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António Osório

António Osório

António Osório

(Portugal, 1933)
António Osório was born in 1933 and published his first book in 1972, when he was almost forty. Descended from a family with an impressive literary and artistic tradition – Ana de Castro Osório (1872–1935), for instance, was one of Portugal’s first writers of children’s literature and also published the first edition of the greatest work of Portuguese symbolist poetry, Clepsidra, by Camilo Pessanha – António Osório pursued a career in law. He served both as the head of the Portuguese Bar Association and as president of the Portuguese Association for Environmental Law. This concern for the environment is reflected in his poetry, which can justifiably be called ‘ecological’. 
From the very first books, A Raiz Afectuosa (The Affectionate Root) and A Ignorância da Morte (Ignorance of Death), which were self-published in the 1970s, Osório’s poetry has paid impassioned, meticulous and astonished attention to the infinite variety of beings and things that surround us. It is a hymn to diversity, a kind of Noah’s ark providing shelter for practitioners of nearly extinct professions such as shoeshine boys and pavers who work with stone, for humble creatures such as the domesticated rabbit or the firefly of rural nights, and even for the rusty tractor doomed to the junkyard.

This conservationist vocation is mirrored in his writing, which has never accommodated the stylistic ruptures proposed by vanguard movements, preferring instead a tranquil, peaceful diction, which is not on that account less intense. It is the appropriate register for a poetry that avoids emotional extremes – erotic passion, anger, despair, ecstasy – to express more subtle and discreet nuances of human sentimentality: serene affection for an aunt, the wonder of watching children grow up, the appreciation of a patient when he hears a nightingale sing on the fence outside the hospital, the mixture of joy and sad nostalgia felt visiting places frequented by one\'s parents when they were first in love, and even simple kindliness, that so singularly human virtue which rarely gets its due. In an increasingly frenetic world, serenity can become a moral imperative. In a poem consisting of only five linea, Osório writes: “The contrary / of hysteria, of barbarity. // Bird migrating / discreetly / over continents.”

Osório has a particularly remarkable talent for making a perfectly conventional sequence of words – a stock phrase we’ve all heard in daily speech – provoke a shock as strong as the most unexpected association of ideas produced by a skilled surrealist. Consider the final lines of the poem ‘I still take refuge’. The poem is built around the absence of the narrator’s father, an absence made palpable by an inventory of things they shared: the honeysuckle, the stove, the bougainvillea that needs to be pruned. And then the poem abruptly closes with: “Mother / isn’t here and isn’t coming back.” This piece of information is conveyed to the father, in such a manner that we, the readers, are at a loss to say what moves us more: the obvious grief of the orphaned son or the hypothetical grief of the dead man whom the son addresses. In any case, it is the very plainness of that final sentence that goes a long way to making it so poignant.
© Miguel Queirós (Translated by Richard Zenith)

A Raiz Afectuosa, author’s edition, Lisbon, 1972
A Ignorância da Morte, author’s edition, Lisbon, 1978
O Lugar do Amor, Gota de Água, Oporto, 1981
Décima Aurora, Regra do Jogo, Lisbon, 1982
Adão, Eva e o Mais, Imprensa Nacional/Casa da Moeda, Lisbon, 1983
Aforismos Mágicos, Gota de Água, Oporto, 1985
Planetário e Zoo dos Homens, Presença, Lisboa, 1990
Ofício dos Touros, Imprensa Nacional/Casa da Moeda, Lisbon, 1991
Crónica da Fortuna, Quetzal, Lisboa, 1997
Bestiário, Elo, Mafra, 1997
Libertação da Peste, Gótica, Lisbon, 2002
Casa das Sementes (selected poems), Assírio & Alvim, 2006

A Mitologia Fadista, Horizonte, Lisbon, 1984
O Amor de Camilo Pessanha, Elo, Mafra, 2005
Vozes Íntimas, Assírio & Alvim, Lisbon, 2008

In Spanish
Breve Bestiário, Francisco Rivas Editor, Madrid, 1981 (Tr. José António Llardent)
Antología Poética, Olifante, Zaragoza, 1986 (Tr. Ángel Crespo)
Planetario y Zoo de los Hombres, La Calle de la Costa, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1993 (Tr. Pilar Fernández Hernández)
Adán, Eva y lo Demás, Huerga y Fierro, Madrid (Tr. Pilar Férnandez Hernández and Ernesto García Cejas)
El Lugar del Amor, Olifante, Zaragoza, 2006 (Tr. Pilar Férnandez Hernández and Ernesto García Cejas)
In French
Nature du Pollen, Le Taillis Pré, Châtelineau, Belgium, 1998 (Tr. Patrick Quillier)
Les Yeux d’Ulisse, La Différence, Paris, 2006 (Tr. Patrick Quillier)

In Italian
Decima Aurora, Florida, Rome, 1986 (Tr. Carlo Vittorio Cattaneo)
Bestiario, Empiria, Rome, 2004 (Tr. Guia Boni)

Links in Portuguese

An interview with the poet

A critical appreciation by Eduardo Pitta
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Prins Bernhard cultuurfonds
Lira fonds
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère