Pessoa and A Poem’s Odd Journey

About fifteen years ago, I read a call for poems about Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese poet who wrote not just as himself but as several fully developed poet personalities. I read some of his work to refresh myself, wrote a poem, and submitted it to the anthology.

I never got a response. Time passed, and I included it in my book MAP OF THE LOST. More time passed.

Last week, the poem was accepted by what seems to be new editors. The anthology has no publisher, so the journey is not over. The submission was so long ago that it was a typed copy I had to retype and send electronically. All of this is amusing, and worthy of Pessoa. But the thing that struck me was how old–how different–the poem seems from what I’m writing now. I don’t usually reflect on this incremental changes in style that can build up to a different approach.

I don’t hate the poem, though.

After Pessoa

“To be a poet is not my ambition,
It’s my way of being alone”—
Secluded among a multiplicity of selves
Like a child who traces the vast oriental carpet
With a finger, or who runs the little car model
Along the tendrils and medallions
As if they were the streets of some unknown city

A mirror is not a window and yet it might be
A passerby in the window is a fragment
Of the rainy street—one person
Contains the bits of other selves
Like a run-down theater
In a shabby neighborhood
Performing Shakespeare, or Brecht.

Night falls with its algebra
Not just subtraction and division
But the idea that X
Signifies one thing, Y another
Looking for correspondence, still you say
“Nothing returns” in defiance of physics—
And like light, “everything is real.”

Miriam Sagan
Published in MAP OF THE LOST, University of New Mexico Press, 2008

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About Miriam Sagan

I'm blogging about poetry, land art, haiku, women artists, road trips, and Baba Yaga at Miriam's Well ( The well is ALWAYS looking to publish poetry on our themes, sudden fiction, and guest bloggers and musers.

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