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 Terrain.org’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

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

My Year in Writing: 2020

November 18, 2020

2020 has been a difficult year in many respects: a global pandemic, over 1.3 million deaths worldwide and climbing, and, here in the U.S., a destabilizing and despicable government response to the pandemic and to escalating racial tensions, as well as a contentious presidential election that threatened the country’s 244-year experiment in democracy.

In short, it’s been tough to find moments to celebrate and, when we do celebrate, it is too often alone, distanced from others, or “together” on Zoom. One response to this “unprecedented” year (may we strike that word from future dictionaries) was to feel paralyzed. And, truth be told, I felt exactly that–paralyzed–for the first few weeks of the pandemic’s surfacing in the U.S.

Shortly, however, I felt that response was not worthy to the challenges–and it didn’t make things better or even make me feel better, as the sirens blared and the death toll rose. Another response was to turn to work, which in my case meant writing. It felt like a choice between surviving and going mad.

Now is generally the time of year—between my birthday and year’s end—when I take stock of my writing life over the past twelve months. This year, I was curious to see how I did. So, here goes:

  • Received an award for FALLING UP from Letras Lavadas, in conjunction with PEN Açores, and a Nautilus Award for DWELLING. FALLING UP also received notices from Book Authority for Best New Memoir and Best New Family Books.
  • Finished a complete draft of my Work-in-Progress, a research-driven memoir I’m calling THE OTHERS IN ME: A Journey to Discover Ancestry, Identity, and Lost Heritage, and submitted proposal to Tagus Press.
  • A chapter from THE OTHERS IN ME, “Steerage,” about my great-grandparents’s journeys from the Azores to America, appeared in VIAGENS, a volume of literary journeys by some of the best Azorean writers writing today (and then there’s my piece), published by Letras Lavadas.
  • Finished a long poem, “Azorean Suite,” a section of which appeared in Gávea-Brown: A Bilingual Journal last year, in my original English and in a Portuguese translation by Azorean poet, José Francisco Costa; then I translated the entire poem into Portuguese with Eduardo Bettencourt Pinto, for bilingual book publication as AZOREAN SUITE/SUITE AÇORIANA by Letras Lavadas in Fall 2020.
  • Facebook Live with Vamberto Freitas, Katherine Vaz, Eduardo Bettencourt Pinto, and Onésimo Almeida held on 6 Nov and interview in Portuguese-American Journal with Carolina Matos published on the 5th marked the official launch of AZOREAN SUITE/SUITE AÇORIANA. (Watch it here: Launch event)
  • Essay, “My Pessoa,” along with translations of two Pessoa poems (including the complete “Tabaccaria,” which I completed this Spring), and three of my own poems with Portuguese themes, will appear in Pessoa Plural in December.
  • My foreword to David Swartz’s English translation of Nuno Júdice’s novella, THE RELIGIOUS MANTLE, published in August by New Meridian Arts.
  • Contracted to translate Vitorino Nemésio’s CORSÁRIO DAS ILHAS into English for first time, which Tagus Press will publish as part of their Bellis Azorica Series. Started translation and got through and initial draft of the first 10 chapters.
  • Translated four poems from DWELLING into Portuguese for a special edition of Colóquio/Letras journal, which Nuno Júdice edits for the Gulbenkian Foundation, on Literratura e ecologia, and to which he asked me to submit.
  • Translated five poems of Vitorino Nemésio, submitted to Gavéa-Brown Journal.
  • Participated in Dani Shapiro’s writing retreat at Kripalu (in person, just before the pandemic hit!), participated in “Lusodaisporac” Writing Workshop in June organized by Christopher Larkosh at UMass Dartmouth, took Diniz Borges’s Azorean History and Culture course from Fresno State University (distance), continued my Portuguese language studies, and will participate in Suzanne Roberts’s Travel Writing seminar at end of November. [UPDATE: Participated in Arquipélago de Escritores event in December.]

And finally updated my website, scottedwardanderson.com, which was long overdue…

…despite everything, not a bad writing year!

