Romanian Poets: Adela Greceanu, Angela Marinescu, Svetlana Cârstean, Radu Vancu, Ioan Es. Pop

Romanian Poets: Adela Greceanu, Angela Marinescu, Svetlana Cârstean, Radu Vancu, Ioan Es. Pop
May 26, 2017 Plume

Introductions by Tara Skurtu and Margento:


Tara Skurtu:

Romanian poetry is more than alive and kicking. I discovered this in the fall of 2013, when I first traveled to Romania and serendipitously landed in the Transylvanian city of Sibiu the week of an international poetry festival. I was there on a poetry fellowship and had expected to spend two months wandering the birthplace of my paternal great-grandparents alone, unable to speak Romanian, hoping to find inspiration for poems. Instead, I discovered the life force that is Romanian poetry. And let me tell you, it’s a force that travels. From literary festivals and poetry marathons to bar lecture clubs, young writers’ groups, book fairs, and launches, I found myself swirling in a whirlwind of a vital poetry community, a poetry so strong that it made me want to learn Romanian. And so I began to teach myself Romanian through contemporary poems. Today I’m delighted to introduce, in this Selected Feature, the work of Adela Greceanu, Angela Marinescu, Svetlana Cârstean, Radu Vancu, and Ioan Es. Pop.

Translation/Poem Notes:

Adela Greceanu captures the subtle observations and routines of daily life, and she does so using quiet, colloquial narratives with unexpected bites of humor or irony. Sometimes these narratives address a single spoken word and, in doing so, deconstruct semantics. Other times, as in “Udo,” an 8th-floor apartment window becomes a portal to the cinema of childhood. The speaker, Adila, is transported to her child self; a wire fence takes the place of this window. On the other side of this barrier is her friend and neighbor, Udo. In this “each of us on our own side” world, the two children play adult alongside each other. Limits are malleable. One can easily see that Greceanu is also a prose writer—her speakers are more like characters, scenes and settings are often repeated, and spoken lines from early poems are braided into later ones. Her poetry resists a couple of the consistent features of contemporary (and some modern) Romanian poetry: writing in lowercase, using inconsistent punctuation at best or no punctuation at all. Opening a Greceanu book is to enter an introspective, absorbable world—or, worlds.

Angela Marinescu is one of the most esteemed poets writing in Romania. I like to call her the Romanian poet’s poet. (I have yet to find a Romanian writer who doesn’t admire her work.) A Marinescu poem might leave the reader thinking, Did that really just happen? Her poems challenge their own arrivals. She’s constantly inventing and reinventing, and her poetry especially influences young Romanian poets. Marinescu is a powerhouse, her poems are mitochondrial. Violent, fierce, brutal, bold, uninhibited, all while using simple language. In “these things,” resistance and surrender amalgamate, a sacrament violates, what should be holy metamorphoses into a resilient pest. The speaker dissolves. One-word lines account for nearly half of the short poem “Oligophrenia.” This poem is its own new dictionary entry. It’s also a math equation: poetry equals sex, which is equivalent to true art, and the order of magnitude of true art is measured by the visceral reaction of an oligophrenic’s throat. Whichever proof you go with, you’ll end up with nothing but pure sex.

Svetlana Cârstean is a constant in contemporary Romanian poetry. She’s also known internationally for collaborative writing and translation projects. Her first collection of poems received four major literary awards, and her second book, Gravity (from which this poem was selected), will appear in Norwegian this year. The reader of the unsent postcard “song of passing 3…” is transported to the South of France, where the whole city prepares for a bullfight. The short lines are hinges on which the syntax (much like the people in this poem) slides, the passes of the capote through which the reader observes the behavior of the city. The matador is absent, the bull is but a calf, and the fight becomes a private romp. The final third of the poem presents no red muleta obscuring a sword and controlling the bull with another series of passes. There’s just a little bull who is, like an unsent postcard, without an audience. The reader becomes the voyeur, the bull is transformed—and the world, dichromatic no more.

Radu Vancu creates uncompromisingly honest worlds in which the dead speak and everything is at stake. Family is the centrifugal force of his poetry. He is also the Romanian co-translator (with the late Mircea Ivănescu) of Pound, and this can be seen in his newest collection of poems, 4 AM: Domestic Cantos. The first two lines of Vancu’s “Canto XIII” speak to the first line of Pound’s “Canto XIV” (“Io venni in luogo d’ogni luce muto”), but instead of already having found himself in a lightless place, Vancu’s speaker looks to an inevitably blinding day in the future which will invoke and blind the grueling present as well. The poem launches into an autobiographical narrative—memories of personal loss, physical labor, coping through destruction: “all Kierkegaard and vodka.” The only thing from which the speaker consistently and admittedly strays is: poetry. That poetry “exists and matters” is an illusion, but in this poem illusions can’t be distinguished from bodily reality. And so the speaker addresses and reassures his own body that it won’t always be the same body, and, in doing so, simultaneously alludes to and does away with Kierkegaard and memory.

Ioan Es. Pop is one of the most well-known and consistently published poets of the ‘90s generation. His language is simple, subtle, and layered. He’s one of the rare poets that can hit a reader’s tender spots without crossing the linguistic border into that sentimental zone of no return. Pop’s “in case you get sleepy earlier” reads like a visual lullaby. The reader is zoomed into the speaker’s childhood dream about the desire to shrink and stay shrunk and dormant as a potato in a “potato nest” (this word was the trickiest to translate—in Romanian, there’s a particular word for the dirt in which the potato sits: cuib (it literally means nest, although in the poem it obviously holds additional symbolic and metaphorical weight). The speaker, or potato, wishes to remain buried, unborn, and sleeping “well and forgotten,” season after season, resisting the inevitable harvest in the world above.





The way I am now
looking through the window,
this is how I was in my childhood
looking through the wire fence
that separated our gardens,
after I’d called for him:
Udoooooo, come to the feeeeence!
Most of the time,
Udo would come
and we’d play there,
each of us on our own side.
But sometimes he didn’t come.
And I’d be there a long while,
watching through the wire fence
into Udo’s garden,
the most beautiful place in the world,
more beautiful than any park,
more beautiful than any playground.
There were huge dandelions,
tall grass,
bus stations,
and an old cast iron bathtub.

Sometimes, after he’d park his bus,
I’d ask Udo to get in the tub.
And Udo would get in
with his little boots
open at the toe and heel,
little white boots sent by his relatives in Germany,
little boots that supported his ankles
when he drove the bus.
It was like
I was giving him a bath.

Other times Udo would call for me:
Adilaaaaa, come to the feeeence!
Most of the time,
I would go
and we’d play there,
each of us on our own side.
But maybe sometimes I didn’t go.
And maybe Udo would be there a long while
watching through the wire fence
into my garden,
the most beautiful place in the world,
more beautiful than any park,
more beautiful than any playground.
There were countless rows of vegetables,
straight paths between them
and not a single weed:
the kind of streets
in a kind of city
good enough to travel by bus.
Sometimes, after we’d made food,
Udo would ask me
to be his other bus,
the one that returned.
And I’d walk the straight paths,
muddy my boots,
go through a complicated trail
to return to Udo,
who’d be waiting for me,
his fingers clinging to the wire mesh.

