‘Geografia’ by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

My rating: 4 stars

Poems don’t necessarily ask for the creation of a sense of place. In Geografia by the Portuguese author Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, a significant number of poems, which are organised in sections, focus on particular locations, though. Others, on the other hand, are dedicated to fellow poets, to the writing of poetry and to social issues.

The beaches in Algarve were the source of inspiration for the first group of poems in the collection. The one that stands out the most is ‘Senhora da Rocha’. It can be read as a personification of a place, since it could either be about the beach itself or a woman who doesn’t enjoy her life.

Other locations mentioned in the poems are the Mediterranean and Brazil. Not only are cities in the region of the Mediterranean the main inspiration for various poems, but Sophia also focused on Ancient Gods and myths, such as Elektra and the Minotaur. From the couple of poems about Brazil, the one that caught my interest the most was ‘Poema de Helena Lanari’, which is about the sound of Brazilian Portuguese and its open vowels. There is also a poem about Manuel Bandeira, a Brazilian poet whom she was a fan of in her youth.

He is not the only poet mentioned in the collection. Federico García Lorca, who died during the Spanish civil war, also has a poem dedicated to him – ‘Túmulo de Lorca’ – in the second section of the book. That segment is titled ‘Procelária’, a type of bird that announces a tempest, which is apt, as many of the poems featured in it delve into what is wrong in society. The struggle for a better world is explored in ‘Esta Gente’, which has a strong, impactful final stanza. ‘Cidade dos Outros’ also has a great rhythm throughout.

Very rarely do all the poems in a collection shine equally. If I could have highlighted various other poems that impressed me, it’s also true that a couple are unremarkable and forgettable. Reading poetry by Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen is never a waste of time, however.


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