Antonio Botto was one of Portugal's first openly gay writers, a poete maudit whose unapologetic and candid verses about homosexual life and passion were both praised and reviled when they appeared in Portuguese in 1922 under the title Cancoes. Botto's poetic voice-confessional, personal, and intimate-revels and luxuriates in eroticism while expressing the ache of longing, silence, and suffering. Yet for all of his acclaim and toriety-he was both hailed as one of the great poets of his day and condemned for his frank depictions of male-male desire-Botto and his work fell into oblivion after his death. The Songs of Antonio Botto recovers this important, urgent voice in modern poetry by making available-for the first time since its private publication in 1948-the English-language translation of Cancoes that Botto's friend and artistic collaborator, Fernando Pessoa, completed in 1933. Pessoa, Portugal's preeminent modernist literary figure, considered Botto the only Portuguese poet worthy of the label aesthete and, as a critic and publisher, championed his work. Featuring an introduction to Botto's work and Pessoa's previously unpublished foreword to the 1948 edition as well as a new translation of Botto's 1941 elegy to Pessoa, The Songs of Antonio Botto establishes Botto as a pioneering figure in modern gay literature and places him alongside C. P. Cavafy and Federico Garcia Lorca as one of the major poetic voices of the twentieth century.
Antonio Botto (1897-1959) published more than twenty volumes of poetry, short stories, children's tales, and dramas during his lifetime. He worked as a civil servant in colonial Angola and Lisbon until, in 1942, he was dismissed from his post for lacking moral character. In 1947, he emigrated to Brazil with his wife. He was fatally struck by a car in Copacabana in 1959.