By 2019-10-07 InCommunity

Scotland meets Tavira through poetry

Tourists and locals will have some excellent opportunities to be entertained this autumn in the Algarve. Scottish poets are preparing for a performance in Tavira to celebrate the work of Fernando Pessoa. They will perform in October at the annual Birthday Party of Álvaro de Campos, one of the heteronyms Pessoa invented and who, according to Pessoa, was born in Tavira on October 15, 1890. He will be remembered through poetry, art installations and performance. There will also be events in schools and restaurants, and even the local Tuk Tuk service gets involved in recognising the work of Pessoa.

Since 2015, Tela Leão from the Partilha Alternativa Associação has been bringing together local and international artists for the party. The aim is to create, in the city of Tavira, a repertoire that celebrates the work of Fernando Pessoa – and of Álvaro de Campos.

Wondering what a heteronym is? It is a literary concept referring to one or more imaginary characters created by a writer to write in different styles.

Fernando Pessoa created many heteronyms. Tavira’s own is Álvaro de Campos. Pessoa, in creating Álvaro de Campos, gave him a background of working in Glasgow as a naval engineer. Hence the link with the Scottish poets.

Tela Leão said: “Of course, it is very important for us to have a good audience, but just as important are the connections made locally and internationally. The Birthday Party gives local artists an opportunity to develop their work, and to get to know colleagues from elsewhere and share their working processes.

“This year we will have two projects involving Scottish artists. One of them, ‘Exclusive Party for Álvaro de Campos in Glasgow’, will be performed by the artists’ collective Cheeky Besom, and the other will take place in Tavira, ‘Whisky Galore’, a recital of Portuguese and Scottish poetry and music for piano, with Marcelo Montes interpreting Craig Armstrong, James McMillan, Luis Tinoco, Stravinsky and Ruy Coelho, a personal friend of Fernando Pessoa.”

For the performance, four poets will come together, two from Portugal, Pedro Jubilot and Vitor Cardeira, and two from Scotland, Christine De Luca, former Makar (poet laureate) of Edinburgh from 2014 to 2017, and Christie Williamson. The two Scottish poets will arrive in Tavira a few days before the performance to meet people and to rehearse with their Portuguese partners.

Christine De Luca, born in Shetland, writes in both English and Shetlandic. She said: “I have been interested in the work of Portuguese poets for some time now, particularly in Pessoa and Eugénio de Andrade. I have translated some Portuguese poems into Shetlandic, my mother tongue, with the help of English versions. I also have a Portuguese friend who checks I haven’t misinterpreted anything.

“Scotland and Portugal are both on the margins of Europe and have a strong maritime heritage. There are political, economic and social resonances and, as much as poetry reflects life, there are similarities.

“I look forward to working with Portuguese poets, translating their work and, in return, having some of my poems fly off the page into Portuguese.

“It will also be fun to introduce some work by one of Scotland’s best loved poets, Edwin Morgan (1920-2010). He was from Glasgow where Álvaro de Campos studied marine engineering. There appear to be some similarities between them, including a streak of Surrealism.”

The other Scottish poet, Christie Williamson, also born in Shetland, lives in Glasgow. He had his translations of Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry into Shetlandic published in 2009.

He said: “I first encountered the work of Fernando Pessoa a few years ago when a friend was clearing out some old books. I’d long aspired to reading his work and seized eagerly upon the opportunity.

“Of all Pessoa’s heteronyms, Álvaro de Campos captures my admiration and imagination the most. His full-frontal assault on questions of existence and consciousness excites me every time I come to meet him on the page. His dark side can be dark enough to frighten me, which only makes his work all the more captivating.

“When I heard Partilha Alternativa was looking for Scottish partners for the Festa dos Anos, I knew I wouldn’t be able to forgive myself if I didn’t at least try to see how I might contribute. I enjoy translating into Shaetlan and like, as much as possible, to connect to the source language. In the current climate, I feel a responsibility as an artist to my European neighbours.

“Álvaro de Campos brought the whole world to life from his desk in Portugal. It is a great privilege, through poetry and through the Festa dos Anos, to engage with his legacy and with the world before us today.”

The Scottish guests will work with Vitor Gil Cardeira, an Algarve writer, anthropologist, professor and publisher, and Pedro Jubilot, writer, poet and also a teacher and publisher, both associates of the Casa Álvaro de Campos.

Tela said: “Each year more artists and associations join the programme. Besides Christie and Christine, and the production by Cheeky Besom, we are also developing a project with Japanese artists.”

The Cheeky Besom event will be live streamed on Facebook.

Ruby McCann from Cheeky Besom said: “We decided to be part of the Birthday Party because we believe that the literary arts and culture can be inspiring. Art can bring us together and teach us about ourselves and the world around us.”

Further details will be advertised nearer the time. But take note.

In Tavira
WHISKY GALORE, a recital of Portuguese and Scottish poetry and music for piano, will take place at the Tavira Club on Sunday, October 13 at 6pm.
THE JAPANESE CONCUBINE (work in progress) at Casa Álvaro de Campos on Saturday, November 9 at 2.30pm.

In Glasgow
Cheeky Besom Productions – a Glasgow-based Grassroots Collective ‘Artists with Attitude’: Jim Ferguson (writer, poet and critic), Louise Malone (artist), Ruby McCann (writer), Brian McFall (musician). Each month they adopt a theme for performance. On October 15, they will focus on Álvaro de Campos.
Cheeky Besom Productions was shortlisted as Finalists for The Herald Scottish Culture Awards. Cheeky Besom will live stream the event on Facebook.

More information

Álvaro de Campos

In the days when they celebrated my birthday,
I was happy and no one was dead.
In the old house, even my birthday was a centuries-old tradition,
And everybody’s joy, and my own, were certain like some religion or other.
In the days when they celebrated my birthday,
I was healthy enough not to understand anything,
To be the smart one within the family,
And to not have the hopes that others had for me.
When I came to have hopes, I no longer knew how to hope.
When I came to look at life, I had lost all of life’s meaning.
Yes, what I supposed to be myself,
What I was of heart and kinship,
What I was of mid-province evenings,
What I was of being loved and being a little boy.
What I was – ah my God! What only today I know I was …
How far away! …
(I can’t find it…)
In the days when they celebrated my birthday!
What I am today is like the humidity in the corridor at the end of the house,
Mould sprouting on the walls …
What I am today (and the house of those who loved me trembles through my tears),
What I am today is that they sold the house.
And they are all dead,
And it is me myself surviving like a spent match …
In the days when they celebrated my birthday
My love, like a person, this time!
A physical desire of the soul to meet there again,
For a metaphysical and carnal journey,
With a duality of myself for myself …
Wolfing down the past like bread in a famine, without time for the butter to touch the teeth!
I see everything again with a sharpness that blinds me to what there is here …
The table set with more places, with finer designs on the crockery, with more glasses,
The sideboard loaded with many things – sweets, fruit, the rest in shadow under the overhang –,
The old aunts, the different cousins, and it was all because of me,
In the days when they celebrated my birthday…
Stop, my heart!
Do not think! Leave thinking to the head!
Oh my God, my God, my God!
These days I don’t celebrate my birthday any more
I go on.
I count my days.
I will be old when I am old.
Nothing else.
I’m furious with myself for not having kept the stolen past in my pocket! …
In the days when they celebrated my birthday.

Translation by J. Coston and T. Leão


‘Whisky Galore’, pictured clockwise from top left: Vitor Cardeira and Christie Williamson

‘Whisky Galore’, pictured clockwise from top left: Christine De Luca, Pedro Jubilot

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