I would have liked so badly to know
how my garden looked
when viewed from his garden.
In the evening, after all the grueling work,
I’d ask Udo to marry me.
And we’d marry.



Adela Greceanu (source text)


Cum stau acum
și mă uit pe fereastră,
așa stăteam în copilărie,
uitîndu-mă prin gardul de sîrmă
care despărțea grădinile noastre,
după ce-l strigam:
Udoooooo, hai la gaaaaard!
De cele mai multe ori
Udo venea
și ne jucam acolo,
fiecare pe partea lui.
Dar uneori nu venea.
Și eu stăteam mult și bine,
privind prin gardul de sîrmă
în grădina lui Udo,
cel mai frumos loc din lume,
mai frumos decît orice parc,
mai frumos decît orice loc de joacă.
Erau acolo păpădii uriașe,
ierburi înalte,
stații de autobuz
și o cadă veche de fontă.

Uneori, după ce-și parca autobuzul,
îl rugam pe Udo să intre în cadă.
Și Udo intra,
cu ghetuțele lui
decupate la vârfuri și la călcîie,
ghetuțe albe primite de la rudele din Germania,
ghetuțe care-i țineau bine gleznele
cînd conducea autobuzul.
Și era ca și cum
îi făceam baie.

Alteori mă striga Udo pe mine:
Adilaaaa, hai la gaaaard!
De cele mai multe ori
mă duceam
și ne jucam acolo,
fiecare de partea lui.
Dar poate uneori nu mă duceam.
Și poate Udo stătea mult și bine,
privind prin gardul de sîrmă
în grădina mea,
cel mai frumos loc din lume,
mai frumos decît orice parc,
mai frumos decît orice loc de joacă.
Erau acolo nenumărate straturi de legume,
cărări drepte printre ele
și nici o buruiană:
un fel de străzi
într-un fel de oraș
numai bun de parcurs cu autobuzul.

Uneori, după ce făceam de mîncare,
Udo mă ruga
să fiu autobuzul lui pereche,
cel de întoarcere.
Și eu mă plimbam pe cărările drepte,
îmi umpleam pantofii de noroi,
străbăteam un traseu complicat
ca să mă întorc la Udo,
care mă aștepta
cu degetele înfipte în plasa de sîrmă.

Tare mult mi-ar fi plăcut să știu
cum se vede grădina mea
privită din grădina lui.
Seara, după toate treburile istovitoare,
îl rugam pe Udo să ne căsătorim.
Și ne căsătoream.

CREDIT: Și cuvintele sînt o provincie (Cartea Românească, 2014)



Adela Greceanu (b. 1975) is a writer and journalist living in Bucharest, where she works at Radio România Cultural (Romanian Cultural Radio). She made her debut in 1997 with the poetry collection Titlul volumului meu, care mă preocupă atît de mult…, and has since published three full collections of poems and a novel. Her most recent poetry book, Și cuvintele sînt o provincie, was awarded the 2014 Observator Cultural Poetry Prize and received a special mention for Best Book of the Year at The Romanian Book Industry Gala. She has participated in numerous European festivals, and excerpts of her books are translated into more than 10 languages.




these things

these things around
still won’t end
i won’t tell myself
anything anymore
i remain still
like an
with holy bread
in my mouth
by a priest who is no longer
a priest
but a pot-bellied roach
with thick hair
i withdraw into the black fog
the church
until no one
sees me anymore 



Angela Marinescu (source text)

lucrurile astea

lucrurile astea din jurul
nu se mai sfârșesc
nu îmi mai spun
stau nemișcată
ca o
cu pâinea sfințită
în gură
cu sila
de un popă ce nu mai e
e un gândac burtos
cu mult păr
mă retrag în ceața neagră
până nu mă mai



CREDIT: Subpoezie. Opere complete II (Editură Charmides, 2015)



Angela Marinescu


My throat
with pleasure
when I see
I am
because I believe in
nothing but
and oligophrenics
are uninhibited
and throw themselves



Angela Marinescu (source text)


îmi pulsează
de plăcere
când văd
pentru că nu mai cred
decât în
și oligofrenii
sunt dezinhibați
și se aruncă



CREDIT: Subpoezie. Opere complete II (Editură Charmides, 2015)



Angela Marinescu (b. 1941) is one of the most influential literary figures in Romania. She made her poetry debut in 1969 with the collection Sînge albastru (Blue Blood), then followed with a number of volumes that would distinguish her as an exceptional poet. In 2006 she was awarded the Mihai Eminescu National Poetry Prize for Opera Omnia. Marinescu is the author of more than a dozen poetry collections, two volumes of essays, and a book of prose. In 2015 Editura Charmides published Subpoezie. Opere complete (Subpoetry: Complete Works), from which the poems “these things” and “Oligophrenia” were chosen.




song of passing 3
postcard with bull calf,
unsent from saintes-maries-de-la-mer

The whole city is working to cover the streets in colored
the bull is allowed to enter the arena
this time, he appears to be a calf
just born
on the sawdust of the city
people slide
like on flying carpets
the gaze
the little bull turns his back to the world
it begins to rain
a brief may
from the arena
people are running outside
as being tickled
they forget
forget so easily
what they came there for
he romps
he runs in circles through the rain
there is no hole through which
he can go back
to where he came from.

There is a little bull
in the arena
that turns his back to the world,
he doesn’t see it
he sees nothing
but colors.



Svetlana Cârstean (source text)

cîntec de trecere 3
carte poștală cu pui de taur.
netrimisă de saintes-maries-de-la-mer

Orașul tot muncește să acopere străzile cu rumeguș
taurul e lăsat să pătrundă-n arenă
pare a fi un pui de data asta
abia născut
pe rumegușul orașului
oamenii alunecă
ca pe covoare zburătoare
taurul mic întoarce spatele lumii
începe ploaia
ploaia scurtă
de mai
din arene
oamenii fug afară
ca gâdilați
uită atât de ușor
pentru ce-au venit acolo
se zbenguie
aleargă în cerc prin ploaie
nu e nici o gaură prin care
să plece
de unde-a venit.

E un taur mic
în arenă,
care întoarce spatele lumii,
el nici n-o vede
nu vede nimic
doar culori.



