A new book of Pessoa translations, with brilliant introductions to the book and each heteronym by Richard Zenith, has been published: “A Little Larger Than the Entire Universe (Selected Poems).” Penguin Classics, 2006, 436 p.
In 1924 you pick up a little po-zine in Portugal called Athena. Among the poets you like: Ricardo Reis, Alberto Caeiro, Alvaro de Campos, and one of the editors, Fernando Pessoa. Their thumbnails reveal four very different bios, the poems reveal four distinct styles. Only if you penetrate the avant garde scene in Lisbon will you find that three of these poets are heteronyms, imaginary brother poets, of the fourth.
When you discover Fernando Pessoa you don’t walk into a new room of poetry, but into another wing. Hop over to another planet. In solar system Po, he’s Planet X, orbiting just outside, shadowing everything going on in our busyness. More than any other human, he lived life solely in his poems, his life a shell for the literary movement that was himself. Relatively unknown in the US, the publication of a new book of translations brings him to center stage, a poet who eschewed life to create life, a poet for whom “living poetry” was not sprawly boho sensuality, but as Constant Writer.
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