Portuguese American Journal

Poem: ‘Setting Out’ by George Monteiro

An original poem by George Monteiro (*)

Emily Dickinson was born on December 10, 1830. One of the most celebrated American poets, she died on May 15, 1886. Dickinson’s first Brazilian translator, the poet Manuel Bandeira, said that the high quality of Dickinson’s poetry was that she wrote “like a man.” He meant it as a compliment. Writing in the 1940s, it was the highest compliment he could give the great American woman poet. Of course, the world knows better. Writing poems to be shown only, as terms it in one of her most celebrated poems, to a “select society,” she rejected all publication. Her “mind,” as she said, was not up for “auction.” Only in 1890, four years after her death in her fifty-sixth year, did there appear a modest selection of her remarkable work, entitled, simply, Poems. These were followed, in the same decade, by the publication of Poems, Second Series, and Poems, Third Series. The rest is history.


Setting Out


Mornings, before starting down to
her day, she salted the pocket of her
clean apron with a pencil stub and
a scrap of paper, folded once—so
that she need not search about for
the wherewithal to squirrel away a
sudden thought or secure a singular
word, as she played at domesticity.


Sept. 22, 2013



George Monteiro, professor emeritus of English and of Portuguese and Brazilian Studies at Brown University, is the author or editor of books on Henry James, Henry Adams, Robert Frost, Stephen Crane, Emily Dickinson, Fernando Pessoa, and Luis de Camões, among others. He served as Fulbright lecturer in American Literature in Brazil–São Paulo and Bahia–Ecuador and Argentina; and as Visiting Professor in UFMG in Belo Horizonte. In 2007 he served as Helio and Amelia Pedroso / Luso-American Foundation Professor of Portuguese, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Among his recent books are Stephen Crane’s Blue Badge of Courage, Fernando Pessoa and Nineteenth-Century Anglo-American Literature, The Presence of Pessoa, The Presence of Camões, Conversations with Elizabeth Bishop, Critical Essays on Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Fernando Pessoa and Nineteen-Century Anglo-American Literature and Elizabeth Bishop in Brazil and After: A poetic Career Transformed. Among his translations are Iberian Poems by Miguel Torga, A Man Smiles at Death with Half a Face by José Rodrigues Miguéis, Self-Analysis and Thirty Other Poems by Fernando Pessoa, and In Crete, with the Minotaur, and Other Poems by Jorge de Sena. He has also published two collections of poems, The Coffee Exchange and Double Weaver’s Knot. More…

Recent Posts by Professor George Monteiro

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