“PORTUGUESE WIRES” by Basiliké Pappa was created from words and phrases found in Letters of a Radio-Engineer to His Son by John Mills (1922) and The Letters of a Portuguese Nun by Marianna Alcoforado (1669), translated by Edgar Prestage (1893). Please click here to read.

About the poem and the process of composing it, Basiliké Pappa writes:

I have never before written a found poem with a certain theme in mind. But the moment I saw that John Mills’ Letters of a Radio-Engineer to His Son was a suggested source, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: mix them up with Letters of a Portuguese Nun and speak of love in terms of electricity.

Defining the structure of my prose poem was easy: there would be five parts, as many as Marianna Alcoforado’s letters to Chevalier de Chamilly, each ideally starting with her opening lines—remixed, of course, with lines by Mills—and each reflecting the emotional state expressed in her original letters.

I moved into my usual procedure of dividing a sheet of paper into two columns and writing down lines from both sources. After combining my first choices, I started reading through the books for phrases to add and words to replace. I also kept some of the original lines from both books intact—they were perfect as they were.

In the introduction to Marianna’s letters, it is mentioned that “the title of ‘Portuguese Letters’ became a generic name applying […] to every kind of correspondence where passion was shown toute nue.” With that in mind, I kept “Portuguese” in the title, substituting the word “Letters” with the “Wires” that so often appear in the letters of John Mills.

My aim was to add a surreal touch to the intensity of love and heartbreak, playing a great game as I go.


Also by Basiliké Pappa at Heron Tree: “How to Become a God and Fade from Sight.”