Seven Poems from Poesia Reunida (Collected Poetry), Translated by Dean Thomas Ellis

by Maria Teresa Horta

Maria Teresa Horta was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1937. She worked as a journalist for several Lisbon publications (Diário de Lisboa, República, O Século, A Capital, Jornal de Letras e Artes) during the 1960s (one of the few women to do so) and interviewed such renowned literary figures as Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, and Christa Wolf. She edited the magazine Mulheres (Women) and wrote plays and fiction pieces. She is most renowned as a poet, a career launched in 1960 with the publication of Espelho Inicial (First Mirror). She has published no less than 21 works of poetry, from Espelho Inicial (1960) to A Dama e o Unicórnio (2013), none of which have been translated into English. Soon after the publication of her first book she began her association with the group Poesia 61, through which she became acquainted with two fellow poets, Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa. In 1971, during the fascist Estado Novo regime the three women (known thereafter as “The Three Marias”) wrote a collaborative work entitled Novas Cartas Portugueses (New Portuguese Letters). The book was banned, and a long and ugly trial ensued, dragging on for years, making worldwide headlines and rendering the writers into feminist icons. In 1974 the regime fell and the charges were dropped. Two of the women subsequently exploited this notoriety to launch a fledging women’s movement in Portugal, which brought them even greater renown.

Maria Teresa Horta was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1937. She worked as a journalist for several Lisbon publications (Diário de Lisboa, República, O Século, A Capital, Jornal de Letras e Artes) during the 1960s (one of the few women to do so) and interviewed such renowned literary figures as Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, and Christa Wolf. She edited the magazine Mulheres (Women) and wrote plays and fiction pieces. She is most renowned as a poet, a career launched in 1960 with the publication of Espelho Inicial (First Mirror). Soon after this she began her association with the group Poesia 61, through which she became acquainted with two fellow poets, Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa. In 1971, during the fascist Estado Novo regime the three women (known thereafter as “The Three Marias”) wrote a collaborative work entitled Novas Cartas Portugueses (New Portuguese Letters). The book was banned, and a long and ugly trial ensued, dragging on for years, making worldwide headlines and rendering the writers into feminist icons. In 1974 the regime fell and the charges were dropped. Two of the women subsequently exploited this notoriety to launch a fledging women’s movement in Portugal, which brought them even greater renown.

Ms. Horta, however, has always considered herself, first and foremost, a poet. She has published no less than 21 works of poetry, from Espelho Inicial (1960) to A Dama e o Unicórnio (2013), none of which have been translated into English. However, one gets the feeling Ms. Horta is not terribly bothered by any lack of international recognition (although it should be noted her work has been more widely translated into French). In a Guernica Magazine interview with Dean Thomas Ellis (translator of the poems below) and Oona Patrick (whose essay appears in this issue), Ms. Horta claims that “you can only be a poet in freedom” and that, “I wanted to write what I felt, and from then on my literary life changed. I began to be silenced. But that is not important. Prizes aren’t essential. What is essential is poetry itself, it’s what is said, it is clarity, it’s loyalty, those are the essential values, the literary values.”

Still, it is The Puritan’s great pleasure to present seven poems from this too-much-overlooked poet, who to this day puts a poem up on Facebook every night.

—Dean Thomas Ellis, with Oona Patrick and E Martin Nolan

 

ESPELHO INICIAL

espelho inicial
no pensamento
das ondinas
em revolta loura
sobre o sol
esquecido no centro
dum lago

harpas de vertigem

ainda o arbusto
tatuado no vento
só o ciúme nos lábios
duma estrela louca
semeada dentro do orgulho
da seara arrepiada

nunca mais
o cais
na bruma oscilante

apenas o encontro
dum anjo
na noite principal

 

FIRST MIRROR

First mirror
in the reflecting
of breakers
in the blanched insurrection
above the sun
forgotten in the core
of the lake

dizzied harps

still the shrub
tattooed on the wind
only the envy in the lips
of a mad star
sown into the pride
of a tangled cornfield

never again
the mooring
of the pendulant mist

only the encounter
with an angel
in the preeminent night

 

 

CLIMA

Neste clima de armas
submersas
de silêncios calados
bocas crespas

de já grandes coragens
e vontades

de já claridade
e já certeza

Neste clima espesso
grosso
enorme
ao tamanho dos olhos – temperatura

à exacta liberdade retomada

uma espécie de grito
e de sutura

Este clima ferida

cerco
incerto
a avolumar na pele cada
dia

este clima punho

Quente

aberto

do brusco despertar
e de rotura

Clima que no homem acontece
e nele se empreende
numa luta

 

CLIMATE

In this climate of submerged
weapons
of taut silences
crisped mouths

of once-great valour
and volition

of now clarity
and now certainty

In this dense climate
gross
enormous
to the magnitude of eyes-temperature

to the precise liberty retaken

a species of shriek
and of stitch

This wounded climate

siege
uncertain
dilate in every sheathe
day

this climate fist

Steamy

open

of brusque kindling
and of snapping

Climate that befalls Man
and within himself wages
as combat

 

 

