Oyster Boy Review 18  
  Winter 2003–4
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Forbidden Words: Selected Poetry, by Eugénio de Andrade

Jeffery Beam

  Forbidden Words: Selected Poetry.
Eugénio de Andrade.
New Directions Publishing, 2003.
288 pages, $16.95 (paperback).
ISBN: 0811215237

De Andrade's poems devoutly survey the natural world and imbue it and the poet's body with ecstasy. Portugal's most loved and noted living poet, de Andrade's work lightly touches the earth only to vibrate with sexual pantheism. American poetry shamefully rejects and ostracizes such lyric beauty and such weightless poems knitted by dark love. I found myself seduced at every turn, eager to remove my clothes and mate with nature along with de Andrade. The poet lived alone with his mother until the age of nine, and one can feel the private and placid solitude they shared. That time returns again and again as a paradiscal and yet fragile moment. A calm detachment somehow encircles the poems, and yet, at every moment one feels an urgent and passionate sexuality compelling the poet's words. De Andrade knows the purest kind of love—tender strength, masculine sweetness, unrestrainable but confined passion—the contradictions that make life, and poetry, sing. The world's details fill these poems—a tropical overflow engulfing the senses. Musical language enhances them. I hope I'm not misleading you into thinking de Andrade's poems are all sweetness and light. They are filled with semen and horse piss, the muscles of lovers, and the salt of tongues. I don't know that de Andrade is gay, but the homoeroticism in many of the poem point to it. Whatever his orientation, de Andrade is a mystic of the first order—one who knows that in the urges of the physical can be found a spiritual light inherent in all of nature. There are so many poems I wish I could share with you. Here are some moments, at random: "Now I return to your clear body's light. / I recognize an architecture formed / of burning earth and simple, untouched moon . . ." "Leave me along, vegetal and alone, / flowing like a night where the most beautiful adventure / is recorded perfectly / without a single letter." "Far off I see my docile animals. / They are tall and their manes are burning. / . . . They place their muzzles close beside your loins, / where the body's grass is most confused, / and like a creature basking in the sun, / slowly they breathe, soothed and calm." "The word, as you once said, comes / moist from the woods: we must plant it." "I write to make the old / light of crows / a threshold to another summer." This book has moved to my shelf of "take to a desert island" books.