CREDIT: Gravitație (Trei, 2015)



Svetlana Cârstean (b. 1969) made her poetry debut in the 1995 collective volume Tablou de familie (Family Portrait). She published her first full collection of poems, Floarea de menghină (The Vise Flower) in 2008 to wide acclaim; it was awarded the Romanian Writer’s Union Poetry Debut Prize, the România literară Debut Award, the Mihai Eminescu National Poetry Prize for Opera Prima, as well as the Radio România Cultural Prize for Poetry. In 2013, Floarea de menghină was published in Swedish (Rámus Publishing House, trans. Athena Farrokhzad). Her second book of poems, Gravitație (Gravity), published by Trei, received the 2015 Ateneu Prize for Poetry. Her latest book, Trado (Albert Bonniers Publishing House & Nemira, 2016), is a collaboration with Swedish poet Athena Farrokhzad. Cârstean’s poetry has been translated into German, French, English, Italian, Catalan, and Czech. She currently coordinates Vorpal, the poetry series at Nemira Publishing House.




Canto XIII

One day this day too will be as blinding
as a madhouse,
and I’m broken by all this living.

I was 17 and I was a porter
at a wholesale on Siretului Street
and unloaded ten tons of sugar
alone in two hours
and I wasn’t half as
broken as I am now, five minutes
after leaving Sebastian
at kindergarten. I was 19 and Dad had
hanged himself nearly a month before and I was
all Kierkegaard and vodka
and I wasn’t even a quarter
as broken as I am now. I was hell
knows how old and kept straying
from poetry and I was all
broken and blind like after
ten tons of sugar.

Like after ten days of
Kierkegaard and vodka.

We were three porters on Siretului,
I was the youngest and the only one working
under the table. We carried tons daily
and the wooden crates were full of
nails and our bloodied shoulders
were sweet as the sugar. As Søren.
As vodka. One of those perverse
worlds which give you
the illusion that poetry really
exists and matters. In which the neck
knows it’s hangable and sings
with happiness. In which the mind
is full of sugar and evil
and knows that one day
this blinding day
will be real and will be
the same madhouse.

O, hangable neck, heart
of vodka and sugar—I know, you carry
tons daily and keep straying
from poetry. But calm down,
I swear to you on the hook where
I hang Sebastian’s little clothes
for kindergarten in the morning:
one day vodka and Kierkegaard
will no longer exist. We’ll be
old caterpillars. I’ll no longer suffer.



Radu Vancu (source text)

Canto XIII

Într-o zi și ziua asta va fi orbitoare
ca o casă de nebuni
și sunt dărâmat de tot trăitul ăsta.

Aveam 17 ani și eram hamal
la un en gros pe Siretului
și descărcam zece tone de zahăr
de unul singur în două ore
și nu eram nici pe jumătate de
dărâmat ca acum, la cinci minute
după ce l-am lăsat pe Sebastian la
grădiniță. Aveam 19 ani și se spân-
zurase tata de aproape o lună și eram tot
numai Kierkegaard și vodcă
și nu eram nici pe sfert de
dărâmat ca acum. Aveam dracu
știe câți ani și mă tot abăteam
de la poezie și eram tot
dărâmat și orbitor ca după
zece tone de zahăr.

Ca după zece zile de
Kierkegaard și vodcă.

Eram trei hamali pe Siretului,
eu cel mai tânăr și singurul
la negru. Căram tone zilnic
și lăzile de lemn erau pline de
cuie și umerii noștri însângerați
erau dulci ca zahărul. Ca Søren.
Ca vodca. Una din lumile alea
perverse care-ți dau
iluzia că poezia chiar
există și contează. În care gâtul
știe că-i spânzurabil și cântă
de fericire. În care mintea
e plină cu zahăr și răutăți
și știe că într-o zi și
ziua asta orbitoare
va fi reală și va fi
aceeași casă de nebuni.

Gâtule spânzurabil, inimo
de vodcă și zahăr – știu, cărați
tone zilnic și vă tot abateți
de la poezie. Liniștiți-vă însă,
vă jur pe cuierul în care
agăț dimineața hăinuța
lui Sebastian la grădiniță:
într-o zi, vodca și Kierkegaard
nu vor mai exista. Vom fi
omizi bătrâne. Nu voi mai suferi.



CREDIT: 4 A.M. Cantosuri domestice (Casă de Editură Max Blecher, 2015)



Radu Vancu (b. 1978) is a Romanian poet, essayist, and translator. He was awarded Best Young Poet of 2012 at the National Museum of Romanian Literature’s Young Writers’ Gala. He is the author of seven poetry books, and his most recent collection is 4 A.M. Cantosuri domestice (4 AM: Domestic Cantos, 2015), from which “Canto XIII” was chosen. Vancu is coeditor of the anthologies Best Romanian Poems of the Year (2010, 2011, and 2012). He has translated novels and poetry (two ample selections from Ezra Pound and John Berryman). He is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Letters and Arts at the Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu, editor of two cultural magazines, Poesis Internațional and Transilvania, and organizer of the International Poetry Festival in Sibiu.




in case you get sleepy earlier

when i was little, i dreamt i was even smaller.
smaller than the table, smaller than the chair,
smaller than my father’s big boots.
i dreamt myself the size of a potato.
because in the spring they’d put potatoes
in the ground and that’s it,
they wouldn’t unsettle them until fall.

i dreamt i was in a potato nest, among them,
sleeping sweetly in the dark,
turning from one side to the other in summer
and then falling back to sleep.

and in the fall i’d wake, still restless,
and dirty like my brothers,
and when they’d begin to dig us up, i’d jump above
and shout: don’t dig anymore, don’t dig anymore,
because i’ll come home willingly
if, in the spring, you’ll put me back in place,

and in the spring, i’d be the first to be
thrown back into the nest
and so on, i’d remain there always, sleeping,
from the nest to the cellar, from the cellar to the nest,
for many years, well and forgotten. 



Ioan Es. Pop (source text)

în caz că ți se face somn mai devreme

când eram mic, visam să fiu și mai mic.
mai mic decât masa, mai mic decât scaunul,
mai mic decât cizmele mari ale tatălui.
cât un cartof, atâta mă visam.
pentru că primăvara pe cartofi îi pu-
neau în pământ și gata,
până toamna nu-i mai necăjeau.

mă visam în cuib, printre ei,
dormind cu dulceață-n întuneric,
întorcându-mă pe-o parte și pe alta vara
iar apoi căzând din nou în somn.

și toamna să mă trezesc tot nedormit
și tot nespălat ca frații mei
și când să dea cu sapa-n noi, să sar deasupra
și să le strig: nu mai săpați, nu mai săpați,
căci vin acasă de bunăvoie,
dacă-n primăvară mă puneți la loc.

și primăvara să fiu primul pe care
îl aruncă înapoi în cuib
și tot așa, să rămân să dorm mereu,
din cuib în pivniță și din pivniță în cuib,
ani mulți, neîntors și uitat.



