Poems By Fernando Pinto do Amaral Translated By Ana Hudson

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Fernando Pinto do Amaral
Fernando Pinto do Amaral was born in Lisbon in 1960. He is a Portuguese poet and translator. From 2009 to 2017, he was the Commissioner for the National Reading Plan. Besides being a poet and translator, he is also a novelist, a literary critic and an essayist. He studied medicine for three years before leaving the course halfway to study Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Lisbon, eventually doing his doctorate in Romance Literatures and then going on to teach, from 1987, at the Department of Romance Literatures at the same university. The following are a few of his poetical works: Acédia (1990), A Escada de Jacob (1993), Às Cegas (1997), Poesia Reunida (2000), A Pena Suspensa (2004), Luz da Madrugada (2007), Paliativos (2012), Manual de cardiologia (2016) and O Terceiro Vértice (2019). He also writes fiction and, in 2006, published a collection of his short stories called Área de Serviço e Outras Histórias de Amor and in 2009 published O Segredo de Leonardo Volpi, a novel. In 1991, his collection of essays O Mosaico Fluido – Modernidade e Pós-Modernidade na Poesia Portuguesa Mais Recente received the Pen Club award for essays; Na Órbita de Saturno, published in 1992, is another collection of his essays. Apart from these, he has regularly contributed to literay magazines and journals like LER, A Phala, Colóquio/Letras, Relâmpago and JL. He has translated Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal, for which he has received awards from Pen Club and the Portuguese Association of Translators respectively. He has also translated Verlaine’s Poèmes Saturniens and the entire poetical works of Jorge Luís Borges.
 Translations, by Ana Hudson, of three of his poems have been reprinted here. The first poem  is from the Pena Suspensa and the other two are from the Poesia Reunida. 

CARDIOLOGY

The greatest motivation in his life
was perhaps curiosity.

It drove him on: he approached
every woman he met,
but he was only interested in their hearts.

He methodically followed this obsession
and like a child 
with its favourite toy
he also wanted to see what was inside,
find out exactly how it worked,
to shred each hope in slow motion,
dissect with almost scientific rigour
each anguish, each unavowable desire,
till he felt the ever fresh taste
in each one of those cells.

After each experiment, he observed
the dismantled hearts
and, not being able to reassemble them,
he gathered them one by one into his breast.
It was a safe place
and holding so many pieces of other lives
pulsating out of step
he could at last believe
that he also had a heart.

ZEITGEIST

My contemporaries speak a lot
and say: “So, here’s how it is”
in the brazen manner of ones fed
by the sound of their own voices as they start 
explaining at length present trends
in the arts, humanities or those societies,
which are becoming, little by little, the same 
as each other, in this first world where we were born,
now that the second world has ceased to exist
and the third, take war leave hunger,
keeps its abstraction, in folkloric distance.

It seems metaphysics is dead 
and truth sleepwalks, wandering
the empty corridors where
some of my contemporaries’ millions
of sentences meet in the dark. Still,
they speak of everything enthusiastically,
throwing in decisive ‘proposals’
and riding the ‘challenges’ of new paths
for mankind, while enjoying
alcohol-free beer, decaffeinated
coffee and, above all,
loveless love, to be able to maintain
their physical and mental balance. 

My contemporaries almost always say
they do not moralise, and that’s why
they force everybody to be free, healthy, happy,
even the ones who don’t want to be:
they forbid tobacco, sugar
and, whenever in pain, they take pills
because joy is a chemical matter
and it’s advisable to take it at certain times, like
pleasure under the surveillance of condoms
and such other compulsory seat belts, 
so that one day they may die
in complete good health.
When I muse upon my contemporaries,
their trendy conversations, their fashionable places,
I find them so endearing, I wish I were
at least as naïve as they are, 
sharing each thrill on their lips,
the ephemeral flame of their laughter
all through the night. However,
I’m tempted by the sloth of remaining 
thus lazier than any Oblomov
on a Portuguese scale – oh sweet anaesthetic
invading my body, freeing me 
of that spell called “the spirit
of the time” in which we are living, under the debris
of a sky crumbled into a thousand 
still bright small pieces, virtual 
stars shining intermittently 
on the surface of all the screens

that my contemporaries switch on and off
each and every day, never forgetting 
to press the necessary key
for the save function
and thus reach into eternity.

SECRET

Tonight I died many times over, waiting
for a sudden dream to come
and dance in the dark with my soul
as long as it were you who led
its haunted rhythm within the darkness of my body,
the spiral of all hours to be hoisted
out of the well of the senses. Who are you,
imaginary promise, who teaches me
to decode the wind’s intentions,
and february’s cold music of the rain
on the window panes? Love
has offered me your absolute features,
has projected your eyes on to my sky
and now whispers a word to me:
your name – the last sound spoken
by the last dying star
soaking slowly in my blood
and my blood seeking your heart.

Ana Hudson
Ana Hudson has a BA in Modern Languages and Literatures from the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and a MA in Portuguese Studies from King’s College London. She is responsible for “Poems from the Portuguese” (www.poemsfromtheportuguese.org), wich she has set up and devised. She lives in England.

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