Fernando Pessoa and I

It’s still a mystery why she gave me his book. She didn’t even really know me other then from a few 15 minute train rides we had spent together. I had never heard of him before and yet as she handed me ‘The book of Disquiet’ she said: “Here, this is for you. It reminded me of you”.

I started reading it, not really feeling like reading a novel at the time. It’s not unusual for one to identify with what a gifted writer leaves on paper. But as I read line by line, it was more then that. It was as if I had written it. I was looking at the thoughts I thought and the feelings I felt. Or better: had felt. Before my change.

I never finished the book, somehow too scared of what doors it would re-open. But a few months ago, I stumbled across his name, looking for some poetry books. On the back it said: The largest and richest English-language volume of poetry from “the greatest twentieth-century writer you have never heard of”. I had heard of him. But I didn’t know he wrote poetry. So I bought it.

Below, two examples. The poet’s name mentioned above it is Alberto Caeiro, one of Pessoa’s multiple ‘heteronyms’ (a whole personality rather then just a pseudonym).

There’ are 414 pages in the poetry book and another multiple hundred in the ‘Book of Disquiet’. So if I’m not around much lately, it’s probably because I’ve finally found my ‘summer read’.

******************** Alberto Caeiro

You say I’m something more
Than a stone or a plant.
You say: “You feel, you think, and you know
That you think and feel.
Do stones write poems?
Do plants have ideas about the world?”

Yes, there’s a difference,
But it’s not the difference you suppose,
Because being conscious doesn’t oblige me to have theories
about things;
It only obliges me to be conscious.

If I’m more than a stone or a plant? I don’t know.
I’m different. I don’t know what more is or what less is.

Is being conscious more than being colorful?
It might be or might not be.
I know only that it’s different.
No one can prove that it’s more than just different.

I know the stone is real and the plant exists.
I know this because they exist.
I know this because my senses show it to me.
I know I’m real as well.
I know this because my senses show it to me.,
Thought less clearly than they show me the stone and the plant.
That’s all I know.

Yes, I write poems, and the stone doesn’t write poems.
Yes, I have ideas about the world, and the plant has none.
But stones are not poets, they’re stones;
And plants are just plants, not thinkers.
I can say this makes me superior to them
Or I can say it makes me inferior.
But I say nothing. I say of the stone, “It’s a stone.”
I say of myself, “It’s me.”
And I say no more. What more is there to say?

*********** Alberto Caeiro

Live, you say, in the present.
Live only in the present.

But I don’t want the present, I want reality.
I want the things that exist, not the time that measures them.

What is the present?
It’s something in relation to the past and the future.
It’s something that exists by virue of other things existing.
I want only reality, the things themselves, without any present.

I don’t want to include time in my awareness of what exists.
I don’t want to think of things as being in the present; I want to think of them as things.
I don’t want to separate them from themselves, calling them present.

I shouldn’t even call them real.
Is shouldn’t call them anything.

I should see them, just see them,
See them until I can no longer think about them,
See them without time or space,
see with no need of anything besides what I’m seeing.
This is the science of seeing, which is no science at all.


~ by spasmicallyperfect on September 2, 2007.

3 Responses to “Fernando Pessoa and I”

  1. Amazing Spaz,
    What is even more amazing is that is sounds so much like you. Perhaps this was an earlier incarnation of yours?

    Oh-oh, there’s another one. 😉 . Strange really. He also has this long poem about Whitman where he writes about feeling as if they were related in thought and feeling although Whitman died before Pessoa was born. Regarding your ‘alike’ comment, wonder whether you would have said that even without the intro? Interesting…..

  2. Thought you would enjoy this review, I was extremely touched by his writing, makes you wonder if more than one soul can enter a body. Enjoy!


    “Fernando Pessoa had a rare strand of multiple personality disorder: one that is self-imposed. Born Fernando Antonio Nogueira Pessoa in 1888 in Lisbon, Portugal, where (with the exception of nine years in South Africa) he lived all his life, Pessoa began at a young age writing in English as Alexander Search and Charles Robert Anon. Then, older, he adopted and wrote under the names Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis, and Alavaro De Campos. These are not simple pseudonyms, but, to use Pessoa’s own term, heteronyms, for they are imaginary poets who write real poems. In attempting to explain their source, Pessoa writes that they derive from “an aspect of hysteria that exists within me” and from a “persistent and organic tendency to depersonalization and simulation.”

    Welcome basicallygood and thank you so much for sharing this information. I’ll have to read the link. ‘Self-imposed personality disorder’ (shall we call it SIPD?), is an interesting concept. Maybe it would keep me from going crazy too 😉 . A friend of mine read up on him recently and came back with “he sounds a little nuts”. That might be so, however what he left behind on paper makes a whole lot of sense to me.

  3. just finished ‘book of disquiet’, it’s 2am and if i had known reading pessoa this late at night was so satisfying i would have read the whole thing from dusk til morning. just me, my cats and a gallon of coffee.

    people like to focus on the novelty of his ‘multiple personalities’, but psychology fails here. as pessoa says in this book, “science is a childs game”. how absurd to call something “Self-imposed personality disorder”. LOL! one famous portuguese quote regarding his heteronyms sums it up, “the four best portuguese poets are fernando pessoa”

    now that i’ve finished this book i’d call him a teacher in the subtleties of the whole (holism) of human existence.

    Welcome fellow reader 🙂 and I agree with your choice of ‘teacher in the subtleties of the whole” – title. The more I read and re-read he’s truly becoming on of my favourites. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, be well

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