CREDIT: unelte de dormit (Editura Cartea Românească, 2011)



Ioan Es. Pop (b. 1958) is one of the most well-known Romanian poets. He graduated from the Faculty of Letters at the University of Baia Mare, majoring in Romanian and English literature. His first collection of poems, Ieudul fără ieșire (1994), received critical acclaim and made him one of the most influential writers of his generation. He went on to publish a number of collections, including Porcec (1996), Pantelimon 113 bis (1999), and Petrecere de pietoni (2003). He has been awarded numerous prizes by the Romanian Writers’ Union, the 2011 Poetry Book Prize by the National Foundation for Science and Art, and has received prizes in Sweden, Spain, and Italy. His poems have been translated into Swedish, French, English, Spanish, Polish, Bulgarian, and Italian. Pop’s most recent book, Arta fricii (Charmides, 2016), was awarded the George Coșbuc Prize for Poetry. He currently works as an editor at Editură Paralela 45.


Translator Bio Notes:


Tara Skurtu, born in Key West, Florida, is a two-time Fulbright grantee and recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. Her recent poems have appeared in SalmagundiThe Kenyon ReviewTahoma Literary Review, and Poetry Wales. She is the author of the chapbook Skurtu, Romania (Eyewear, 2016) and the full collection The Amoeba Game (Eyewear, October 2017). She lives and teaches in Bucharest.



 Intro by MARGENTO:

Why would anyone read Romanian poetry? One could never really get a grasp of the whole phenomenon since—as the Johns Hopkins Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics warns us—there is such a diversity and prolificity on all fronts of (modern) Romanian verse that it makes it practically impossible for one to ever exhaust the subject. Then, in a spanning of say half a century, the language(s) of poetry writing can involve such a panoply of versions (and I don’t mean that “simply” dialectically or vernacularly), that it may require special linguistic and rhetorical training to go through various swaths of it. And if one dares to go a hundred years back or more, than the Bachtinian desideratum of polyglossia is there, full on: you literally need to be a polyglot—and don’t think you’ll get away with “just” French and Latin, sometimes you’ll have to cross vast (and wildly unrelated) expanses of “aberrantly” adapted Phanariotic Greek, Ottoman Turkish, and Church Slavonic, to name just a few—and also do research into some rich reservoirs of obsolete dictions and “barbarisms” cluttered on top of each other. And what’s really crazy is that we’re not dealing with a culture in which (as is the case with the Greek and Turkish ones for instance), the language of poetry or of the elites is sometimes radically if not completely different from the demotic, from the “vulgar” idiom. No, we Romanian poets have always spoken the language of the “people”… How come? What makes it even worse, Romanian poetry (and I’m not talking old, but contemporary Romanian as well) can be sometimes written—see Șerban Foarță’s poem below—even without deploying a single word of Romanian. And yet, for various reasons, it will be read and celebrated as uniquely Romanian. Again, how come? Do you still want to read what follows?

And do I still dare translate this? Șerban Foarță is arguably the best formalist/formal experimentalist in Romanian letters after WWII; O. Nimigean is both the mouthpiece of the post-communist political letdown and an unparalleled craftsman; Felix Nicolau is the most profane, funny-cynical, and delirious voice of the past decade; Iulia Militaru is our post-conceptual icon and virtually the only “DJ” that can sample Pound gypsy-style. And Florin Dan Prodan is the maverick who will tell you the politically (still!) censored most subversive stories by both unveiling and censoring them even more… Do I?

The Tower of Babel and the Power of Noise

A few translator’s notes by MARGENTO:

Where is the Romanian language in Șerban Foarță’s mesmerizing “Baby(Vil)lonian” song “Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times”? Virtually nowhere, completely cannibalized by the inflow of foreign vernaculars… Do I say virtually—that’s where it may actually survive, in the potential sound of the both camouflaged and resuscitated cliché; the virtual virtue/virtu, the heraldic Romanian virtus romana (rediviva?) lost just like the—oiko-nomic, ecological, and echoic—Flora “the Romana” and like Abelard’s vir(tu[fut])ility. For there’s a parasitic sound drowning the sing-song fluency of the ballad, a meta-music of confusion and stammering, a “song of songs” of noise as poise. The cannibalized comes back as the Caliban of all languages hanging out at the Boar’s-Head Tavern, a Romanian tattling thief stealing everybody’s words, mixing them up and spitting them out in his own thick accent and to the rhythms of the same old gypsy “infidel” cant, bragging, begging, and blabbing, muting his own tongue to speak in tongues, and thus sounding the Babylonian babble in all languages and none.

Nimigean’s speaker has been there, done that. All that; it’s really late in his poem, post-world-end and its whimper. And he is as jaded a story-teller as he is a sophisticated litterateur, a post-historical Virgil meddling the picturesque with both the vanity-of-vanities awareness and the muffled memory of political terror; but still with a Petrarchan (after)taste for universalizing demotic tales… And there are manifold layers of language in simply talking about an old tin stove, an ear for rhythms, eye for details, voice for both song and prose, and a panoply of tones. Plus he’s got something on Foarță’s speaker: he can turn into a ‘genuine’ fiddler in the wink of an eye and deliver folksy beats and magic spell rhymes like no other—not cant but canto—while still preserving the moody modern lyricism of memories and desire…

Felix Nicolau’s dramatis persona is sick and tired of all that in his turn, he is a post-communist bawdy bard and (anti?-)neo-liberal consumer gone openly homophobic, misogynistic, and sanctimonious (does this sound familiar in nowadays America by any chance?). He is a pig and a mutt but his “(pig) Latin” is neither Old-Europe-style balladesque nor (Heideggerian) archetypal folklore, but lifestyle-recipe kitsch and infomercial cacophony turned Dadaistic aberration by means of sampling and looping. Machinism does not kill macho cynicism though (or complacent political correctness for that matter); it actually voices a strong subjectivity, one that can afford to be both reactionary and cautionary, which is where Nicolau meets Frederick Seidel. With one capital difference—here exposing exhausts complicity with a goal: to break free.

In Iulia Militaru’s poem then subjectivity is dismantled by dramatic juxtapositions of voices, literatures, and discourses, all speaking to and at the same time obliterating each other within the flow of several conflicting yet intoxicating songs. The voices are again deceitful, yet not in Nicolau’s way—by repurposing and twisting political mendacity and communal hypocrisy beyond recognition—but by placing a question mark on the notion of voice itself. That is actually Militaru’s own way of being acutely political, by clashing the stark ideological incompatibility and the improbable literary consonance between say Yeats (via Pound) and Bertolt Brecht… And by facetiously projecting the hackneyed literary convention of post-Caragiale/Ionesco petit lower middle class or “gypsy” slum vernacular and tacky sentimentality against the wide façade of Americanized global pop culture.

Last but not least, Florin Dan Prodan’s poem is a laconic dirge for the Romanian anti-Soviet partisans and political prisoners, which I picked as a contrapuntal finale to this section of the selected feature. For the polyglossia of the poets above is now replaced by the silence of the—some of them historically famous—victims of communist repression; this is here not the noise of polyglossic poetry but of aglossic radical secrecy and subversive conspiracy. Prodan’s character chats with other prisoners but we’re not privies to those conversations held throughout the Romanian Gulag; we are perhaps not trustworthy enough in this world of collabos and sycophants… Nobody is. And the times of the mythological Flora in Foarță/Villon’s tradition are indeed long gone. The old partisan turned lumberjack only talks to his horse.


Translations & Originals with Author Bios:

Ballad of the Ladies of Bygone Times
or Where Are the Snows of Yesteryear
—In Baby(Vil)lonian Transcription—

Tell me in welch land ist Miss
Italien, Flora the Romana,
Alkibiades or Thais,
First cousina really germaina;
And Eco, prompt but so far lontana,
Across the rivière or across the ponde,
Whose beauté was plus than humana,
Aber where art die shnows d’antan?

Where is the wise girl Heloïs
For whose sake the Peter-Abelardiana
Calamitas à Saint Denis
Began (Sweet Lord Domine, hosanna!);
Dov’è, where is the royal sovereigna
Who hordered Þat Buridan
Be schthrown und drownt in the schtream Seinna;
And wherevski’s the snowvski d’antan?

Queen Blanche as white comme the lilies,
With sirenæ dulcet voix has sunga;
Grand-footed Bertha, Beatrice, and Alice,
Arembourg von Main; Joanna
Of Lorraina, where’s, dov’è Giovanna
Burnt by the Britons à Rouen;
Tell me, Tú, Madre suprema
¿Dónde estàn las snowas d’antan?



Sweet Prince, I won’t say omnia vanishana;
But when, finalement, there’s tons
Of snowfalls, ask, bitte, ðæt Fata Morgana:
“Où sont, where are les snows d’antan?”


Translated from the multilingual Romanian by MARGENTO



           în vavil(l)onică transcripţie


Sag mir in welch’ ein Ort ist Miss
Italien, Flora la Romana,
Alkibiades kai Thais,
Sua cugina gran germana;
Ed Eco, pronta ma lontana,
Desus rivière ou sus étang,
Der’n Schönheit war plus quam humana,
Aber wo sind die Schneiges d’antan?

Where is the wise girl Heloïs
Because whose abelardiana
Calamitas à Saint Denis
Incepit (Domine, hossana!);
E dov’è ora la sovrana
Die nun befahl daß Buridan
Verschlungen sein soll, a Sequana;
A gde prekrasnîi snej d’antan?

La Roine Blanche comme un lis,
Sirenæ dulcis vox insana;
Berthe au grand pied, Bietris, Alis,
Aremburgis von Mainz; Johanna
Aus Lothringen, ~ dov’è Giovannaì
Burnt by the Britons à Rouen;
Díme, Tú, Madre soberana
¿Dónde estàn hoy las nieges d’antan?


Sweet Prince, I don’t say omnia vana;
mais quant, enfin, à l’antean-
nua nix, ~ frag, bitte, die Morgana:
« Où sont, où sont les neiges d’antan? »



Șerban Foarță (b. 1942) has been a poet for 60 years. He confesses that “a poet cannot be a poet every day of his life; because poetry is vaporous, deceptive, evanescent, seducing, and slippery, – like satin, moiré, or swishing silk… Therefore: Half-colour, half-song,/ a silk very fine/ seems mine, to belong,/ but it is not mine.” Foarță is also known as a translator, essayist, playwright, prose writer and even illustrator. His work accounts for almost 80 titles.




tin stove

who knows how old you are, tin stove?

is it true you were wrought by a couple of gypsies?
one with a moustache the other still a kid with a smooth face
yet already married to a slender miss piranda with gentle hands and big eyes
who turned the heads of rumanian peasants down the country lane and whom
lump in throat I myself would watch sashay in her flouncy layered skirt?

but the gypsies never really shaped you, they just drove some rivets in,
fixed your oven and tinkered for you a zinc-plated
silver-looking ashtray

here you come on your long anubis legs covered in lacquer—
but you don’t actually come, you linger here and there, just being now and then moved
from old home to new home from summer kitchen into kitchen
no you don’t come we’re the ones coming and going, shortly
extending our hands over your iron cast cooktop,
and then disappearing in the memory
of those presently holding that you do come

(in my confused last mohican’s memory
stumbling upon you after lustra in the very same place
as if I hadn’t been away not even for one week
your stovepipe a bit twisted your oven door
fallen on the stool where the dish washing bowl
has remained unremoved for ages
your little lid missing and letting out
tiny flame crests, you flashy chick!)

look it’s been almost two years in which morning after morning
(with just some short mysterious respites
I won’t tell you about
since you wouldn’t get a thing of what
I hardly stammer myself letter-by-letter)
I kept gagging you with crammed paper dipped in diesel
(after casting a glance
on writers’ portraits
on poems and titles)
cooking soups and stews with you
boiling hot water for a bath in large pots
their bottoms larger than your top
dismantling you every other month
using a besom
and a knife to wipe out
the thick soot lichens
baking on you sliced potatoes,
bell peppers aubergines
polishing you for easter and christmas
cursing you on your bad days
more and more often
as you filled the kitchen with smoke
as you let that poisoning smoke out of all your avernine orifices
which I vainly mended with yellow clay

now unaccounted for the aeon comes to an end
or maybe it doesn’t it’s just
the mix of resignation and hope
of an age gone down the drain
blamed on the firmament’s rotation
—still kind of too much of a sudden change
the last soup’s cinders still smoldering
as it dawned on me you no longer
belong here
you no longer belong anywhere

I dragged you on the hard floors
pulled you across the threshold
your legs gone weak
floundering like a convict
who approaches the scaffold
out in the backyard
by the junk shed
meister paul
quickly pulls your cooktop off
your brick reddish innards
and then the first autumn rain
drenches your hearth all night long
till at dawn I just drive my finger
through that thick layer of mud…

you’re now a clunker bin
gonna rust in the rain
gonna rust in the snow
gonna lie among the ghosts
thrown out in the backyard lost
eaten up by worms of rust
poltergeists will hang around
with you lying in the dump
dirty muddy swamped
in your hearth there’ll be a growth
of green flames that never need
any poking any feed
and your tin will have its way
rotting in decay

farewell now farewell
the rest is an inaudible purring
a soft crackling of invisible flames
when we truly have a heart we shall sense it
the kettle shall levitate over your flaky body
the berry tea shall boil over
spreading the rosehip the blackberry the blackthorn
the raspberry and the basil aromas all around


translated from the Romanian by MARGENTO




soba de tablă

cine îţi ştie vîrsta, sobă de tablă?
e-adevărat că te-au făurit nişte ţigani?
unul mustăcios altul încă puiandru cu obrazul neted
dar însurat cu o pirandă zveltă cu mîini subţiri şi ochi mari
după care se uitau rumânii pe uliţă şi pe care eu însumi
o priveam cu un nod în gît unduindu-se-n fustele-i creţe?

