- Portugal -
Teresa Melo (1991) is a Portuguese poet and writer. She has a degree in Political Science and International Relations (FCSH-UNL), a MA in Sciences of Communication (FCSH-UNL) and a MA in Women's Studies (FCSH-UNL). Her current research is situated within feminist theories on contemporary art, focusing on visual practices informed by and committed to ethics of care and reproductive justice.
Melo’s first poetry book As abelhas não dançam bachatas (Cas’a Edições) was published in Brazil in 2021. It carries a strong tone on the poetics of bodies andsexualities. She is also the author of fiction short stories including Fish Gold (Cupim, 2022); Chronicle of Santa Teresa (Subversa, 2021) and the visual art work The Witch and the Fruits (Laboratório d’Estórias). In 2022 she wrote the essay Free Love: Notes for sexual emancipation and social transformation. Alexandra Kollontai's new sexual morality (in Por uma História com Mulheres, 2022). The writer is currently based in Lisbon.
BY ITS FULL NAME: THE POETRY OF TERESA MELO
Teresa Melo, writer, born in 1991, has a degree in political science and international relations; her current work leans on the study of feminist theories in disputes for spaces and languages by means of visual arts and poetry. Melo is the author of As abelhas não dançam bachatas (Cas’a Edições, 2021), several texts and essays published in the field.
From her poetry writing, we propose a brief reading from the work it embodies:
what an ambiguous way this is
hidden pleasure of vice
not knowing if you exist or if you happen to me.
(MELO, 2021, p.29)
The ambiguity of a section in something dense: the poetry. A section that acknowledges the real which is not contained by it but addresses it, a section that acknowledges and celebrates itself. Poem, the scar that sings, the hiss of a lost insect, the nostalgia of a time when time was slowness. Extended slow time, the exaltation between what exists and what happens that collides in the intensity of a self, skewed pronoun: “me” in which we could recognize a singular poetic voice that sings the ambiguity of life. And if “whoever builds a poem builds their signature, their address, their testimony” (LOPES, 2019, p.169) we can recognize, in this poetry, the acknowledgement of a language that exists and happens within a noun, naming them as word and body, like the unsettled doubt in which the poetic self beholds: the fortune of “not knowing”.
Word and body that come together amid the issues to which Teresa Melo addresses as a researcher: “the comprehension of every array of experiences of desire through the sexual act that may lead to inner growth. […] Besides the organic stimulations, could a union lead to the alteration of emotional systems, as well as systems of thought” (MELO, 2022, p.118); and of writing, we could add, having studied the author’s poems and short stories. Thus, this poetry would enact its ethics, its way of witnessing and transforming, which is something a poem strives to (LOPES, 2019, p.171), by means of approaching sensibility, a woman’s body and her thought, all expressed in a “poetry [that] isn’t deaf” (MELO, 2021, p.29) to the calls that come to her.
Poetry bounds to write what it listens: “inside and outside of me, words wither, exaltation remains slow.” (p.13). Standing before the euphoria of a raging world, the voice of Teresa Melo suggests the articulation of words in which through poetics weaken the intents of a power-based language
s that violates body, landscapes, thoughts. An exaltation that remains slow “because homeostasis is necessary for the skins to know each other” (p.23). Knowledge, one of the words for sexuality and erotism, words censored to women along with the censorship of their bodies (CIXOUS, 2022, p.51), a space to exist and happen in these verses, “a heart enraptured in sweat” in whose center is the hiss of a girl metamorphosed into an insect:
It didn’t take long for her to feel that she was no longer the same creature. The tiny eyes were not ready yet to discover the altered body, but she could feel very well the unusual weightlessness and elasticity. The waist was thinner than a clothing pin and two pairs of wings created the suspension of the body. At the top of the head, she had two strong antennae like spiky hair. The voice was more hissed. She did not see herself in the mirror, but she knew this devilish-imp was the core of her desire.
One day, I went by the riverside to the woods. The tepid mist painted the landscape. I asked for the girl. “She ran way in a gust of wind!”, “she went mad because she foiled destiny!”. The truth is that no one saw her again, but under the fig tree her hiss is still heard (MELO, 2018, [s/d]).
Whether bee or butterfly (MELO, 2021, p.7), the body told by Teresa Melo is that of a woman in its unique pleasure summoned to fight, answering to what appeals to her, because “feminism is not a humanism. Feminism is an animalism. In other words, animalism is a dilated feminism and not an anthropocentrism” (PRECIADO, 2020, p.132). And this is the same poetic body that sings: “and two undecided hands/ climbing through the words of the body” (MELO, 2021, p.39) because “I soon learnt to speak with the pulps of my fingers” (p. 53) to have pleasure with the words that sprout from them:
the organic support of silence
holds the memory of the parts
and I mean the fingertips
that like roots
invent words anew (p.41)
Poetry made with the edge of limbs, in which the materiality of skin, muscles and sinews, the matter
s of the body, will witness the geometry in which poetry exists and happens, beyond and beneath the self, in the feminine word that is more body than word (CASTELLO BRANCO, 1991, p.76) and word-matter of poetry. Body and word sisterly connected to the writings of Maria Teresa Horta, one of the notable presences in the voice of the homonymous author: “Saying about the body/ the body of poetry// The shoulders/ the breasts/ the belly that kidnaps [...] Thinking about the body/ the body of poetry// More fingers than hands [...]” (HORTA, 2003, p.125-126).
