Selected Poems

Corsino Fortes, trans. from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn and Sean O’Brien. Archipelago (Random, dist.), $16 (142p) ISBN 978-0-914671-11-4
Originally written in a Cape Verdean/Portuguese Creole, the words of this Lisbon-educated lawyer, ambassador, and poet are available for the first time in English. Fortes elevates the natural world to folk mythology, and his poems focus on place and connection—home and exile, blood and earth—to such an extent that those elements feel as if they have an agency even greater than the people that inhabit them. In “Root and Face,” the speaker addresses Cape Verde directly, expressing the deep pull its residents have toward it and vice versa: “If you, island!, on your horse of stone/ Open the throat, extend the limbs/ And breathe/ As a tree breathes the sea air/ The salt-beds bleed.” This desire for and alienation from the natural world is further complicated by the poet’s post-colonial consciousness and educated, globalized perspective. Portuguese speakers can get a feel for the Creole with the originals provided en face, and English speakers can finally experience how Fortes addresses the exile’s status common to so many around the world: “my body’s shadow is a cross/ Far from the sun of my home/ running to Africa/ running to Europe/ running to America/ running across the map/ running across the globe.” (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/17/2014
Release date: 12/09/2014
Genre: Fiction
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