Welcome Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re back! We have a wonderful episode for you this week with poet Lee Busby. Author of the chapbook, Wild Strawberries from Finishing Line Press, founding member of the River Pretty writer’s Retreat in Tecumseh, MO. He has published numerous poems and won an award for best poem in the 2008 issue of Moon City Review. He also co-hosts PADSMASH, a Hulk podcast with J David Weter. Plus, I talk more about persona, heteronyms and of course Fernando Pessoa. So kick back, do some stretches, put the key in the ignition, and enjoy!
Get a copy of Wild Strawberries here.
And Check out River Pretty
And if you like podcasts and the HULK go listen to PADSMASH.
Below you can find the Richard Zenith translations of the Pessoa poems discussed in this week’s episode.
THE KEEPER OF SHEEP XXXIX
The mystery of things – where is it?
Why doesn’t it come out
To show us at least that it’s mystery?
What do the river and the tree know about it?
And what do I, who am no more than they, know about it?
Whenever I look at things and think about what people think of them,
I laugh like a brook cleanly plashing against a rock.
For the only hidden meaning of things
Is that they have no hidden meaning.
It’s the strangest thing of all,
Stranger than all poets’ dreams
And all philosophers’ thoughts,
That things are really what they seem to be
And there’s nothing to understand.
Yes, this is what my senses learned on their own:
Things have no meaning: they exist.
Things are the only hidden meaning of things.
Since we do nothing in this confused world
That lasts or that, lasting, is of any worth,
And even what’s useful for us we lose
So soon, with our own lives,
Let us prefer the pleasure of the moment
To an absurd concern with the future,
Whose only certainty is the harm we suffer now
To pay for its prosperity.
Tomorrow doesn’t exist. This moment
Alone is mine, and I am only who
Exists in this instant, which might be the last
Of the self I pretend to be.
Alvaro De Campos
From The Tobacco Shop
I’ll always be nothing.
I can’t want to be something.
But I have in me all the dreams of the world.
Windows of my room,
The room of one of the world’s millions nobody knows
(And if they knew me, what would they know?),
You open onto the mystery of a street continually crossed by people,
A street inaccessible to any and every thought,
Real, impossibly real, certain, unknowingly certain,
With the mystery of things beneath the stones and beings,
With death making the walls damp and the hair of men white,
With Destiny driving the wagon of everything down the road of nothing.
Today I’m defeated, as if I’d learned the truth.
Today I’m lucid, as if I were about to die
And had no greater kinship with things
Than to say farewell, this building and this side of the street becoming
A row of train cars, with the whistle for departure
Blowing in my head
And my nerves jolting and bones creaking as we pull out.
Today I’m bewildered, like a man who wondered and discovered and forgot.
Today I’m torn between the loyalty I owe
To the outward reality of the Tobacco Shop across the street
And to the inward reality of my feeling that everything’s a dream.
I failed in everything.
Since I had no ambition, perhaps I failed in nothing.
I left the education I was given,
Climbing down from the window at the back of the house.
I went to the country with big plans.
But all I found was grass and trees,
And when there were people they were just like the others.
I step back from the window and sit in a chair. What should I think about?
How should I know what I’ll be, I who don’t know what I am?
Be what I think? But I think of being so many things!
And there are so many who think of being the same thing that we can’t all be it!
Genius? At this moment
A hundred thousand brains are dreaming they’re geniuses like me,
And it may be that history won’t remember even one,
All of their imagined conquests amounting to so much dung.
No, I don’t believe in me.
Insane asylums are full of lunatics with certainties!
Am I, who have no certainties, more right or less right?
No, not even me . . .
In how many garrets and non-garrets of the world
Are self-convinced geniuses at this moment dreaming?
How many lofty and noble and lucid aspirations
–Yes, truly lofty and noble and lucid
And perhaps even attainable–
Will never see the light of day or find a sympathetic ear?
The world is for those born to conquer it,
Not for those who dream they can conquer it, even if they’re right.
I’ve done more in dreams than Napoleon.
I’ve held more humanities against my hypothetical breast than Christ.
I’ve secretly invented philosophies such as Kant never wrote.
But I am, and perhaps will always be, the man in the garret,
Even though I don’t live in one.
I’ll always be the one who wasn’t born for that;
I’ll always be merely the one who had qualities;
I’ll always be the one who waited for a door to open in a wall without doors
And sang the song of the Infinite in a chicken coop
And heard the voice of God in a covered well.
Believe in me? No, not in anything.
Let Nature pour over my seething head
Its sun, its rain, and the wind that finds my hair,
And let the rest come if it will or must, or let it not come.
Cardiac slaves of the stars,
We conquered the whole world before getting out of bed,
But we woke up and it’s hazy,
We got up and it’s alien,
We went outside and it’s the entire earth
Plus the solar system and the Milky Way and the Indefinite.
(Eat your chocolates, little girl,
Eat your chocolates!
Believe me, there’s no metaphysics on earth like chocolates,
And all religions put together teach no more than the candy shop.
Eat, dirty little girl, eat!
If only I could eat chocolates with the same truth as you!
But I think and, removing the silver paper that’s tinfoil,
I throw it on the ground, as I’ve thrown out life.)
But at least, from my bitterness over what I’ll never be,
There remains the hasty writing of these verses,
A broken gateway to the Impossible.
But at least I confer on myself a contempt without tears,
Noble at least in the sweeping gesture by which I fling
The dirty laundry that’s me–with no list–into the stream of things,
And I stay at home, shirtless.
The maestro waves his baton,
And the sad, languid music begins…
It spends me of my childhood, of a day
I spent playing in my backyard, throwing a ball
Against the wall… On one side of the ball
Sailed a green dog, on the other side
A yellow jockey was riding a blue horse…
The music continues, and on the white wall of my childhood
That’s suddenly between me and the maestro
The ball bounces back and forth, now a green dog,
Now a blue horse with a yellow jockey…
My backyard takes up the whole theater, my childhood
Is everywhere, and the ball starts to play music,
A sad hazy music that runs around my back yard
Dressed as a green dog that turn into a yellow jockey…
(So quickly spins the ball between me and the musicians…
I throw it at my childhood, and it
Passes with a yellow jockey and a green dog
And a blue horse that pops out over the wall
Of my backyard…and the music throws balls
At my childhood…and the wall is made of baton
Movements and wildly whirling green dogs,
Blue horses and yellow jockeys…
The whole theater is a white wall of music
Where a green dog runs after my nostalgia
For my childhood, a blue horse with a yellow jockey…
And from one side to the other, from right to left,
From the trees where orchestras okay music in the upper branches
To the rows of balls in the shop where I bought my ball
And the shopkeeper smiles among the memories of my childhood…
And the music stops like a wall that collapses,
The ball rolls over the cliff of my interrupted dreams,
And on top of a blue horse the maestro, a yellow jockey turning black,
Gives thanks while laying down his baton on a fleeing wall,
And he takes a bow, smiling, with a white ball on top of his head,
A white ball that rolls down his back out of sight…