Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen
(Portugal, 1919–2004)   
Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Some poets make poems the way a builder builds a home – verse by verse, brick by brick. For Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, the whole world is home, and poetry is just a matter of seeing and of being. The act of poetry and the act of living are, to her inseparable. She defines poetry as “an art of being” that “does not require my time and labour. It does not ask me to have science, or aesthetics or theories. Instead it demands the entireness of my being, a consciousness running deeper than my intellect.”

Born in Oporto in 1919, Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen moved to Lisbon to study at the university, and she continues to live in the city today. Considered one of Portugal’s most important 20th century poets, she has won numerous literary prizes and is widely translated. The poetry of her thirteen published collections, imbued with a rare luminosity and precision, is at once ‘profound’ and ‘superficial’, effectively eliminating the distinction between inner and outer.

“Poetry,” she explains, “is my understanding with the universe, my way of relating to things, my participation in reality, my encounter with voices and images. That is why the poem speaks not of an ideal life but of a concrete one: the angle of a window, the resonance of streets, cities and rooms, the shade cast by a wall, a sudden face, the stars’ silence, distance and brightness, the night’s breathing, the scent of the linden and of oregano.”

© Poetry International


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