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Autopsychography

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The poet is a man who feigns
And feigns so thoroughly, at last
He manages to feign as pain
The pain he really feels,

And those who read what once he wrote
Feel clearly, in the pain they read,
Neither of the pains he felt,
Only a pain they cannot sense.

And thus, around its jolting track
There runs, to keep our reason busy,
The circling clockwork train of ours
That men agree to call a heart.



Reprinted by permission of the Estate of Edouard Roditi.
Source: Poetry (Poetry)

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This poem originally appeared in the October 1955 issue of Poetry magazine

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Autopsychography

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  • Poet Fernando António Nogueira Pêssoa was born in Lisbon, Portugal. His father died when Pessoa was five years old, and the family moved with his mother’s new husband, a consul, to Durban, South Africa, where Pessoa attended an English school. At thirteen Pessoa returned to Portugal for a year-long visit, and returned there permanently in 1905. He studied briefly at the University of Lisbon, and began to publish criticism, prose, and poetry soon thereafter while working as a commercial translator.

    During his life, most of Pessoa’s considerable creative output appeared only in journals, and he published just three collections of poetry in English—Antinous (1918), Sonnets (1918), and English Poems (1921)—and one collection in Portuguese, Mensagem (1933).

    In 1914, the year his first poem was published, Pessoa found the three main literary personas, or heteronyms, as he called them, which he would return to throughout his career: Alberto Caeiro, a rural, uneducated...

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