Our Book Selected Poems by Florbela Espanca
Translated from the Portuguese by Billie J. Maciunas.
For the first time, Billie J. Maciunas's fine English translations provide an ample selection of the great Portuguese poet Florbela Espanca's (1894 - 1930) sonnets. Our Book is a song of the self—a proclamation of love, torment, and erotic exaltation—all intricately linked to the poet's life, mythologized as it transgressed the lot of women in Portuguese society. Long in the making and lovingly crafted, this book marks an important milestone, one well overdue, in the making of Espanca's literary reputation.
"To talk about poetry of the first half of the 20th century without talking about Florbela Espanca is to me the same as talking about poetry of the 19th century without talking about Emily Dickinson or Rimbaud."
"These haunted sonnets, each elegant and perfectly formed as a tear, drew me close to a poet I had not known, a short-lived woman who called herself Sóror Saudade—as we might say Sister Yearning for all that never was and always will be. She reminds me of a poet of melancholy elegance from the furthest end of the European world, Cavafy: both poets veiled and took strength from the sorrow of their secret loves. Reading Espanca in Maciunas’s lucid translations, I think that maybe all real love is forbidden love, and all we can do about it is be beautiful."
"Florbela Espanca’s stirring Symbolist sonnets, gathered in Our Book, ring through time and translation. This Portuguese poet died young and her passionate lyrics attest to a difficult and troubled life as ‘a sunset of pain.’ She questions existence with striking delicate images (“All our lives the chimera / weaves fragile laces in fragile fingers”) yet the poems are strong and soar in a language that seems to transcend place and time, rising through Lisbon’s modernist bustle of the 1920s and 1930s. Some of her poems have become Fado songs, a perfect fit for these songs of the heart."
"A primary pleasure of Our Book is that it offers an encounter with this poet’s immense and powerful spiritual progress. An increasingly daring and engaged achievement is a surrender to all experience. With Espanca’s employment of emerging selves and ironic play of identification with Portugal’s decaying empire, no wonder Pessoa embraced her as a sister. The names Rimbaud, Dickinson, and Juana Inés de la Cruz also come to mind––if not in actual lineage, then in a poetic affinity."
Texts: Florbela Espanca
Edited by: Charity Coleman
Translator: Billie J. Maciunas
Language: Portuguese and English
Publisher: Rail Editions
Published year: 2018