Home > 16th Century, 19th Century, 20th Century, Poetry, Portuguese literature > 20 Books of Summer #1 : Lisbon Poets

20 Books of Summer #1 : Lisbon Poets

Lisbon Poets. French title: Poètes de Lisbonne. Translated from the Portuguese by Elodie Dupeau.

This is the first billet of my 20 Books of Summer challenge, one of the ghosts of trips past. I bought the poetry collection Lisbon Poets during a trip to Lisbon. Obviously.

It’s a lovely bilingual edition of poems by Luís de Camões, Cesário Verde, Mário de Sá-Carneiro, Florbela Espanca and Fernando Pessoa. The same book exists in English, Italian, German and other languages.

The French translation is new, there’s a foreword by Anne-Marie Quint, professor at the Sorbonne. Original drawings by André Carrilho illustrate the book and all this attention to details makes of this edition a nice book to have in hands.

Now I’m not a great reader of poetry and imagine the challenge to write a billet in English about poems you’ve read in a Portuguese/French bilingual edition. I’ll be brief.

Poet seems to be a dangerous profession in Portugal if you look at these poets’ untimely death. Except for Luís de Camões who lived 56 years in the 16th century, they all died young. Cesário Verde was 31 when he died in 1886, Mário de Sá-Carneiro was 26 when he committed suicide in 1916, Florbela Espanca was 36 when she killed herself in 1930 and at 47, Fernando Pessoa was an old man compared to the others when he died in 1935.

Bilingual editions of poetry are great, at least for western languages. I wouldn’t get anything out of a Japanese/French book but for Latin languages, it’s wonderful. Portuguese is a funny language for me as a French: when I read it, I recognize a lot of words but when I hear it, I don’t understand anything. Since I read the poems, having the original beside the French translation was a treat and useful.

I wasn’t so keen on Cesário Verde and Mário de Sá-Carneiro. I found Verde a bit whiny and I disliked Feminina by Mário de Sá-Carneiro because I found it mysoginistic.

My favorite poems were by Luís de Camões, Florbela Espanca and some by Fernando Pessoa. I loved Alma minha gentil, que tepartite by Camões, a beautiful poem about his grief after his lover died. I enjoyed the sensuality in Florbela Espanca’s poems, her assertiveness as a woman. In A uma rapariga (To A Young Girl), she urges girls to live their life, to be bold and go for what they want. Fernando Pessoa’s poems are beautiful. I loved O livro de Cesário Verde, his others full of thoughts about life.

I’m aware that my comments are trite but think again of my challenge here. Even in French, I would struggle to have anything clever to say about poems, so in this context, it’s even worse. I’ll stop then and urge you to get this little gem if you ever go to Portugal. It seems like a good introduction for Portuguese poetry.

  1. June 13, 2020 at 4:01 pm

    I have never been to a country, not even France, that so emphasized, to tourists, its poets.


  2. June 13, 2020 at 5:55 pm

    First book done! Great stuff!


    • June 14, 2020 at 9:42 pm

      Thanks! Two others are waiting on the TBW!


  3. June 13, 2020 at 6:22 pm

    I’ve seen this book in various bookshops in Lisbon. A bit disappointed that they decided to include Cesário Verde (I had to read some of his poems at school and didn’t like them that much) and forgot about Sophia de Mello Breyner, who is one of my favourite poets!


    • June 14, 2020 at 9:45 pm

      Cesário Verde wasn’t my favorite either. (too whiny for my tastes.)
      But it’s a nice edition and I think it’s a great initiative to help tourists sample Portuguese poetry through these bilingual editions.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. June 13, 2020 at 9:03 pm

    I’ve read a little of Pessoa’s poems and like them – now you’ve made me want to read more!


    • June 14, 2020 at 9:52 pm

      He’s really good and approachable, which I love. No long comparisons with mythology or characters from Roman and Greek stories or literature.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Vishy
    June 14, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Wonderful review, Emma! This looks like a very interesting book! I have heard of only Fernando Pessoa. I have a collection of his poetry. I want to read that sometime.


    • June 14, 2020 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks Vishy.
      It was my first poems by Pessoa, I’ve only read his novella The Anarchist Banker, which I highly recommend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Vishy
        June 15, 2020 at 12:25 am

        Thank you for the recommendation, Emma. I didn’t know that Pessoa wrote a novella. Will try to find it.


        • June 15, 2020 at 9:26 pm

          It’s a funny one. It’s available in ebook.


  6. buriedinprint
    June 18, 2020 at 8:31 pm

    I share your struggle in writing about poetry. Maybe it’s just something one gets better at, the more poetry one reads (in however many languages) and writes about.


    • June 18, 2020 at 8:39 pm

      I’m really a bad reader of poetry and to write more precisely about it would probably imply analyzing the poem’s form on top of its substance and it reminds me too much of school. *shudders*


  1. July 1, 2020 at 12:09 am

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