Alexandre O'Neill

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Alexandre O'Neill
Alexandre O'Neill

Alexandre O'Neill (born Alexandre Manuel Vahia de Castro O'Neill de Bulhões) GOSE (December 19, 1924 - August 21, 1986) was a Portuguese poet of partial (and remote) Irish extraction. He was the son of José António Pereira de Eça O'Neill de Bulhões, and wife Maria da Glória Vahia de Barros de Castro, and a paternal grandson of Poet, Journalist and Writer Maria da Conceição Infante de Lacerda Pereira de Eça Custance O'Neill, a Portuguese Spiritualist and a male line descendant of the old Kings of Ulster.

In 1948, O'Neill was among the founders of the Lisbon Surrealist Movement, along with Mário Cesariny, José-Augusto França and others. His witings soon diverged from surrealist to form an original style whose poetry reflects a love/hate relationship with his country.

His most salient characteristics - a disrespect of conventions, both social and literary, an attitude of permanent revolt, playfulness with language, and the use of parody and black humor - are used to form a body of incisive depictions of what is to be Portuguese and his relation with the country.

Although most of his works have been lost or are missing or in private collections some of his work was displayed in 2002 at an exhibit on the Surrealist movement.

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O’Neill was in permanent conflict with Portugal. While other contemporaries wrote poems that protested against national life under Salazar, O’Neill’s attack ran deeper. Poems such as Standing at Fearful Attention and Portugal suggested that the dictatorial regime was a symptom (the worst symptom) of graver ills – lack of courage and smallness of vision – woven into the nation's psyche. Other poems, such as Lament of the Man Who Misses Being Blind, seemed to hold religion and mysticism responsible for an obscurantism that made change difficult if not impossible.

A publicist by profession, famed for inventing some of the most ingenious advertising slogans of his time, O’Neill was unusually adept at manipulating words and using them in an efficacious manner, but he refused to put that talent at the service of a lyrically lofty, feel-good sort of poetry (see ‘Simply Expressive’).

Stridently anti-Romantic, concerned to keep humanity in its place as just one of earth’s species, he did not believe that an especially harmonious world was possible, and he abhorred all attempts to escape the world, whether through mystical or poetical exaltations. His one hope, or consolation, explicitly stated in St. Francis’s Empty Sandal, was in the connection (never entirely peaceful) he felt with other members of the species.

Married in 1957, later divorced, to Noémia Delgado (b. June 7, 1933), a movie director (daughter of Luís Delgado and wife Judite da Conceição de Freitas). The couple had a son:

Married in 1971 to Maria Teresa Pinto Basto Patrício de Gouveia (b. July 18, 1946), a Parliamentary and a Minister, who was Minister of Culture of Portugal. The couple had a son:

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