‘Provavelmente Alegria’ by José Saramago

My rating: 4 stars

José Saramago is renowned for his novels, but he also wrote plays, poetry and short stories. Provavelmente Alegria, which has not been translated into English yet as far as I’m aware, is one of his three poetry collections. The majority of the poems featured in this collection don’t have a blatant message, their meanings need to be unearthed, each word dissected. For that reason, my interpretations may be different from those of other readers. But isn’t that part of the magic of reading poetry?

Human beings and our myriad of emotions take centre stage in this collection. In various of the poems, there’s either a contrast between people and nature or a communion between the two. ‘Ainda Agora é Manhã’ is a visual description of the sun rising in the morning and how it differs from the sorrow felt by a person. ‘Paisagem com Figuras’ also features descriptions of nature, which surrounds a couple. When they hold hands, the place turns into paradise. ‘Ao Centro da Esmeralda’ establishes a correlation between the human body and natural elements, such as the moon, the sun, the green grazing land. One of the shortest poems in the collection, ‘Flor de Cato’, meaningfully compares the human heart with the flower of a blossoming cactus.

My favourite poem from the collection is ‘Na Ilha por Vezes Habitada’, which draws a parallel between humans and an island. Though we live through good and bad moments, our connection with the land offers peace of mind and makes life worth living.

While some poems stand out because of their possible meaning, others are striking thanks to their sound and rhythm. That is the case of ‘O Primeiro Poema’, which touches on the creation of the world, ‘Incêncio’, which relates passion to a fire, and ‘Parábola’. The rhymes chosen for the latter are reminiscent of those that can be listened to in the oral poetry created by people from the countryside.

Not all of the poems impressed me. ‘Passa no Pensamento’ and ‘É um Livro de Boa-fé’, for example, didn’t arouse any feelings in me, maybe because I couldn’t discern a meaning from the words put on the page.

Although I believe that Saramago was a better storyteller than a poet, this collection is still worth reading for those who are exploring all of his work.

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