“The Condition of the Verses”

Original by Maria Teresa Horta
Translated, from the Portuguese, by Edite Cunhā and M.B. McLatchey


I am of the condition of the verses
with eagerness rescued

I have a pact with the angels
I recognize the trace of light
I want the rigor of words

I sing the flame of poetry
in the most bitter extravagance

I write the excess
with the pain of the blaze
in the desire to be the splendor

And if in each poem
I invent flight
with my poetic voice

I choose lava

“Da condição dos versos”

Sou da condição
dos versos
com avidez resgatada

Tenho um trato com os anjos
conheço o traço da luz
quero o rigor das palavras

Canto a chama
da poesia
na desmesura mais amarga

Escrevo o excesso
com a pena do fulgor
no desejo de ser o esplendor

E se em cada poema
invento o voo
com a minha voz poética

eu escolho a lava

Maria Teresa Horta was born in Lisbon, Portugal in 1937. At 82 years old, Horta continues to be recognized for her association with two fellow poets, Maria Isabel Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa. In 1971, during the fascist Estado Novo regime the three women (known thereafter as “The Three Marias”) wrote a collaborative work entitled Novas Cartas Portuguese (New Portuguese Letters). The book was banned, resulting in a trial that attracted worldwide attention and identified the three writers as feminist icons. In 1974 the regime fell, and the charges were dropped. Nevertheless, the imprint of an oppressive regime endured for Horta – both in her consciousness and in her poetry. Horta has always considered herself, first and foremost, a poet. She has published 21 collections of poetry. She has also worked as a journalist for several Lisbon publications during the 1960s (one of the few women to do so) and interviewed such renowned literary figures as Simone de Beauvoir, Marguerite Duras, and Christa Wolf. She edited the magazine, Mulheres (Women) and wrote plays and fiction pieces. She is most renowned as a poet and political activist. She lives in Portugal.

Edite Cunhā is a writer, artist, and activist who believes that creativity can transform the individual as well as society. She leads multi-media art and writing workshops for people of all ages. Cunhā has a BA from Smith College and an MFA from Warren Wilson College. She lives in Massachusetts.

M.B. McLatchey earned her graduate degree in Comparative Literature at Harvard University, her Master of Art in Teaching at Brown University, and her B.A. from Williams College. She was awarded the American Poet Prize from the American Poetry Journal and won the 2013 May Swenson Award for her debut poetry collection, The Lame God (Utah State University Press), and she was a Finalist in the New Women’s Voices Competition for her book, Advantages of Believing (Finishing Line Press). Her most recent book, Beginner’s Mind, will be published by Regal House Publishing in 2021 and explores the question, “How should we educate our children?” Currently serving as Florida’s Poet Laureate for Volusia County, she is an Associate Professor of Classics at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Visit her at www.mbmclatchey.com.