, and Lost Heritage.”

The ZOOM event is past, but you can watch the video here: Whaling Museum

Hope to “see” you there!

For my bonus post this year, wrapping up this Poetry Month featuring poets of the Azores and its Diaspora, I want to share one of my translations of the great 20th Century Azorean poet Vitorino Nemésio. (This translation appears in the current issue of Gávea-Brown: A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-North American Letters and Studies, along with four others.)

Vitorino Nemésio statue on Terceira Island, the Azores islands, Portugal.
Photo by Manuel de Sousa, Creative Commons License

A poet, essayist, and public intellectual, Nemésio was born on Terceira Island in 1901 and is best known for his novel Mau tempo no canal (1945), which was translated into English by Francisco Cota Fagundes and published as Stormy Isles: An Azorean Tale.

In 1932, the quincentennial year of Gonçalo Velho Cabral’s “discovery” of the Azores, Nemésio coined the term “açorianidade,” which he would explore in two important essays, and which would become the subject of much debate over the years. There are those who see the term as somewhat limiting: describing as it does a specific, fixed set of qualities of the island condition—insularity, for example—that belies a greater dynamism in the spirit of the islanders.

Nevertheless, I think its usefulness as a term is somewhat expanded when we look at what Nemésio himself said about it, reflecting the entirety of his term rather than one dimension of it. Instead of limiting it as a descriptor to what it’s like to be born on the islands, Nemésio asserted that it was appropriate, too, for those who emigrated from the islands, as well as those who later returned. (And, by extension, as I said in a recent interview, I like to think he intended it to continue through or beyond the generations.) 

The term, wrote Antonio Machado Pires in his essay, “The Azorean Man and Azoreanity,” “not only expresses the quality and soul of being Azorean, inside or outside (mainly outside?) of the Azores, but the set of constraints of archipelagic living: its geography (which ‘is worth as much as history’), its volcanism, its economic limitations, but also its own capacity as a traditional ‘economy’ of subsistence, its manifestations of culture and popular religiosity, their idiosyncrasy, their speaking, everything that contributes to verify identity.”

As a “warm-up exercise” for translating Nemésio’s travel diary, Corsário das Ilhas (1956), for which I am currently under contract with Tagus Press of UMass Dartmouth (with financial support from Brown University), I started with some of his poems. And I hope to continue with more, because Nemésio is worthy of a larger audience here.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief tour of some of the poetry of the Azores and its Diaspora.

Here is Vitorino Nemésio’s “A Árvore do Silêncio” and my translation, “The Tree of Silence”:


A ÁRVORE DO SILÊNCIO

Se a nossa voz crescesse, onde era a árvore?

Em que pontas, a corola do silêncio?

Coração já cansado, és a raiz:

Uma ave te passe a outro país.

Coisas de terra são palavra.

Semeia o que calou.

Não faz sentido quem lavra

Se o não colhe do que amou.

Assim, sílaba e folha, porque não

Num só ramo levá-las

com a graça e o redondo de uma mão?

(Tu não te calas? Tu não te calas?!)

—Vitorino Nemésio de Canto de Véspera (1966)

_____________

THE TREE OF SILENCE

If our voice grew, where was the tree?

To what ends, the corolla of silence?

Heart already tired, you are the root:

a bird passes you en route to another country.

Earthly things are word.

Sow what is silent.

It doesn’t matter who plows,

if you don’t reap what you loved.

So, why not take them,

syllable and leaf, in a single bunch

with the graceful roundness of one hand?

(Don’t you keep quiet? Don’t you keep quiet?!)

—translated from the Portuguese by Scott Edward Anderson

from Gávea-Brown—A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-North American Letters and Studies, vol. 43. Brown University, 2021

Continuing to explore the poets and poetry of the Azores and its Diaspora, this week I’m featuring a poem by the late Adelaide Freitas, a wonderful Azorean poet, novelist, and essayist deserving of more attention.

Freitas was born 20 April 1949 in Achadinha, on the northeastern coast of São Miguel Island. She attended school in Ponta Delgada before moving with her family to the United States, where she attended New Bedford High School in Massachusetts. In 1972, she graduated with a BA in Portuguese from the Southeastern Massachusetts University (now UMass Dartmouth) and went on to earn a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from the City University of New York and a PhD in American Literature from the University of Azores. She lived in Ponta Delgada with her husband, Vamberto Freitas, and was a professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of the Azores.

Smiling in the Darkness by Adelaide Freitas

In 2018, Adelaide Freitas was honored by the Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region of the Azores with the Insígnia Autonómica de Reconhecimento (Commendation of Recognition), just a few weeks before she passed away after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

“Adelaide Freitas had gone silent years ago through the devastation of illness,” wrote one of her translators, Emanuel Melo, on his blog. “Her husband, Vamberto Freitas, himself a man of letters and important literary critic in the Portuguese diaspora, with enduring love and faithfulness kept her by his side, even writing about her, but above all loving her with steadfastness. In one of his blog posts he wrote how in the middle of a sleepless night, with her resting in the next room, he would take her books from the shelf and read her words to himself when he could no longer her the voice of his beloved wife.”

Her novel, Smiling in the Darkness, is an intimate portrait of what life was like on the Azores during the latter half of the 20th Century, and follows a young woman who struggles with the absence of her emigrant parents—who left her behind when they went to America—and her desire to explore the world beyond her island home. It was recently published in a translation by Katherine Baker, Emanuel Melo, and others. You can order a copy (and you should) from Tagus Press here: Smiling in the Darkness.

Here is her poem, “No bojo do teu corpo” in its original Portuguese and my English translation:

“No bojo do teu corpo”
 

No bojo do teu copo

olho translúcido o teu corpo

Vibra a alegria da tua emoção

e em mim se dilui a sua gota



Ballet agita o copo

treme a boca da garrafa

A mão abafa o vidro morno

cala-se enterrada a ternura dos lábios



A folha verde voa etérea

pousa no líquido desfeito

Dela nasce uma flor

e o mundo nela se espelha



branca a luz se intersecta

refrecta o whisky beijado

Guardanapo assim molhado

refresca a tua fronte



Gentil ela se inclina

no Outro se confunde

No tchim-tchim da efusão

treme bojo do teu corpo







“In the bulge of your body”



In the bulge of your glass

I see your translucent body

Vibrating with the joy of your emotion

and your drop dissolves in me


Ballet stirs the glass

the mouth of the bottle is trembling

The hand stifles the tepid glass

the tenderness of the lips is buried, remains silent



The green leaf flies ethereal

lands in the dissolved liquid

From it a flower is born

and the world is mirrored in it

                                                    

white light intersects

refracting the whisky kiss

Such a wet napkin

refreshing your brow



Gently she leans

into the Other, gets confused

In the Tchim-tchim![1] of effusion

the bulge of your body trembles



—Adelaide Freitas (translated by Scott Edward Anderson)

[1] Tchim-tchim! is an expression like Cheers! An onomatopoeic phrase that connotes the clinking of glasses. I decided not to translate it here, although I could have gone with “cling-cling!” or something similar.  

 

Detail of José do Canto (1820-1898) statue,
Jardim Botânico José do Canto, Ponta Delgada, Azores. Photo by SEA

I first encountered Logan Duarte through Christopher Larkosh’s “Writing the Moment Lusodiasporic” event last June. A two-day event sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences and the UMass Dartmouth Department of Portuguese, it brought together Luso-North American writers from throughout Canada and the U.S.

The event was originally supposed to be held in April at the Casa da Saudade Library in New Bedford, but due to the pandemic, it was moved to Zoom in June. The event featured a combination of presentations by writers and cultural agents like Irene Marques, Humberto da Silva, and Emanuel Melo, along with a generative writing workshop led by Carlo Matos.

(Larkosh, who tragically died this past December, served as Logan’s professor and adviser at UMass Dartmouth, and I’d like to dedicate this post to his memory.)

I next saw Logan when we both read for Diniz Borges’ Filaments of the Atlantic Heritage symposium in March 2021. I was impressed with Logan’s poetry, enthusiasm, and scholarship.

One of the poems Logan read during that session was “My Statue,” which he described to me as, “an act of homage towards a man who is the lifeblood of my açorianidade, and a testament to those who have gone before; those whose presence grows stronger in physical absence and gives us the confidence to smile in the rain.” 

Logan is an Azorean Portuguese American writer currently based in Taunton, Massachusetts. His family came from São Miguel Island in the 1960s, which makes him first generation American; although he sometimes jokingly refers to himself as “0.5 generation,” having called Lisbon, Portugal, his home for part of his life.

His writing centers around cultural identity in the Luso-American diaspora and has been a runner-up for the Disquiet International Literary Program’s Luso-American Fellowship (2019) and featured in the Legacy section of the Tribuna Portuguesa (2020). He has a forthcoming set of poems in the upcoming issue of Gávea-Brown, a bilingual journal of Portuguese American letters and studies published by Brown University.

