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Maria Teresa Horta

Translated by Lesley Saunders


Though perishable

it will invent itself,

the poem

With a wrench of the hand

out of the ineffable

With lines of skilfulness

and thistle

between sonnet and sonata

Cantata and violin


Who can know

the soul

of poets?

The flame

of bewilderment

the ardour agape

Who can comprehend

the ineffable

the flight of hidden wings

Whisper of the invisible


time missteps


As fate prostrates me

and I raise myself

ignoring the assault with sleight of hand

The fever of foliage at the root

of silence

The blackness of fear

nicking the skin

Death has fallen sick

the delicacy of its wing

the cleft in the soul self-entangled

The burning doubt

that is never quenched

but goes on tormenting me my life through



I disquiet the wildest feelings

my embrace a vast space

I fly in the face of love

disobey and dismantle

I mislay my boundaries

set fires incessantly

insist on tracing the female

seize hold tear up go wild

I stand in the way of my fate

contradict what I hear

block my ears to what they tell me

make believe replace make do

refuse to be my own mirror-image

ravaging all my dreams

I flout their rules of delusion

float off wherever I choose

I am witch

I am sorceress

I am poetess and unloosed

I write

and spit on the blaze

(from Point of Honour: Selected Poems of Maria Teresa Horta, Two Rivers Press 2018)


Maria Teresa studied at the School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon. She was part of the Portuguese Feminist Movement, together with Isabel Maria Barreno and Maria Velho da Costa, known as the Three Maries. They launched the book Novas Cartas Portuguesas, which had a great impact back in the dictatorship times. She published a number of texts in newspapers, including Diário de Lisboa, A Capital, República, O Século, Diário de Notícias and Jornal de Letras e Artes, among others. She was also editor in chief of the magazine Mulheres. She was a militant for the Portuguese Communist Party for 14 years. She published around 40 books, including poetry and fiction. She was awarded the Prémio D. Dinis 2011 from Fundação Casa de Mateus for her book "As Luzes de Leonor”, the Prémio Consagração de Carreira da Sociedade Portuguesa de Autores and the Prémio Literário Casino da Póvoa 2021, among others.

Lesley Saunders’ most recent poetry collections are This Thing of Blood & Love (Two Rivers Press, 2022) and, with Rebecca Swainston, Days of Wonder (Hippocrates Press, 2021), a record of the first year of the Covid pandemic. Her translations – including the poem that won the 2016 Stephen Spender award – of renowned Portuguese poet Maria Teresa Horta were published as Point of Honour (Two Rivers Press, 2019). Lesley works with artists, sculptors, musicians and dancers as well as other poets. She is a visiting professor at UCL Institute of Education, and an honorary research fellow at Oxford University Department of Education.

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