[UPDATE: Signed a contract with Shanti Arts for a new collection, WINE-DARK SEA: NEW & SELECTED POEMS & TRANSLATIONS]

A little bit of heaven on Earth.
Photo by SEA.

If you’ve been following my blog for the past few years, you know that I’ve been on a journey of rediscovery—rediscovery of my Azorean Portuguese roots and heritage.

I’ve now been back to the island archipelago of my ancestors three times since my first return in 2018.

That first visit was under the auspices of a writing retreat offered by DISQUIET International, an organization that tries to link and foster relationships between Luso-American and Portuguese writers.

This journey has turned out to be more than just a heritage tour, for I’ve made many friends and discovered family I didn’t know I had there. And because I worked in nature conservation for so many years, I couldn’t help falling in love with the islands and their beauty and majesty, but also their fragility.

My own poetry and non-fiction have long been about a few essential themes: a longing for home and an appreciation and concern for the natural world. In the Azores, I’ve come to find a beautiful combination of both.

In addition to that longing (the Portuguese have a word for it, saudade, which I’ve defined elsewhere as a longing for lost things) is the feeling that I’ve found a home there, which I hope to fully realize in the not too distant future.

And my concern for the natural world there—in the face of future impacts of climate change on small island communities like the Azores—as well as the last remaining endemic species, is also deepening my relationship to the islands.

I’ve been exploring my love affair with the Azores in two works-in-progress (although, frankly, it’s showing up in just about everything I write these days): a research-driven memoir of my ancestry and heritage on the islands and a long poem that explores some of the same territory.

Recently, Gávea-Brown, a bilingual journal of Portuguese-American language and studies from Brown University, published an excerpt from my poem, which I’ve been calling “Azorean Suite,” in the original English and in a translation by the Azorean American poet José Francisco Costa.

It’s been an amazing journey thus far and I hope to return to the islands as soon as possible. Meanwhile, here is a section from my “Azorean Suite.”

From “Azorean Suite”

“Is the island a cloud or is the cloud and island?” ~Nemésio

The sea surrounds, is ever-present

            endless, the sea surrounds

                        and sea sounds swirl and sway

humid torpor of temperament

            fog enshrouds

                        clouds caught on peaks

wrapping the mountain

            a helmet of white, gray, ash

                        the ever-present volcanoes

threat of fire and destruction

            threat of sea-wind and wave

                        thread of saudade woven

into the fabric of all life

            on the islands—

                        saudades for the land

enshrouds the land

            enshrouds the islanders

                        surrounded by sea.

                        #

São Miguel, island of my ancestors

            who settled here in the original waves

                        1450s or earlier, as far as I can tell,

from the Alentejo, they came,

            encouraged or escaping

                        I know not—

São Miguel, the green island,

            jewel in the bracelet of archipelago,

                        formed by two volcanoes

reaching for each other

            a chain of eruptions enclosing

                        the space between them

populated, like that chain, scattered

            by wind and sea, until 1906,

                        when my great-grandparents left

for America—scattered across the sea.

                        #

My return, over a century later,

            fills me with mixed emotions—

                        have I come “home” or simply returned

to reclaim a lost heritage

            something denied to me

                        by my grandfather’s willingness

to forget the past, to relinquish

            the “saudades de terra”

                        so much a part of the Azorean character—

the phrase can mean “longing for the land”

            or “I miss the earth”

                        which seems so necessary now

with the threat of climate change

            added to the island condition—

                        sea-surge from hurricane Lorenzo overflowing

onto the low-lying streets at sea’s edge

            saltwater burning the wine grapes

                        flooding the edge of the villages

how high will the sea rise in the next century

            how will the islanders survive

                        what becomes of saudades de terra

when the land is swallowed by sea?

and here is José Francisco Costa’s translation into Portuguese:

Excerto de Suite Açoriana

 “A ilha é a nuvem ou a nuvem a ilha?” ~Nemésio   

O mar é um cerco, é contínua presença

            infinita, o mar é um cerco      

                        e os sons do mar rodopiam e arrastam-se

húmido torpor do ser

            nevoeiro mortalha

                        nuvens presas nos cimos

envolvendo a montanha

            um capacete de branca, parda, cinza

                        a inescapável presença dos vulcões

ameaça de fogo e destruição

            ameaça de vento e vaga de mar

                        fio de saudade urdido

no tecido da vida inteira

            nas ilhas –

                        saudades da terra

mortalha da terra

            mortalha de ilhéus

                        por mar cercados.