Logan is expected to graduate with a master’s in teaching from UMass Dartmouth in 2021, from which he also received his BA in Portuguese. He also studied at Universidade Católica Portuguesa and Universidade de Lisboa and has taught Portuguese at Milford and Taunton high schools and at Escola Oficial Portuguesa. He will be a graduate Teaching Fellow at UMass Dartmouth beginning his second masters in Portuguese Studies in the upcoming academic year.

Here is Logan Duarte’s “My Statue”

My Statue 

Rain pelts the cobblestone calçada. A utopia turns to a warzone. 

Tourists scatter…I walk 

Knowing all too well the dangerous potential of a slick calçada.  

Some of them slip. Now they know. 

Walking, thinking, unperturbed by the hail of crossfire in which I am caught, I lift my head to see a statue. 

I stop, my eyes examining its unique character. 

It stands firm; the quintessence of gallantry; completely untouched by the bombardment letting loose on the city. 

All else assumes a deep gray despondence, battered by the bombs that fall from the clouds. The streets are barren; a wasteland. 

But the statue stands unscathed. 

Only light shines on this singular obra-prima perfectly guarded in a safe corner of the universe. 

A man stands chiseled out of the finest marble. 

His eyes look directly at me…no one else. 

Below him, a plaque: 

“Ocean-crosser, storm-braver, fearless warrior”. 

Who could it be? 

A hero to the people? A national figure? The sacred one-eyed man? 

No. This is no ordinary statue. This one is only mine. 

I continue walking, still thinking. I still see a statue… 

My statue…my avô. 

The corners of my mouth raise nearly to my ears at the sight of my statue, and the rain clears. Tourists emerge from their hideaways; some still rubbing their bruises. 

Their selfies one shade darker now, 

But my statue remains unscathed. 

It guides me through the warzone—a beacon amidst brume. 

So that when others run, and sometimes slip, 

I walk and think of my statue who in life sacrificed so much 

So that I may not fear the rain. 

And that I may turn my warzone into utopia.

—Logan Duarte

(This poem, used with permission of the author, originally appeared in Tribuna Portuguesa, in a slightly different version.)

There’s a particular light one experiences on the islands of the Azores. A combination of atmospheric and environmental factors contributes to creating this light, including aspect of the sun, the way the sun’s rays cut through the ubiquitous cloud-cover and pervasive sea mist, the reflection off the surrounding sea and refraction through a sometimes-oppressive humidity that lingers, at various times of the day and the season.

Elaine Ávila’s FADO, published by Talonbooks.

It also depends upon the perspective of the individual—how they are feeling, what they are longing for, who they are becoming. You know it when you see it—almost I want to say, you feel it. And the variety and diversity of the light on the islands is remarkable: just as no two people can see things the same way, the way we experience island light will be as various as our very nature.

Luz insular,” Elaine Ávila calls it in her poem, “Grandma’s Embroidery,” describing it as “a light so/ particular, it floats,/ promising miracles,/ as if only somewhere else/ will relieve/ a thousand deprivations.” And in this sense, it has a double meaning: island light and an interiority of light, a light from within, a light that “should tell the truth,/ like Grandma’s embroidery.”

Better known as a playwright, Elaine Ávila is an American-born Canadian of Azorean descent, the granddaughter of one of the first photographers from Ribeiras on the island of Pico, who emigrated to America.

Ávila told me in an email that she first experienced this island light in her grandfather’s photographs. “They had this blurry light, looking like the ‘holy spirit,’ floating through the photos,” she wrote. “I assumed it was because his brownie camera leaked light, but when I took pictures in the Azores, I noticed that light shows up in contemporary photographs and in the sky when you are there.”

Her Azorean grandmother, also from Ribeiras, trained as a tailor and milliner. On her mother’s side, her heritage is mostly a mystery, a product of the hidden history of women who surrendered children for adoption in the days before Roe vs. Wade.

Ávila’s father was a mathematician who worked for NASA and her mother is a painter. This caldo of cultures and intriguing, enigmatic history makes for a rich broth from which Ávila draws in her poetry.

Her plays, which have a decidedly biographical and historical predilection, prompted the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks to describe Ávila as “a wonderful writer, tremendously gifted, reliable and innovative.”

Her latest play, FADO: The Saddest Music in the World, is a musical following a young Portuguese Canadian woman “on a multicultural journey back to Lisbon’s meandering back alleys and lively cafés, winding through fados of resistance, emigrant fados, queer fados, in the hope of reclaiming her heritage and retrieving her own true song.” It has just been published by Talonbooks in Canada.      

Here is Elaine Ávila’s poem, “Grandma’s Embroidery”:

Grandma’s Embroidery

In full bloom

Grandma’s blue hydrangea

tumbles through space

shining, alone, overturned,

while Grandpa’s boat 

beckons, with sails of gold

unfurling on a white-blue sea.

