On June 13th 1888, the most important contemporary Portuguese poet was born in Lisbon: Fernando Pessoa. Pessoa was not a mere poet; he became multiple poets by “inventing” alter-egos (his famous “heteronyms”) who had their own biographies and poetic styles. For instance, while Ricardo Reis (born in Oporto, 1887) had an intellectual almost fatalistic approach to life and poetry, Alvaro de Campos (Tavira, 1890) had different poetic phases, varying from extreme vitalism to a decadent melancholia. Other famous heteronyms are Alberto Caeiro (the master of most of the heteronyms), António Mora, Bernardo Soares, and Fernando Pessoa himself.
I don’t remember when I discovered Fernando Pessoa’s poetry. But what I do remember is that by 2003 Ricardo Reis was already my favorite heteronym. I remember this because I used to call one of the most special friends I have ever had “Lidia” (in English, “Lydia”), one of the women Ricardo Reis addresses to in his poems: