I’ve had my eye on a bunch of little Penguin Moderns since they first came out and I saw their beautiful, pale green covers on Instagram. Even more so when I read their list of titles, featuring so many authors I’d been wanting to read for ages. One thing I love about these little books (same goes for the little black classics), is that they’re a cheap, small taste of an author’s style, which is a great way to see if you and that author are a match.
I picked up seven Penguin Moderns, one of which was I Have More Souls than One by Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa was a Portuguese poet, born in Lisbon in 1888, not particularly well known during his life, but well known after his death in 1935 for his use of ‘heteronyms,’ an imaginary character used by authors to explore different styles. Heteronyms differ from pseudonyms in the way that they are characters with their own personalities, beliefs and writing styles, whereas pseudonyms are merely fake names in which an author uses.
I Have More Souls than One has four sections, each dedicated to a heteronym and finally the last being Pessoa. In total, there are 24 poems in this 56-page collection. The interesting thing about Pessoa, and his use of heteronym, is that the authors of the poems all hold very different and sometimes opposing views and beliefs. I often find that poetry collections are hit and miss, as some poems appeal while others don’t, but the use of heteronyms take this common finding in poetry collections and take it to the extreme. Though there is one thing the same about each poem – Pessoa’s extraordinary talent shines through, and I’m hard-pressed to find a poem that I really didn’t like.
I read this book over a few nights, even though it’s small, I find I either read poetry very quickly or very slowly. Generally, if I read a collection quickly, I miss some of the impact of the poems, but from the very beginning I knew I didn’t want to miss the impact of any of Pessoa’s poetry. Despite the varying beliefs held by each heteronym, I found myself connecting to many more poems in this collection than I thought I would, which I think is mostly testament to Pessoa’s writing style.
This one small collection of work has made Fernando Pessoa one of my absolute favourite poets, and I am extremely eager to devour Pessoa’s entire body of work.
How Many Stars?
I gave I Have More Souls than One five out of five stars.