Fernando Pessoa & Co.: Selected Poems

Fernando Pessoa, the most famous Portuguese poet, claimed to do nothing but “pretend and posture.” We are told in the Introduction that three of Pessoa’s primary characters are distinguished by how they “feel:” one just “feels;” another adjusts his feelings to reality; a third modifies his feelings "according to classical measures and rules." He created and abandoned styles, even being credited with a new type of symbolism called “Paulismo.” Pessoa gave each of his alternate egos physical descriptions, mannerisms and had them interact, converse, and write to each other, like a literary doll house. So in effect, his poems were written by “different people;" thus the “and company” of the book’s title.

So let’s see some snippets of his (their?) stuff:

To be a poet is not my ambition,
It’s my way of being alone

But Spring isn’t even a thing:
It’s a manner of speaking.

It is night. It’s very dark. In a house far away
A light is shining in the window.
I see it and feel human from head to toe.

The Universe is not an idea of mine;
My idea of the Universe is an idea of mine.
Night doesn’t fall before my eyes;
My idea of night falls before my eyes.

Where there are roses we plant doubt.
Most of the meaning we glean is our own,
And forever not knowing, we ponder.

Believe me, there’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates,
And all religions put together teach no more than the candy shop.

I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist.
I’m the gap between what I’d like to be and what others have made me,
Or half of this gap, since there’s also life…

And as for the mother who rocks a dead child in her arms---
We all rock a dead child in our arms.

I’m being watched, but where from?
Which things that can’t see are looking at me?
Who’s in everything, peering?

From the mountain comes a song
Saying that however much
The soul may come to have,
It will always be unhappy.

Goodreads review by Jim Fonseca

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