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The Songs of Antonio Botto [Paperback]

Antonio Botto , Josiah Blackmore , Fernando Pessoa

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Book Description

Nov. 8 2010
António Botto was one of Portugal's first openly gay writers, a poète maudit whose unapologetic and candid verses about homosexual life and passion were both praised and reviled when they appeared in Portuguese in 1922 under the title Canções. Botto's poetic voice-confessional, personal, and intimate-revels and luxuriates in eroticism while expressing the ache of longing, silence, and suffering. Yet for all of his acclaim and notoriety-he was both hailed as one of the great poets of his day and condemned for his frank depictions of male-male desire-Botto and his work fell into oblivion after his death.

The Songs of António Botto recovers this important, urgent voice in modern poetry by making available-for the first time since its private publication in 1948-the English-language translation of Canções that Botto's friend and artistic collaborator, Fernando Pessoa, completed in 1933. Pessoa, Portugal's preeminent modernist literary figure, considered Botto the only Portuguese poet worthy of the label "aesthete" and, as a critic and publisher, championed his work. Featuring an introduction to Botto's work and Pessoa's previously unpublished foreword to the 1948 edition as well as a new translation of Botto's 1941 elegy to Pessoa, The Songs of António Botto establishes Botto as a pioneering figure in modern gay literature and places him alongside C. P. Cavafy and Federico García Lorca as one of the major poetic voices of the twentieth century.

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Review

"In Antonio Botto’s poems, the mouth trembles, kisses, lies, tells the truth, bites, bleeds, laughs, pleads, and sings, while the hand writes it all down trying to create something beautiful out of the dirty silences that surround unsanctioned love and sex. Even reading the poems a half century after they were written, one feels the flesh burn." —Henri Cole

About the Author

António Botto (1897-1959) published more than twenty volumes of poetry, short stories, children's tales, and dramas during his lifetime. He worked as a civil servant in colonial Angola and Lisbon until, in 1942, he was dismissed from his post for lacking "moral character." In 1947, he emigrated to Brazil with his wife. He was fatally struck by a car in Copacabana in 1959.

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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Poet Out of Time: Reassessing António Botto July 2 2011
By Grady Harp - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
António Botto (1892 - 1959) was a Portuguese aesthete and modernist and on of Portugal's first openly gay poets whose position in the world of letters has only recently been brought to light. Though he had little formal education he worked as a clerk in a bookstore in Lisbon where he came into contact with the important writers of Portugal. He began publishing his poetry in 1917, his most popular collection being 'Canções' published in 1920 but not noticed until the poet's friend and champion Fernando Pessoa wrote critiques 'praising the author's courage and sincerity for shamelessly singing homosexual love as a true aesthete, was there public scandal amongst the Lisbon society and Botto attained a lifelong notoriety.' Of interest is the following note on the scandal of 'Canções': 'Conservatives reacted and complained to the police about the work's immorality ("Sodom's literature") and the book was apprehended by the authorities in 1923. Catholic college students clamored for an auto-da-fé of Botto's book and someone even suggested the author should be hanged. Nevertheless, most artists and intellectuals, headed by Pessoa, promptly took up his defence in several polemic articles. Eventually, the scandal subsided, the next year the ban was lifted and until the end of his life Botto would publish several revised versions of the book. His work was applauded by people like Antonio Machado, Miguel de Unamuno, Camilo Pessanha, Virginia Woolf, Teixeira de Pascoaes, José Régio, Luigi Pirandello, Stefan Zweig, Rudyard Kipling, James Joyce and Federico García Lorca.'

This book of Botto's poetry retains the introduction by Fernando Pessoa but adds an introduction by translator Joseph Blackmore who not only informs us of Botto's life but discusses Portuguese poetry and the language he was required to translate: 'Popular Portuguese poetry is all in seven-syllable quatrains, which the poet himself often writes, inserting them here and there in generally irregular rhythm of his poems, where the sudden popular regularity brings in a curious contrast. As a matter of fact, and apart form quatrains themselves, seven-syllable lines are constantly recurring in these poems.'
THE FADO
From a boy
All my dreams
Were to grow and to go sailing,
To be a big sailor-man.

Now
I see life must not be lived
With the passion we want.
All fades from our poor eyes' span.

Love - who had love as I ha it,
So deeply, so warmly given?
Such a desire burnt my flesh
That all those my body touched,
My body's litheness and tan -
Wander through the evening selling
Their frail sex to any man.

Alas for those who have love!
Alas for those who have none!
It's always sad, anyhow,
To long back for anyone.

Oh, I was loved!
How long
They clapped, whenever I sang,
For the longing in my song
Set in my voice
Which was warm but quite love-free.
In a tear
I used to sing
The past and present of me.

Wine
Filled the glasses.
Souls
Came to the surface
Of the talk that had no stealth.
'Let us drink our own health, boys!
Boys, let us drink our own health!'

And there was always, oh always,
The caress
Of he who sings in the shadows
The sad song of her own state
And who is ours anyhow.

Yes,
I bit mouths whose eyes were crying,
Just to bite them once again;
One day
I got married
Just to see what life was now.

Then I sail out for two years,
I leave my wife. There I go -
For my country,
Like a sailor, the old way;
And these chevrons on my arm
Say all that I have to say.

I am now back, and I find
That bitch has another man.
She moans her rut with another.
I hardly know if I care.
'With another,' they say, 'others,'
That's what I'll say everywhere.

Alas for those who have love!
Alas for those who have none!
It's always sad, anyhow,
To long back for anyone.

This book of the songs and poems of António Botto is overdue. he wrote with a passion that stirred the world and when his own country betrayed him, he fled to Brazil where he died in a car crash - and from his own long untreated case of syphilis. The publication of this revised book establishes Botto as a pioneering figure in modern gay literature and places him alongside C. P. Cavafy and Federico García Lorca as one of the major poetic voices of the twentieth century. Grady Harp, July 11
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite queer voice March 23 2011
By David Andres Fernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
António Botto writes about homosexual love with pain and desire. For him, love is poetry and beauty and the two emerge from a place of the unexpected and rejected: a place where the fear of a touch, the murmur of a whore or the voice of a lost lover become poetry. Botto's poetic voice sings the secrets that many of us dare not to speak even today. Once you read one of Botto's poems, he will become one of your favorite queer writers.

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