She’s done it, broken the patterns

made something original

found American threads so brilliant

she can capture Azorean light.

In the Azores, we call it

“luz insular,” a light so

particular, it floats,

promising miracles,

as if only somewhere else

will relieve

a thousand deprivations.

Luz insular should tell the truth,

like Grandma’s embroidery.

If you leave

you may discover yourself

tumbling, overturned

out of proportion, alone

yet, able,

stitch by stitch,

to make Azorean light

dance.

—Elaine Ávila, used by permission of the author

One of the pleasures of reconnecting with my ancestral and familial roots on the Azores is learning about the community of writers, artists, and musicians who are active on the islands and in the Azorean diaspora.

Cascata do Salto do Cabrito, Ribeira Grande, Açores.
Photo by SEA

This year for my National Poetry Month posts I’m going to focus on the poetry of the Azores and its diaspora. In part, because I don’t know when I’ll get back to the islands, and in part because there is, both on the islands and around the diasporic world, an incredible diversity of poets working today.

Indeed, it is part of a renaissance of Azorean creativity. For example, on São Miguel over the course of a week in the summer, there were many cultural activities—from outdoor concerts in the Largo do Colégio to stilt-walking pop-up street theater performances, from book launches at one of the several bookshops to readings at the Public Library.

Add the other islands into the mix—from events and festivals organized by Terry Costa’s MiratecArts organization on Pico to the Maia Folk Festival on Santa Maria island and the “Festas da Praia” on Terceira—there’s an incredible cultural revolution happening on the Azores.

Just how extensive was this revolution (or my own revelation of it anyway) really hit home—literally—during the pandemic year of 2020: it seemed like every night there was an opportunity to participate in some Zoom event from the Azores or the diaspora, whether it was the Arquipélago de Escritores conference, the Colóquios da Lusofonia run by Chrys Chrystello, or events put on by the Portuguese Beyond Borders Institute at Fresno State University.

There were book launches, readings, and video interviews from bookstore-publishers like Letras Lavadas, Livraria SolMar, and Companhia das Ilhas, as well as musical performances by Sara Cruz, Cristovam, and others. (To be honest, this doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s happening on the islands—there’s more going on there than in Brooklyn!)

One of the contemporary poets whose work that has come to my attention through all of this over the past year is Ângela de Almeida.

Born in Horta, on the island of Faial, Almeida studied in Lisbon, earning a PhD in Portuguese Literature by defending a thesis on the symbolism of the island and Pentecostalism in the work of one of the Azores’s most renowned literary figures, the poet and essayist Natália Correia. Her poetry collections include Sobre o Rosto (1989), Manifesto (2005), A Oriente (2006), as well as the poetic narrative, O Baile das Luas (1993), which critic David Mourao-Ferreira called “a small masterpiece.”

The poem of hers I’ve chosen, “comecemos o dia a oriente junto às ravinas,” comes from her book, Caligrafia dos pássaros (The Calligraphy of Birds), which she published in 2018; the poem is dedicated to Ricardo Reis, one of the heteronyms of the great Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa.

Ricardo Reis has “a very particular poetry and philosophy with which I identify myself very much,” Almeida told me. “He is against suffering and I am always.”

Indeed, Reis is a modern epicurean who urges us to seize the day and peacefully accept fate. “Wise is the one who does not seek,” he wrote. “The seeker will find in all things the abyss, and doubt in himself.”

Here is Ângela de Almeida’s poem in its original Portuguese and in my translation:

comecemos o dia a oriente junto às ravinas

com as mãos envoltas em anéis de água

e olhemos o azul e acetinado manto

e fiquemos ausentes e livres

e suspensos

e com as mãos envoltas em anéis de água

abracemo-nos simplesmente

e continuemos a olhar o azul e acetinado manto

como se o tempo fosse este momento

assim liso e pasmado

e afinal não nos abracemos, mas olhemos

simplesmente os fios de água na pele

deste dia diferente e fiquemos assim

contemplativos e ausentes

enquanto a água corre e não morre

–a Ricardo Reis

#

let us start the day in the east by the ravines

with our hands enfolded in rings of water

and look at the blue satin blanket

and let us stay absorbed and free

and suspended

and with our hands enfolded in rings of water

let us simply embrace each other

and continue to look at the blue satin blanket

as if time were this moment

so smooth and astonished

and in the end, let’s not embrace, but simply

look at the trickle of water on the skin

of this different day and stay like this

contemplative and absorbed

while the water flows and never dies

–to Ricardo Reis

Poem reprinted by permission of Ângela de Almeida. Translation by Scott Edward Anderson