Poem that says, thinks and writes body and poetry, the erotism of an uncomfortable love letter: “from this sleep I see her body in harp. the grapefruit-stromb lips, the talking hands, her gaze asking me for water. dressed in paleness, ribbed syllables, she carries sunflower stamens tied to her waist. her head is crowned with the moon. in the air she touches and disturbs the enormous sky to embroider it with green.” (MELO, 2021, p.49). This syllable’s rib without the hierarchy of the capital letters in which the teeth attempt to hold, in which the blow won’t allow for it is nerve and air, witnesses the desired poetic: a body asleep, exalted in harp, singing instrument, hands that speak as much, or even more, than the tongue, tongue that dresses in paleness near the disturbance of nature. The pleasure of language embroidering the geometry of an exalted and slow body.
Essay by Jonas Samudio
Translation and adaptation by Pedro Melo Rocha
BUTTERFLY / MARIPOSA
in a circular blow, in that swirling motion of a butterfly, they finally feel closer to solidness. the wings spread, the light body landing in the desert, a landscape with no imitations. the heartstones, the dry thunderstorms, the coral skeletons, the ageing climbing vines, the iodine of burnt dunes, the eyes flooded with rain, the metal mountains, the hexagonal of the teeth stamped on the skin, the marine fluids, the naked tiles, the joyful addiction of rockroses, the aerial drumming of the fingers. little by little, the words breathe. they are already less tired.
and if only they had known shame. if only the wounded tongues had listened to each other to contradict the past, they would no longer cry crystals. as if between the two breasts blue veins, freshwater rivers and the gentleness of the universe had been carved. in silence, they sow archipelagos of new names for the world.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
DAWNS / MANHÃS
some dawns are tangerine buds. cupped hands. warm, blushing, half-full moons. in insomnias, all elements swell in a dance of pyrotechnics and giant chants. the reading is vague, open to false portraits. yet, in mysterious whispers, the oracle's predictions advance. from serene glare to metaphor.
some dawns are fire. they are lit, they awaken in solar arteries, the most breathless of all. the female in fury. resilient, trembling from the roots of the thighs to the mouth, they cling to the expression. they are the adolescent saliva of the sexes and let themselves flow like serpents.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
BLACK / NEGRO
that is how you thought I looked good
wearing the slow Sundays on my black hair.
Sundays the flowers hidden
in the tangle of my black hair.
with your invertebrate Sundays
I fixed my black hair
petals on a wet stem.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
IN THEORY YOU NO LONGER EXIST / NA TEORIA JÁ NÃO EXISTES
on days when confusion has the porous thickness of bones and burns itself into citrus buds, I lean to the last daisies of autumn. I am lying in the linens of Sunday. inside and outside of me, words wither, exaltation remains slow. eyelids close among spectres and I see hibiscus. today, I sing landscape and collect myself into things I no longer distinguish.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
THE ESTROUS OF THE EARTH IS POETRY / O CIO DA TERRA É A POESIA
I float and I am the virgin bird that loves
its first flight with the precision
and the resistance of the rocks in fire.
I cross the orbits the nerves
the immersion of tears.
it still rains on the cornfield
that adorns the vagina with petals
sesame curcuma and longing.
it was not the snakes
the flowers of a single night
the tumults in sleep the evil eye
but astrological phenomena
thrown to the groans of the earth.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
CYANOTYPE / CIANOTIPIA
the uneven lines of the skin
the pores in omen
the fingers chattering with bees
a bit of spilled semen
the vertical trail of an aeroplane
across the lunar disc
two jade birds suspended
the lights go out
the incense smoulders.
the last image in the intercilium
it is an indigo blue mountain.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
HUMUS / HÚMUS
occasionally and the edges are just natural things:
like saying that thistles are tame
that flamingos fly to Saturn
and it is in the moisture of the earth
that world gets completed.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
BIRD / AVE
the cardiac turbulence of veins
polished in wood and round minutes
when sopranos give the C upstairs
and maniacs drink the broth of late peaches
a specific sound is harvested:
the laughter of birds.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
HOMEOSTASIS / HOMEOSTASIA
nor the placidity of idleness
I put the bodies in their place
and let myself be
because homeostasis is necessary
for the skins to know each other.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
INTERLUDE / INTERLÚDIO
what an ambiguous way this is
hidden pleasure of vice
not knowing if you exist or if you happen to me.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
WOMB-SONG / CANÇÃO-VENTRE
it is the voracious carnivore
woven in lace and drizzle
the camellia that caresses the womb
the touch of a hasty tongue
and dances in the purest trepidation
of nerves, of water.
