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In The Open Wind
by Aristides De Almeida Filho
ISBN: 978-1-886420-32-8

From the Author's Introduction

What do we know? Read at will. Out of many winds, each poem has some clues and hints to a story. And if your questions narrow down to one: from where does In The Open Wind come?, I tell you it is unlikely that this question will ever be fully resolved.

See, the evidence here is scanty, for the author's journal is not yet available in English. He said not, heard not, moved not, only felt words visit and mingle through his blood until they lived on their own. And, as those words pass and meet, allow him to requite your curiosity by telling you a few of the stories.

Epistulae Ex Ponto pictures the Roman poet Naso Publius Ovidius (Ovid) writing a letter, reflecting on his fate. He says the villagers are illiterates, but in fact it is his displacement that bothers him. Then Ovid searches for relief by sensing that waves are a vast poem.

Ovid was an acclaimed poet of Rome. His path from fame to disgrace to the end of his life began in AD 8 when, by an order of the imperial cabinet and without judicial process, he was exiled to a village on an island in the Black Sea. Several reasons might have been behind his banishment: the erotic poems, political intrigues, an alleged involvement with the granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus. All requests for revision of the imperial edict were denied. Ovid died in exile.

Things Hidden Since The Beginning Of The World began during a radio broadcast heard on a boat near Gothenburg, Sweden. A poet listening to the broadcast saw a butterfly set out to sea, and then he thought he heard the radio bring the news: "A disaster happened today in Gothenburg. After setting out to sea, a butterfly drowned." He looked around to see if somebody else had seen the butterfly and heard the news.

A daemon makes things change in Nature; it is in the hidden genius of Nature. The sense of freedom, yet being a part of everything--Daemon--came to a poet lying by a fire one cold night as he looked at sparks flying and remembered the German mystic Meister Eckhart.

In Venice responds to a legend. One day, while San Marco was en route to Rome, his boat went to the Venetian islands. San Marco rested there. As he slept an angel appeared and gave his blessing with the world, Pax tibi, Marco, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum. ("May the peace be with you, Marco, my evangelist. In this place your body will rest.") It is said that is the place where now lies the cathedral of San Marco.

Carved in stone, the Italian words praise the virtues of the Venetian Republic. In the 14th century, a conspirator, Bajamonte planned to overthrow the doge Pietro Gradenigo. However, a certain Marco Donato warned the doge. In San Agostino (San Stin) the house of Bajamonte was knocked down. In its place, the Venetians built a monument called The Column of Infamy with the following inscription: Di Bajamonte fo questo tereno/E mo per lo so iniquo tradimento/S'e posto in chomun per l'altrui spavento/E per mostrar a tutti sempre seno ("This land was the property of Bajamonte/And now because of his infamous treachery/The community owns it for the edification of others/May all be informed by these words at all times.")

In The Powers of Horror there is a question, "Can you describe this?" The question relates to the story told by the Russian poet Ana Akhmatova in the opening of her Requiem. She spent seventeen months in the prison queues of Leningrad looking for her son. One day someone recognized her and said, "You are Akhmatova the poet, aren't you?" Then a woman behind, who had never heard the name of Akhmatova, whispered in Akhmatova's ear: "Could you describe this?" Akhmatova recalled: "I said, 'I can!' Then something resembling a smile slipped over what once been [the woman's] face."

Wanderlust conveys a sense of being lost and feeling good. Not knowing the road in advance does not matter. When the traveler departs the road begins, and the journey makes the road.

Between the Acts was written when a poet, as a young man, was living in Switzerland some years before his father's death. The day came when the poet's father, arose from sleep, opened a closet, picked up a shotgun, turned the gun against himself, and fired. The explosion ripped his jaw. Blood dripped from his sleeping hammock. The father, an obstetrician who gave life to others, had taken his own. The father's death became a subject of gossip: Are they all mad? Did the family betray the father, or was it the father who betrayed his family? The poem turned out to be an omen. And those who create out of the madness of their inheritance anything more than a self-made tomb are known as survivors. This is art.

Rus is a Latin word for Russia. In spite of the title, the words about the last days of the Russian poet Ossip Mandelstam are quite simple. In 1934 Mandelstam was arrested for the first time. He wrote a satirical poem about Stalin, the "Kremlin's mountaineer," mentioning his "cockroach whiskers" and "fingers fat as worms." Emma Gershtein, a scholar close to the Mandelstams, said Ossip read it to everyone and Stalin found out. Genrikh Yagoda, head of the secret police, signed the arrest order. Mandelstam spent three years exiled in Voronej and died in a deportation wagon one day, nobody knows which day, in 1938. Some say he became crazy at that time.

What do we know? Robert Graves once pointed out "the paradox of poetry's obstinate continuance" in our times and offered an explanation: perhaps it is "the feeling that poetry, since it defies scientific analysis, must be rooted in some sort of magic, and that magic is disreputable." Graves says also that poems are based "on magic principles, the rudiments of which formed a close religious secret for centuries but which were at last garbled, discredited and forgotten. Now it is only by rare accidents of spiritual regression that poets make their lines magically potent in the ancient sense. Otherwise, the contemporary practice of poem-writing recalls the medieval alchemist's fantastic and foredoomed experiments in transmuting base metal into gold; except that the alchemist did at least recognize pure gold when he saw and handled it. The truth is that only gold ore can be turned into gold; only poetry into poems."

Rus was written after I realized my poems would never be published in my own country. I was wandering near a lake at sunset. The sky was full of red, orange, and purple. Clouds were running over the plains. Then a companion, without invitation or appointment--Rus--arrived, as if the evening could pass only when words came. What do we know?

About the Author

Aristides is a poet from Brazil.