dar ţiganii nu te-au făurit ţi-au bătut doar nişte nituri
ţi-au reparat lerul şi ţi-au meşterit din tablă zincată
un cenuşar ca argintul

tu vii cu picioarele tale lungi de anubis date cu aurolac
— de fapt nu vii, tu rămîi, mutată doar cînd și cînd
din casa veche în casa nouă din bucătăria de vară în bucătărie
tu nu vii noi am venit şi-am plecat, întinzînd
o vreme mîinile spre plita-ţi de tuci
pentru a dispărea în memoria
celor ce astăzi afirmă că tu vii

(în memoria mea confuză de ultimul mohican
care te-a regăsit după luştri la locu-ţi
ca şi cum n-aş fi plecat nici măcar o săptămînă
cu burlanul niţel răsucit cu uşa cuptorului
căzută pe taburetul pe care de veacuri
e aşezat ligheanul de clătit vase
cu căpăcelul de la plită lipsă lăsînd să răzbată
mici creste de pară, pupăzo!)

iată se-mplinesc aproape doi ani de cînd dimineaţă de dimineaţă
(cu scurte relaşuri misterioase
pe care nu ţi le povestesc
oricum n-ai pricepe nimic
din ceea ce eu însumi
bîigui pe buchii)
ţi-am tot băgat pe gît şomoioage de hîrtie cu motorină
(aruncînd o privire
înainte de-a le mototoli
peste poze de scriitori
peste poeme şi titluri)
am gătit la tine supe şi tocăniţe
am încălzit apa de baie în oale mari
ce-ţi treceau peste margini
te-am demontat o dată la două luni
curăţindu-ţi cu mătura de nuiele
şi cu cuţitul
lichenii groşi de funingine
am copt pe tine roţi de cartofi
ardei graşi vinete
te-am lustruit înainte de paşte şi de crăciun
te-am blestemat în zilele tale proaste
mereu mai frecvente
cînd umpleai bucătăria de fum
cînd scoteai un fum toxic prin toate orificiile-ţi avernine
pe care le ungeam inutil cu lut

acum neştiut se schimbă eonul
sau poate nici nu se schimbă e doar
melanjul de resemnare şi de speranţă
al vîrstei duse pe apa sîmbetei
pus pe seama rotirilor bolţii
– dar parcă totuşi prea dintr-odată
cît încă nu se stinsese jarul ultimei ciorbe
mi-a devenit limpede că locul tău
nu mai e aici
că locul tău nu mai e nicăieri

te-am tîrît pe podelele goale
te-am săltat peste prag
picioarele ţi se înmuiaseră
ţi se tăiaseră ca osîndiţilor
duşi la eşafod
te-am scos în curte
lîngă şopronul cu vechituri
meşterul pavel
ţi-a smuls repede plita
lăsînd la vedere
viscerele roşii de cărămidă
prima ploaie a toamnei
ţi-a înmuiat vatra noaptea întreagă
în zori am întins cu degetul
într-o pojghiţă de nămol

so-bă de ta-blă
so-bă de ta-blă
ai ajuns o rablă
so-bă de ti-ni-chea
so-bă de ti-ni-chea
vei rugini în ploaie
vei rugini sub nea
so-bă de tuci
so-bă de tuci
o să zaci printre năluci
în fund de grădină
cu viermi de rugină
o să zaci printre moroi
la groapa de gunoi
plină de noroi
so-bă spar-tă
so-bă spar-tă
o să-ţi crească tufe-n vatră
focul lor verde-o să-l ai
fără lemne şi vătrai
şi-şi va face cheful
putrezindu-ţi bleful

adio îţi spun adio
restul e un tors de neauzit
un trosnet mărunt de flăcări invizibile
cînd vom avea cu adevărat o inimă îl vom percepe
ibricul va levita deasupra carcasei tale scorojite
ceaiul de fructe de pădure va da în clocot
risipind arome de măceşe de afine şi de porumbe
de zmeură şi busuioc



Ovidiu Nimigean (b. 1962) has published seven collections of poetry since 1992. His 2007 collection, Nicolina Blues, was distinguished with several important awards (the Observator cultural, Transilvania and Mişcarea literară literary prizes) and was nominated for two others. Nimigean is also a prolific fiction writer: the first edition of his novel, Rădăcina de bucsau, was awarded five important prizes. His work was selected in several anthologies: Grenzverkehr. Literarische Streifzüge zwischen Ost und West (2006), O panoramă critică a poeziei româneşti din secolul al XX-lea (2007), New European Poets (2008), The Vanishing Point That Whistles: An Anthology of Contemporary Romanian Poetry (2011), Moods & Women & Men & Once Again Moods (2015). Nimigean lives and writes in a suburb of Paris, France.



Felix Nicolau

The Foundation Awards

so it’s billy ocean who sings carribean queen
it took me 20 years to figure that one out
and about the same to get it that I’m not fortunate
in love or in money matters but very fortunate
in home appliances

my fridge heats up every time
I unplug it for more than 3 days I take out
all the drinks—the milk bag the kettle of
cornflower tea for the eyes—I shake it
bang it against the walls but nothing no normal
fridge-like whirring it just goes click! clack!
the freezer is caribbean-dog-days hot
and I keep dumping bacon off the balcony
but out of genetic sting
iness I first eat half of it until on the brink of
hepatitis or cut it in cubes and
throw it in the blender with carrots
apples and red beets and drink the most
disgusting shake in the world: ham shake

yet here it suddenly starts again with regained morale
snoring snorting so I bring back the food
from the balcony and store it on the shelves as
in a library: upper section milk ’n’ meat middle yell
low cheese bread ’n’ zakouska lower one cel
ery parsley ’n’ stuff

my mp4 player also died out of the blue
right in the middle of patti labelle—lady marmalade
took it to the store dunno what for
I’d lost warranty receipt ’n’ packaging ’n’ all but
of course these two fags stare at me clod
hopping their thumbs on the back of it why’s it def
formed? nothing we can do come back when our bow
ss’s here! meaning? tomorrow round 4 am so close
to throwing it away in a bin in the park have no idea
why I didn’t do it—it’s probably that genetic stinginess
again a week later I recharge it and I’ll
be! it works
miracles on top of miracles!
cooler than the holy fire in
jerusalem my dad used to pester me
to go and get for him and bring all the way down to bucharest although I had
explained to him this was no floating flame in a
jar and that a couple seconds later it would
also need a stick a wick a lamp like any other fla
me that’s not totally fucked up Lord
pardon my language!
all them girls complaining they got nothing
in common with their men and then you who just won’t talk how
Apollinaire got jailed for stealing the mona lisa
but keep nagging I’m too much of a macho you
hear word you’ll never stay focused you’ll never
blow me never become a red
because I’ve had another red head before
and I’m too approachable



translated from the Romanian by Raluca Tanasescu & Chris Tanasescu (MARGENTO)



