Who Goes With What: van der Rohe/Pessoa

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Introducing a new occasional feature, in which we pair classics of design with their counterparts in poetry and literature.

If your taste runs to the cool, architectural modernism of the Barcelona chair (Mies van der Rohe, 1927), you may also like Fernando Pessoa (1888-1935), the great Portugese modernist who wrote in a variety of ‘heteronyms,’ evidence of which was discovered in a trunk after his death. Sample Pessoa below, writing as Alberto Caiero in the book-length poem The Keeper of Sheep, as translated by Edwin Honig:

III. Leaning over the window sill at sunset

Leaning over the window sill at sunset
And, sidelong, knowing there are fields before me,
I read the book of Cesário Verde
Until my eyes burn.

How sorry I am for him! He was a man of the country
Who walked like a prisoner-at-large through the city.

But the way he looked at houses,

And his way of noticing streets,

And his way of taking things in,

Is the way of someone looking at trees,

Someone lowering his gaze to the road he follows,

Taking in the flowers in the fields….

This is why he had that enormous sadness
He never really said he felt,
But wandered through the city
Like someone ambling in the country
And sad as crushing flowers in a book
and sticking plants in a pot….

— Fernando Pessoa/Alberto Caiero, trans. by Edwin Honig



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