Variation I

Ana Hatherly
Translated from the Portuguese by Mónica de la Torre

Barefoot she goes to the sourceThrough the lushness, LeonorLovely she goes, but not surely                                       —Camões

morning happens when in the apparent movement of successionof days and nights the earth all of a sudden shines on the sun notso suddenly though since the day happens slowly everythinghappens slowly though only all of a sudden does it become real and suddeneverything is what was happening slowly until the moment itburst into sudden reality all of a sudden it is morning just like all of a suddenwater flows from the source and as suddenly intermittent like the daythe source is a sudden intermittence a phenomenon explainedby the principle of the pythagorean cup and all the magic of asource turns suddenly into the flow of the larger pipe of asystem of communicating vessels whose primed siphon allows for thepassage of the lovely liquid from one vessel to another existingdue to its flowing and the origin of the flowing origin and like leonorit is a product of the succession of days and nights and the factthat she rises from bed where she lay intermittent duringthe dark night and suddenly the source the day and leonorirrupt she steps on the cold ground vessel where the lushness is born and at the tipof her fingers the filaments of the leaves’ veins shudderand leonor shivers and her nerves shudder until registeringthe sensations and the message of lushness is in the originof her motor nerves transmitting orders through her bodyand the beautiful muscles of her leg bend backwardof her thigh upward of her belly inwardof her shoulders forward and of her head downwardand her orbicular muscles receive the message of lushnessalmost shutting her beautiful eyelidsand her pupil contracts and a tinglingin her breasts hardens the pink blossoms of her nipplesand all of this happens in the intermittence of the mechanism ofsensitivity solelybecause it is morning and the day risesand water springs from the sources and there is lushness VARIAÇÃO I                       Descalça vai para a fonte                       Leonor pela verdura                       Vai formosa e não segura                                                   —Camõesa manhã acontece quando no movimento aparente da sucessãodos dias e das noites a terra de súbito ilumina o sol nãotão de súbito porém só de súbito se torna real e súbitoé tudo o que foi lentamente acontecendo até ao momento deexplodir em realidade súbita de súbito é manhã como de súbitobrota uma fonte e tão subitamente intermitente como o diaa fonte é uma súbita intermitência fenómeno que se explicapelo princípio do vaso de tântalo e toda a magia de umafonte resulta do súbito escoamento do ramo maior de umsistema de comunicantes cujo sifão escorvado permite apassagem do formoso líquido de um vaso para outro existentepelo seu fluir e origem da origem fluente e como leonoré um produto da sucessão dos dias e das noites e do factode erguer-se de seu leito onde esteve intermitente durantea noite escura e subitamente irrompe a fonte o dia e leonorpoisa o pé no chão frio vaso onde nasce a verdura e na pontade seus dedos estremecem os filamentos das nervuras dasfolhas e leonor treme e seus nervos estremecem até ao registodas sensações e a mensagem da verdura está na origem deseus nervos motores transmitirem ordens por seu corpoe os belos músculos flectem em sua perna para trásem sua coxa para cima em seu ventre para dentroem seus ombros para diante e em sua cabeça para baixoe os músculos orbiculares recebem a mensagem da verdurae quase cerram as suas belas pálpebrase sua pupila se contrai e um arrepioem seus seios endurece a rosada floração de seus mamilose tudo isto acontece na intermitência do mecanismo dasensibilidade sóporque é manhã e surge o diae brotam as fontes e há verdura

From Leonorana, thirty-one thematic variations on a lyric’s stanza by Luís de Camões (1965–1970)

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Photo:
Maria José Palla

Porto-born artist, poet, and scholar Ana Hatherly (1929–2015) wrote the first concrete poem to be published in Portugal in 1959: “poeta arca seta” (poet ark arrow). She maintained only a loose affiliation with the concrete poetry movement, however, as she preferred to write experimental prose and poetry in modes ranging from the lyric to the concrete to the procedural and combinatorial. Her explorations of reading and writing technologies and the plastic and gestural dimensions of writing unfolded in genre-defying theoretical texts, chronicles, fiction, poems, actions, films, collages, drawings, and paintings.

Hatherly was part of the PO.EX group and co-edited their magazine, Cadernos de poesia experimental (1964, 1966). One of the most complete Hatherliana collections in the United States is at the University of California, Berkeley, where Hatherly earned a doctorate in 1986, focused on the Spanish Golden Age. Two anthologies collect her literary works, Um calculador de improbabilidades (A Calculator of Improbabilities; 2001) and Interfaces do olhar: uma antologia crítica, uma antologia poética (The Interfaces of Seeing: A Critical and Poetic Anthology, 2004). Her work has shown extensively in Portugal and abroad, at museums including the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian in Lisbon and the Serralves Museum in Porto.

Mónica de la Torre’s most recent book of poems and translations is Repetition Nineteen (Nightboat, 2020). Other books include The Happy End/All Welcomea riff on a riff on Kafka’s Amerikaand Public Domain. With Alex Balgiu, she co-edited the anthology Women in Concrete Poetry 1959–79 (Primary Information, 2020) and teaches Brooklyn College.

Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979 is expansive anthology focused on concrete poetry written by women in the groundbreaking movement’s early history. It features 50 writers and artists from Europe, Japan, Latin America, and the United States selected by editors Alex Balgiu and Mónica de la Torre.

Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979 takes as its point of departure Materializzazione del linguaggio—the groundbreaking exhibition of visual and concrete poetry by women curated by Italian feminist artist Mirella Bentivoglio for the Venice Biennale in 1978. Through this exhibition and others she curated, Bentivoglio traced constellations of women artists working at the intersection of the verbal and visual who sought to “reactivate the atrophied tools of communication” and liberate words from the conventions of genre, gender, and the strictures of the patriarchy and normative syntax.

The works in this volume evolved from previous manifestations of concrete poetry as defined in foundational manifestos by Öyvind Fahlström, Eugen Gomringer, and the Brazilian Noigandres Group. While some works are easily recognized as concrete poetry, as documented in canonical anthologies edited by Mary Ellen Solt and Emmett Williams in the late ’60s, it also features expansive, serial works that are overtly feminist and often trouble legibility. Women in Concrete Poetry: 1959-1979 revisits the figures in Bentivoglio’s orbit and includes works by women practicing in other milieus in the United States, Eastern Europe, and South America who were similarly concerned with activating the visual and sonic properties of language and experimenting with poetry’s spatial syntax.

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