Premiile fundaţiei

deci billy ocean cântă carribbean queen
20 de ani mi-a luat să aflu chestia asta
ca şi pe aialaltă că nu am noroc în
dragoste şi la bani însă mult noroc
la aparate electrocasnice

frigiderul meu încălzeşte dacă-l scot
din priză mai mult de 3 zile iau din el
toate lichidele – punga cu lapte ibricul cu
ceai de albăstrele pt ochi – îl bălăngăn îl
izbesc de pereţi nimic în loc să fornăie
ca un frigi normal face doar ţac! ţac!
în congelator o caniculă ca în caraibe
iar eu tot aruncând şunci de la balcon asta
după ce dintr-o zgârcenie genetică mă
nânc totuşi jumate din ele până în prag de
hepatită sau le tai în cubuleţe şi
le dau prin blender la un loc cu morcovi
mere sfeclă roşie şi beau cel mai scârbos
shake din lume:     ham shake

însă odată porneşte se îmbărbătează
sforăie fârnâie şi aduc înapoi mâncarea
din balcon i-o aranjez pe rafturi ca-ntr-
o bibliotecă: sus laptele fripturile la mijloc caş
cavalul pâinea zacusca jos ţelina
pătrunjelu şi kestii

şi mp4 a murit pur şi simplu
la mijloc de patti labelle – lady marmalade
l-am dus la magazin nu-ş ce speram
pierdusem garanţie cutie tot normal că
ăia 2 poponari s-au holbat la mine au bă
tut cu unghia pe dosul lui – ce-i cu deformă
rile astea? noi nu ştim, vino şi tu când vi
ne şefu. adică? mâine pe la 4. am vrut să-l
arunc într-un coş din parc. nu ştiu de ce
n-am făcut-o – probabil zgârcenia genetică
după vreo săptămână l-am pus la încărcat şi pe
bune! funcţiona
minuni peste minuni!
mai ceva ca lumina învierii de la
ierusalim de mă bătea taică-meu la cap
să i-o aduc tocmai din bucureşti chiar dacă i-am
explicat că nu e o flacără plutitoare într-un
borcan că după câteva zeci de secunde are
şi ea nevoie de o lampă de un fitil ca orice fla
cără normală la cap
Doamne iartă-mă!
alea se plâng că n-au ce discuta cu ai
lor şi tu în loc să vorbim despre cum a fost
închis apollinaire pentru furtul giocondei
îmi repeţi de 1 an că-s macho că auzi
zvonuri că nu te poţi concentra că niciodată
n-o să mi-o sugi că n-o să te faci roş
pt că am mai avut eu una roşcată
că-s prea uşor abordabil



Felix Nicolau (b. 1970) is a writer interested in simplifying and re-launching poetry as a mixture of experimental enterprise and life slices recognizable and digestible to both elitist and non-elitist audiences. He is the author of five volumes of poetry (of which the latest is Kamceatka—Time IS Honey, Vinea, 2014), two novels, and ten books of literary and communication theory. His expertise resides in roller-skating, scooter-commuting, and skateboard-mental-writing.



Iulia Militaru

No Language for Old Men

(There once was a fiddler who lived in a velvety/ sewer,/ and tried to make sense in this terrible world/ of all the hard life, always hard/ to live in a velvety sewer. The fiddler/ would play his old fiddle, and wonder, and wonder.)


Then I saw

the Red Round Sun Rise

or                     only a half did I see

(the other unseen)       semicircle burning on the water

In a Station of the Metra        The apparition of these


in the crowd                thousand and one voices

Still silence rules: But where are all the others?


(here in the dark sounds change all the time, and I have to get them, understand them; I will then speak their tongue and they shall listen to me; my words were begotten by hunger, words that expect bounty)
And I play, while my violin catches fire, all blazes
Shedding scorching light into the deep
A lady with a baby asleep      gives me a penny
A fierce beast,/ scares me to death:/ my verse is drowsy;
Today, though, I have food

If only it weren’t all so silent – is there anybody who can hear me?
Est-ce que vous avez vu des autres – des camarades – avec des singes ou des ours?
If only we spoke the same language – would anyone
Have you seen any others, any of our lot,/ With apes and bears?

One day, indeed, I heard him say
Under his breath, but near
That we could live in a dead tongue
Like spoken ones, for sure:
And we’ll live in the living one
Like in the one that’s dead.
And     he spat up flames of fire
And     he greedily sucked them back.
Then a new consensus came
A new voice, clear, more clear.
Thus sang then the new fiddler:


“Brightness combing its dark hair, oh, its pitch dark hair,
Up in a Ferentari palace packed with rigs ‘n’ piles of dough.
Last night when the cheeky moon danced its way out of her den
She checked out her Romeo and then cried: “My God, you’re swell!
Ar’n’tch you one big rare treat—ain’t no other on the block!
All so cool an’ on the booze, cocky cockeyed with crazy looks.
Come, come over, jolly geezer,
Climb up to my balcony,
Let me kiss you on the kisser
While my nanny’s outta here!
Fly me to the moon above, com’on love, let’s make the love!

But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Shine is the sun! –
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she.

Meraptuki! Mertapuki!
Oh, your godly aureole
Calls from depth of heart and soul:
Come to me with sins and all
Deep in wine we’ll dive and roll
Hugging tight we’ll croak and fall!

Is it even so? Then I defy you, stars!
Meraptuki! Mertapuki!
Oh, my godly aureole
Calls from depth of heart and soul:
Here I come with sins and all
Deep in wine we’ll dive and roll
Hugging tight we’ll croak and fall!

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father, and refuse thy names;
Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Gypsy.

I                                   picked up my violin
And cried                   “Letter from a living language!”


So fragile we just touch our words
Almost charred, back from the dead,
It sounds all sacred sounds around
Dancing on our music’s strings.

My long awaited silence vast
Is killed now by the rising voices,
All so fragile. And I touch the words
Almost charred, back from the dead.

We now depart, sail out at sea.
To Byzantium, returning in confidence
Among old drinks. Oh the fragrance
Of mead dripping from goblets incessantly
All so fragile, yet so alive in the words.

“My dear friend,
it’s me, the fiddler of Dooney,
most famous one in the county,/ some would say.
People dance like the sea
when my fiddle starts to weep…
The priest of Kilvarnet is my kin
and my brother’s down in Mocharabuiee.
So now, along with you
I’ll passionately join the chorus:

Oh how I miss, I can’t miss more
My brothers up in Labrador
I’ll die of longing                     just can’t miss more
My brothers up in Labrador!

(Er aber sucht noch in absinthenen Meeren
Wenn ihn schon seine Mutter vergisst
Grinsend und fluchend und zuweilen nicht ohne Zähren
Immer das Land, wo es besser zu leben ist.[1])

All I can remember is the moment
I found myself here, mesmerized by those shop window lights:
Red jade cups, food well set on a blue jewelled table,
And I was drunk, and had no thought of returning,
And I couldn’t remember anything at all and had no free-
end to call; so I said to myself: remembrance-phobia is what those without me
mory suffer from, and I’d been hardheaded enough to listen to them, to be fri
ghtened by what I’d left behind, to believe that there wasn’t
any trace left


there was nothing

left this place     these words                 this voice


left behind       from before.