female in tears and pearls
in fear is fascination
that whispers in flames
or dwells in silence
and enters love anyhow
when it invokes the delirium of nature
that is my raging body.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
EQUINOX / EQUINÓCIO
when summer entered us
you offered me autumn
and I gave you the freedom of my body
broken into flowers.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
PEONY / PEÓNIA
I recognize you when you lay me down
– me, awake in a studied pose.
and in the murmur of the night
I release my body at last
to the shuddering silence.
as if fear were aesthetic
not knowing that it is the mystery that explores us
we secretly love the beauty.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
CITY / CIDADE
I don’t fit in anymore
nor in the rush hours
nor when the city wakes up
I want the soft mornings
and the organicity of thirst.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
FENNEL SILENCE / SILÊNCIO ERVA-DOCE
this is how beauty manifests:
the voice is fire
silence is fennel
and two undecided hands
climbing through the words of the body.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DRAW ROOTS / NÃO SEI DESENHAR RAÍZES
the organic support of silence
holds the memory of the parts
and I mean the fingertips
which like roots
invent the words anew.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
ATOM / ÁTOMO
notice two just bodies
the direction is equal:
they sense each other in the collision of movement
of each atom of silence
each atom of silence
the gestation of a new fruit.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
ICHILO / ICHILO
the scales were shed
and the veins were exposed
in her slow pouring
a line of acute delayed sap
© Teresa Melo
as it undulates through the good earth meandering.
in the sleepless night
I birthed a new river.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
AN UNCOMFORTABLE LOVE LETTER / UMA CARTA INCÓMODA DE AMOR
from this sleep I see her body in harp. the grapefruit-stromb lips, the talking hands, her gaze asking me for water. dressed in paleness, ribbed syllables, she carries sunflower stamens tied to her waist. her head is crowned with the moon. in the air she touches and disturbs the enormous sky to embroider it with green.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
SANTIAGO / SANTIAGO
I escape the confusion of the core
to contemplate the exotic plants
the amber plumage of birds
and the verbal privileges of the spirit.
I soon learnt to speak with the pulps of my fingers
they are expert swimmers of short dances.
in the half shade the impulses
have roots and the foliage is tender.
I never drank neither fire nor time
but I have understood that a heart enraptured in sweat
it is the best material for observation
because it amplifies the way we go inward
or seek to get out of ourselves.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
BEES DON’T DANCE BACHATAS / AS ABELHAS NÃO DANÇAM BACHATAS
in the bare room of furniture
the bee with the sleep of a troubled heart
lands on the bed dropping its fragile body
and falls asleep.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
PICO TURQUINO / PICO TURQUINO
from time to time
to remember the oblique line around your teeth
the slithering tongue groping my womb
chews the burns
detaches and dismantles in perfume
the places where candid tigers are born.
I still have the Pico Turquino’s fever
that usual unsuspecting
the balm that knows the bereft moans
and the tiny mysteries
against the wall it chases
in the rush of the silverfish
when they hide from the light
you are murmur
the ethyl relief of the night.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
CALLE BARTOLOMÉ MASÓ / CALLE BARTOLOMÉ MASÓ
of our mouths painted red with zapote
we spread saliva in bartolomé masó
saliva of raw fictions
of casualties and nameless physiognomies.
and passing through the variations of taste
and residues of imagination
we recognise within this island of the Antilles
how many roars two bodies can compose.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
TIERRA CALIENTE / TIERRA CALIENTE
sitting on the terrace
getting dazed with coffee
collecting the bibliography
assigning adjectives to principles
and to misplaced ends
sighing in Baracoa.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
GARDENIAS / GARDÉNIAS
I moved from one place to another.
I jumped into the scent
I got up and opened the window
struck by the clarity of the manners.
I recognized echoes and fires
the mountains of copper and other minerals
I saw orchards in bloom reasons alone
fruit sellers in waning moons
welcome the bongos in ecstasy
joyful at the dance of the stars.
what I observed
it was the disintegration of geometry
and I drank with all my thirst
the rum the saliva the words and the days.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo
SEA / MAR
we were sitting in front of the sea
leaning against the ruins of an old house.
the fish came close to the surface
seducing us with their silver mouths
because they sang
but we didn't speak the language of fish
only the one of absolute women.
we follow the image of the plants
the quiet and the naivety of the spirits
while we knitted the delirium
purple of fruits and veins.
it was then that night fell
and we entered the boat
everything that wasn't was too.Translated by Nuno Fontes Nunes and Teresa Melo