29 novembro 2016

Poema, de Maria Teresa Horta

A tradução de Lesley Saunders foi galardoada com o prémio Stephen Sender de poesia traduzida.

Deixo que venha
se aproxime ao de leve
pé ante pé até ao meu ouvido

Enquanto no peito o coração
e se apressa no sangue enfebrecido

Primeiro a floresta e em seguida
o bosque
mais bruma do que neve no tecido

Do poema que cresce e o papel absorve
verso a verso primeiro
em cada desabrigo

Toca então a torpeza e agacha-se
um lobo faminto e recolhido

Ele trepa de manso e logo tão voraz
que da luz é a noz
e depois o ruído

Toma ágil o caminho
e em seguida o atalho
corre em alcateia ou fugindo sozinho

Na calada da noite desloca-se e traz
consigo o luar
com vestido de arminho

Sinto-o quando chega no arrepio
da pele, na vertigem selada
do pulso recolhido

À medida que escrevo
e o entorno no sonho
o dispo sem pressa e o deito comigo

I let him come.
He sneaks on tiptoe
right up to my ear;
under its ribs my heart
quivers, quickens
as the excitement mounts:
first the forest appears,
then the woodland-sequel,
more mist than snow to the touch –

from the new poem’s
very first line the paper sucks up
every waif-word
and an ugliness steals in,
a cunning hungry thing
crouching there incognito,
pretending to be tame and yet so wolfish
that he’s the kernel of light
and then the noise of its cracking;
he’s lithe on the path,
doubling back on himself,
running with the pack, loping alone;
pussy-footing through the night
he trails moonlight behind him
like a mink coat.
I feel him when the hairs on my skin
lift, and in the delicious dizziness
of my private pulse –
in the midst of my writing, in my dream-life,
I slip all his clothes slowly off
and slide him down beside me

The translation by Lesley Saunders of Poema, by the Portuguese writer and activist Maria Teresa Horta, recently took first prize in the Open category of the Stephen Spender prize for poetry in translation. (Horta’s Portuguese language original is reproduced at the foot of this column and all the prize’s winning entries can be seen here.)
Readers of a certain age may remember Horta from an admired, and sometimes maligned, radical feminist text of the early 1970s, New Portuguese Letters (Novas Cartas Portuguesas). With Maria Velho da Costa and Maria Isabel Barreno, Maria Teresa Horta formed the trio of writer friends who came to be dubbed “the Three Marias”. Their collaborative volume, known in English as The Three Marias: New Portuguese Letters, was a multi-genre response to a 17th-century collection of letters allegedly written by a young nun, Mariana Alcoforado, to her absconding “chevalier” lover. Horta had already received adverse criticism for her poetry, and the New Letters were no sooner published than banned by the Portuguese government. A prosecution ensued, and the women faced jail sentences until, with the 1974 “carnation revolution”, all charges were dropped.
Alcoforado had recovered her psychological independence through writing. The 20th-century authors, with their collage of poems, fiction, letters and erotica, each work dated but unsigned, set out to assert their female authenticity through solidarity. Lesley Saunders traces the source of her interest in Portuguese poetry to her first acquaintance with the New Letters, noting that it renewed her sense of “what literature could accomplish, formally, as well as psychologically and politically”. Saunders was delighted to finally meet Horta in Lisbon in 2015.
Her translation of Horta’s new poem, Poema, combines narrative clarity and an erotically charged, fairytale atmosphere. Saunders writes that she tried to reproduce the “abbreviated, even dislocated, diction that disguises itself as something direct and uncomplicated”. By introducing punctuation into the English version, she underlines Horta’s control of phrasing and tempo, and adds to the musical interest of our melody-resistant language.
The lineation has an excited tension in the first two stanzas. The wolf’s presence is registered at once, but he quickly becomes elusive. It’s in the third that the mystery fully registers: “first the forest appears, / then the woodland-sequel, / more mist than snow to the touch –”. The word “sequel” contributes to the idea of the poem as storytelling, while the soft, crisp, tactile evocation of mist-damp forest and woodland suggests body hair in different thicknesses and distribution. With the next stanza we go deeper into metaphor land. The new poem has arrived, stealthy and “incognito”, and instantly “the paper / sucks up every waif-word”. It’s an unfamiliar, maternal kind of animation: few poets see the language of their emergent poem as a vulnerable orphan.
Saunders finds similarities between Horta’s Poema and Ted Hughes’s The Thought Fox: the difference is that “Hughes’s fox turns out to be the poet’s poem; Horta’s wolf emerges as the poem’s poet”. Whoever “he” is, I like the shifts in his character, and the general craftiness of his approach, “pretending to be tame, and yet so wolfish”. It’s recognised that the intimately known body – of man, woman or poem – may fall short of the ideal and even reveal a sudden “ugliness” – a quality that, in the original poem, is a moral grossness, depravity (torpeza). To receive the muse, the artist may have to overcome revulsion. But perhaps what is most special about this wolf-muse is that he resists banal transformation. Saunders uses a wonderful, almost punning, feline metaphor, “pussy-footing”, in the eighth stanza, and darkens the trailed cape of moonlight, which is compared to ermine in the original, mink in the translation. This being is sometimes magical but he is always an animal.
The narrative rises to a sensuous and role-reversing climax when the speaker undresses the newly passive creature: “I slip all his clothes slowly off / and slide him down beside me”. At first seductive, finally seduced, the poem-wolf lies down with the poet-lamb. Saunders’s translation reveals Horta’s mature voice to have an easy, fearless, unapologetic authority. Poema seems an important culmination and assertion of her status as an artist and radical thinker.
Horta has continued to add to her output of poetry and novels and her work has gained some recognition. But the groundbreaking early achievement is often underestimated, or marginalised by what Saunders describes as “a general wish to forget all of that”. It’s to be hoped that this prize will help more of Horta’s poems and fiction, and those of the other Marias, to become visible to a new, international generation of readers. 
The Guardian

17 novembro 2016

World Philosophy Day 2016

This year, we celebrate World Philosophy Day immediately after International Day for Tolerance. This coincidence is deeply significant, given the link between tolerance and philosophy. Philosophy thrives on the understanding of, respect and consideration for the diversity of opinions, thoughts and cultures that enrich the way we live in the world. As with tolerance, philosophy is an art of living together, with due regard to rights and common values. It is the ability to see the world with a critical eye, aware of the viewpoints of others, strengthened by the freedom of thought, conscience and belief.

For all these reasons, philosophy is more than an academic subject; it is a daily practice that helps people to live in a better, more humane way. Philosophical questioning is learned and honed from the youngest age, as an essential key to inspiring public debate and defending humanism, which is suffering the violence and tensions in the world. Philosophy does not offer any ready-to-use solutions, but a perpetual quest to question the world and try to find a place in it. Along this road, tolerance is both a moral virtue and a practical tool for dialogue. It has nothing to do with the naive relativism that claims everything is equally valid; it is an individual imperative to listen, all the more striking because it is founded on a resolute commitment to defend the universal principles of dignity and freedom.

This year, UNESCO celebrates the birthdays of two eminent philosophers, Aristotle and Leibniz, who contributed to the development of metaphysics and science, logic and ethics. Both of them, a few centuries apart and in very different cultural contexts, placed philosophy at the core of public life, as the centrepiece of a free and dignified life. Let us, in turn, celebrate this spirit; let us dare to open spaces for free, open and tolerant thinking. On the basis of this dialogue, we can build stronger cooperation between citizens, societies and States, as a lasting foundation for peace.

08 novembro 2016