ROTEIRO DE LISBOA

Vejam meus senhores
é uma cidade
com suas crianças
homens sem idade

É uma cidade
cercada colhida
é uma cidade
uma rapariga

Casas de ocultar
os homens lá dentro
mulheres que se mostram
envoltas no vento

Vejam meus senhores
é uma cidade
com seus monumentos
histórias de braçado

Histórias de braçado
que ensinam na escola
um castelo um rei
mais uma glória
vejam meus senhores
é uma cidade
com suas crianças
homens sem idade

Lá em baixo o Tejo
que é nome do rio
a lamber as armas
com suas colunas

Com seus prédios velhos
um rio lá em baixo
a lamber as pedras
as pernas-guindastes

De onde o seus bateis
partiam diurnos
vejam meus senhores
é uma cidade
de mãos empurradas
no fundo sem idade
com suas crianças
homens dos olhos

De bruços o céu
com seus girassóis
Lisboa é cidade
com heróis de luto

 

LISBON ITINERARY

You see, my ladies
it is a city
with its children
ageless men

It is a city
encircled harvested
it is a city
a girl

Veiled houses
the men within
women that unveil themselves
swathed in the wind

You see, my ladies
it is a city
with its monuments
stalwart histories

Stalwart histories
they teach in school
a castle a king
yet another glory
see my ladies
it is a city
with its children
ageless men

There below the Tejo
which is the name of the river
the licking of armaments
with its columns

With its ancient buildings
a river there below
the licking of rocks
the leg-horses
From where its day
boats sailed
see my ladies
it is a city
of hands thrust
into an ageless heart
with its children
men of eyes

Prone to the sky
with its sunflowers
Lisbon is a city
of grief-stricken heroes

 

 

INQUIETAÇÃO

quero-me inquieta
de sol

a intransigência da vida
penetrou-me
bastarda de mim mesma

noites incompletas
onde me exijo urgência

 

DISQUIET

I want the unquiet
of the sun

the intransigence of life
penetrates me
bastard of myself

inchoate nights
where I demand instancy

 

 

O UMBIGO

Falemos em seguida
do umbigo
onde a seda

(a seda)

se prende devagar
e devagar se escoa
(estende)

a quem do corpo
bebe
o manso lago adormecendo a pele

o lento e manso lago
de envenenar e entorpecer
a boca

 

THE NAVEL

Thus we speak
of the navel
where thirst

(thirst)

attaches itself in a slow spiral
and drains off snail
(unwound)

the body
drinks
of docile lake, sleep of skin

a lake slack
with poison and dazzle:
this mouth

 

 

VIOLÊNCIA

Ó secreta violência
dos meus sentidos domados

em mim parto
e em mim esqueço

senhora do meu
silêncio
com tantos quartos fechados

Anoitece e desguarneço
despeço aquilo que
faço

Ó semelhança e firmeza
mulher doente de afagos

 

VIOLENCE

The secret violence
of my tamed senses

in myself I cleave
of myself I forget

madam of my
silence
with so many shuttered rooms

It dusks and I disarm
I banish that which
I create

The resemblance resolute
woman sick of caresses

 

 

SEMENTE

Recto-uníssono
o grito e a vontade

que em nada
a casa
desmente ou indiferente adere

E se o prazer entreabre
no chão
como semente

semente é a cidade
igual a uma mulher

 

SEED

Virtuous-unison
the cry and the intent

within nothing
the house
refuting or callously clinging

And if pleasure lifts
off the floor
like a seed

seed is the city
is the woman

 

 

Dean Thomas Ellis is a writer and translator living in New Orleans. His work has appeared in Another Sticky Valentine, The New Orleans Review, Bloodroot, St. Petersburg Review, and the online series Working Stiff at PBS.org. He has also contributed to the KGB Bar Lit Magazine, and hosts the radio programs Tudo Bem and The Dean’s List on WWOZ-FM in New Orleans and online at wwoz.org. His translation (with Jaime Braz) of Jacinto Lucas Pires’s novel The True Actor was published last fall by Dzanc Books.


Maria Teresa Horta was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1937. She worked as a journalist for several Lisbon publications (Diário de Lisboa, República, O Século, A Capital, Jornal de Letras e Artes) during the 1960s (one of the few women to do so) and interviewed such renowned literary figures as Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, and Christa Wolf. She edited the magazine Mulheres (Women) and wrote plays and fiction pieces. She is most renowned as a poet, a career launched in 1960 with the publication of Espelho Inicial (First Mirror). She has published no less than 21 works of poetry, from Espelho Inicial (1960) to A Dama e o Unicórnio (2013), none of which have been translated into English. Soon after the publication of her first book she began her association with the group Poesia 61, through which she became acquainted with two fellow poets, Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa. In 1971, during the fascist Estado Novo regime the three women (known thereafter as “The Three Marias”) wrote a collaborative work entitled Novas Cartas Portugueses (New Portuguese Letters). The book was banned, and a long and ugly trial ensued, dragging on for years, making worldwide headlines and rendering the writers into feminist icons. In 1974 the regime fell and the charges were dropped. Two of the women subsequently exploited this notoriety to launch a fledging women’s movement in Portugal, which brought them even greater renown.

☝ BACK TO TOP