                        #

São Miguel, ilha dos meus antepassados

            que aqui fizeram morada nas ondas originais

                        1450 ou antes, tanto quanto sei,

do Alentejo, vieram,

             incentivados ou fugidos

                        Eu não sei—

São Miguel, a ilha verde,

            jóia no bracelete do arquipélago

                        nascida de dois vulcões

no encalce um do outro

            corrente de erupções estreitando

                        o espaço entre eles

povoado, como a tal corrente, espalhado

            por vento e mar, até 1906, 

                        quando os meus bisavós partiram

no encalce da América – espalhados em toda a largura do mar.

                        #

O meu regresso, mais de um século depois,

            enche-me de um contraste de emoções –  

                        terei regressado a “casa” ou só voltei

para reclamar uma herança perdida

            algo que me foi negado

                        pela vontade de meu avô

de esquecer o passado, renunciar

            às “saudades de terra”

                        parte tão importante do ser Açoriano —

a frase tanto significa “estar ansioso pela terra”

            como “a terra faz-me falta”

                        o que hoje parece ser tão necessário

com a ameaça das alterações climáticas

            a somar à condição de ser ilha —

                   gigantescas marés provocadas pelo furacão Lorenzo inundando

as ruas baixas à beira do mar

            água salgada queimando as vinhas

                        cobrindo os limites das freguesias

até onde subirá o mar no próximo século

            como irão sobreviver os ilhéus

                        o que resta de saudades de terra

quando a terra é engolida pelo mar?

—Scott Edward Anderson (translation into Portuguese by José Francisco Costa)

This excerpt, from a long poem-in-progress, originally appeared in Gávea-Brown—A Bilingual Journal of Portuguese-American Letters and Studies

(I want to thank Onésimo Teotónio Almeida and Jennifer Currier for publishing my poem, and José Francisco Costa for his translation.)

I recently chatted with Andrew Coons of the Good Poetry podcast. I read from my books, Dwelling: an ecopoem and Falling Up: A Memoir of Second Chances, and talk about poetic mentors and influences, conservation, and a range of interrelated topics.

Give a listen:

Good Poetry.

My Year in Writing: 2019

December 9, 2019

Scott Edward Anderson reading from Dwelling: An ecopoem at Sacramento Poetry Center, March 2019. (photo by Lara Gularte)

Now is the time of year when I take stock of my writing over the past twelve months.

Here is “My Year in Writing: 2019”:

FALLING UP: A Memoir of Second Chances published by Homebound Publications in September 2019; book launch party on 10 November in Brooklyn; included on Book Authority’s Best New Family Books list

DWELLING: an ecotour, including readings in Berkeley, Diamond Springs, and Sacramento, CA, Philadelphia and New Hope, PA, NYC, and at the ASLE Biennial Conference at UC Davis, where I also moderated a panel called “Poetry Can Save the Earth”

-Essay, “Whitman & the Sea,” published in Schuylkill Valley Journal in print and online

-Poem, “Cândido Rondon Remembering Teddy Roosevelt,” published in The Esthetic Apostle

-Revisions to and progress on my #WIP, a research-driven memoir I’m calling THE OTHERS IN ME: A Journey to Discover Ancestry, Identity, and Lost Heritage

-Started a long poem, “Azorean Suite,” a section of which will appear in the upcoming edition of Gávea-Brown: A Bilingual Journal, in my original English and in a Portuguese translation by Azorean poet, José Francisco Costa

-Essay, “My Pessoa,” to appear in Pessoa Plural next June

-Wrote introduction to David Swartz’s English translation of Nuno Júdice’s novella, THE RELIGIOUS MANTLE, which will be published in 2020 by New Meridian Arts

…all in all, not a bad writing year!