By Sofia Jesus

Robert Frost once said “poetry is what gets lost in translation”. But Macau-based poet and translator Yao Feng once told me, in an interview, that, although there is always “something that gets lost,” the translator’s challenge lies on “turning the poem of the language of departure still the poem in the language of arrival”.

Viver em Pleno Vento (To Live in Plain Wind, in English) is a bilingual edition — in Portuguese and Chinese — that gathers a collection of 60 poems written by acclaimed Portuguese author Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen between 1944 and 1989 and translated by Yao Feng, the pseudonym of Yao Jing Ming.

I started reading Sophia through her children’s books. Beautiful stories such as A Menina do Mar (The Girl of the Sea, in English), A Fada Oriana (The Fairy Oriana) or O Cavaleiro da Dinamarca (The Knight from Denmark) fueled my imagination — and the imagination of hundreds of children, I’m sure.

Then, as I grew up, I discovered another Sophia. The one from the poems that made me wonder. Some appeared to me full of sadness. Others full of hope.

In the book Viver em Pleno Vento, there is fog and sea and flowers and moonlight, along with love and loneliness and wait.

But there is also people. And their fights. Esta Gente (This People) ends like this: “And I restart the quest / For a freed country / For a clean life / And for a fair time.”

And the four verses of 25 de Abril (April 25th, the date of the 1974 revolution in Portugal that put an end to dictatorship there) go something like this: “This is the dawn I had been waiting for / The initial day whole and clean / Where we emerged from the night and the silence / And free inhabit the substance of time.”

I do not dare to translate Sophia. Or any poet, actually. I just wanted to share some lines with you in the hope you will get curious to read her work.

Sophia passed away in 2004. In the poem Regressarei (I Will Return), she wrote: “I will return to the poem as to the motherland and to the house.” I too will keep returning to her poems and stories. To remind me how to live in plain wind.


Viver em Pleno Vento

Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen

Bilingual Edition (Portuguese and Chinese)

Translation by Yao Feng

Camões – Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua / Instituto Português do Oriente