And for the first time, it dawned on the moon she’s all alone.

But now you tell me that I finally speak plainly,
You tell me how our voices intertwine
Urging me to set out together with you at sea.
But I still wonder should I…

…to Byzantium?

There is no language for old men,

my dear friend!

I don’t know,

but we are still young…

[1] But still he is seeking in seas of absinthe,
When even his mother forgets his face,
Amid sneers and curses and sometimes with sobs,
Forever seeking a happier place.

translated from the Romanian by MARGENTO and Martin Woodside


Iulia Militaru

No language for old men

(A fost odată un scripcar, ce viaţa îşi ducea într-un canal/ de catifea,/ pe lumea asta căuta/ să înţeleagă viaţa grea,/ dintr-un canal de catifea. Şi zi de zi el tot cânta/ din scripca lui, şi căuta.)


Apoi am văzut

soaRele Rotund Roşu RăsăRind

sau                   numai jumătate am văzut

(celălalt în nevăzut)     semicerc aprins peste ape

A venit clipa!

(un cuvânt o să înflorească; întâi l-am aşteptat, apoi îl voi căuta, însă acum îl găsisem: îmi potrivesc vioara şi cobor)

In a Station of a Metrou         The apparition of these


in the crowd                thousand and one voices


Totuşi tăcerea domneşte: Unde sunt ceilalţi?

(aici, în întuneric, sunetele se schimbă, trebuie să le prind, să le înţeleg; voi vorbi asemeni lor şi mă vor asculta; cuvintele mi se nasc din foame, cuvintele îşi aşteaptă răsplata)

Şi cânt, vioara mea se-aprinde, cu flăcări

Arunc lumină fierbinte-n adânc

O doamnă,-n braţe c-un prunc,           îmi dă un leu,

Fioros animal,/ cumplit mă-nspăimânt,/ mi-e viersul mai greu;

Azi, am ce să mănânc.


Numai de n-ar mai fi tăcerea asta, oare mă aude cineva?

Est-ce que vous avez vu des autres – des camarades – avec des singes ou des ours?

Numai de am glăsui pe-aceeaşi limbă, oare mi s-or arăta?

Have you seen any others, any of our lot,/ With apes and bears?


Dar într-o zi l-am auzit

Şoptind chiar lângă mine

Că-n orice limbă moartă

Stăm ca în una vie,

Iar în cea vie sta-vom

Precum în cea ce-i moartă.

Şi         arunca în sus cu flăcări

Şi         le-nghiţea cu poftă.

Apoi, va fi venit un nou acord

O nouă voce mult mai clară.

Şi-aşa cânta noul scripcar:


— Strălucirea-şi pieptăna părul ei negru, de smoală,

În palat, în Ferentari, printre ţoale şi biştari.

De aseară, pe când luna îşi făcea prin ceruri loc,

L-a zărit pe-al său Romeo şi îşi zise: Ce miştoc!

Un gagiu ca tine rar îmi e dat să mai bunghesc.

Eşti şucar ş-aşa pilit şi cu mecla de diliu.

Vino sus, aci la mine!

Urcă repede-n balcon,

să ne sărutăm pe muie,

că dada pe-acasă nu e!

Să călătorim pe-o stea şi să-nceapă dragostea!


But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks?

It is the east, and Shine is the sun! –

Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,

Who is already sick and pale with grief,

That thou her maid art far more fair than she.


Meraptuchi! Mertapuchi!

Strălucirea ta divină

Îţi strigă din inimă:

Vin’ la mine plin de vină,

Să ne tăvălim în vin

Şi-mpreună s-o mierlim!


Is it even so? Then I defy you, stars!

Meraptuchi! Mertapuchi!

Strălucirea mea divină,

Îţi strig din inimă:

Vin la tine plin de vină,

Să ne tăvălim în vin

Şi-mpreună s-o mierlim!


O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?

Deny thy father, and refuse thy names;

Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,

And I’ll no longer be a Gypsy.



Şi-am               luat vioara

Şi-am               strigat: — Letter from o living language!


Atât de fragili, ne atingem cuvinte

Aproape-nnegrite, întoarse din moarte.

Şi-mi pare că-n jur, sunete sfinte

Dansează pe cobza cântărilor noastre.


De mult aşteptam tăcerile-ntinse

Ucise să-mi fie de vocile care

S-atât de fragile. Şi m-ating de cuvinte

Aproape-nnegrite, întoarse din moarte.


Acum, vom porni împreună pe mare.

În Bizanţ, revenim cu încredere printre

Aceleaşi licori. În toate se simte

Parfumul de mied picurat în pahare

Ce-atât de fragil trăieşte-n cuvinte.


— Prietene dragă,

sunt cobzarul din Dooney,

cel mai vestit din ţinut,/mi-au spun unii.

Dansează ca marea norodul

când cobza începe-a grăi…

În Kilvarnet preot mi-i vărul,

iar fratele-n Mocharabuiee.

Şi-acum, alături de tine

în cor, cu foc voi rosti:


Mi-e dor, mi-e dor

De fraţii mei din Labrador

Şi simt că mor de-atâta dor               de-atâta dor

De fraţii mei din Labrador!


(Er aber sucht noch in absinthenen Meeren

Wenn ihn schon seine Mutter vergisst

Grinsend und fluchend und zuweilen nicht ohne Zähren

Immer das Land, wo es besser zu leben ist.)


Mai am în minte doar clipa când

m-am trezit aici, fascinat de lumina acestor vitrine:

Red jade cups, food well set on a blue jewelled table,

And I was drunk, and had no thought of returning,

Şi nu-mi aminteam aproape nimic, şi nu aveam niciun prie

ten; atunci mi s-a spus: cei fără memorie au fobia a

mintirii, iar eu m-am încăpăţânat să-i ascult, să mă înspăi

mânt de ce-am lasat în urmă, să cred apoi că nici nu există

această urmă

pe urmă

nimic n-a rămas

locul ăsta         cuvintele astea             vocea asta


   în urmă din urmă.


Şi, pentru prima oară, luna observă cât e de singură.


Dar acum tu-mi spui că-ţi vorbesc pe-nţeles,

Îmi spui că vocile ni se împletesc

Şi mă-ndemni să pornim împreună pe mare.


…to Byzantium?

There is no language for old men,

my dear friend!


— I don’t know,

but we are still young…



Iulia Militaru (b. 1978) is a p(h)oet/ performer/ video artist and so on, also a co-founder of frACTalia Press and InterRe:ACT magazine. Her poetry collections: The Great Pipe Epic (2010), dramadoll (2012) and The Seizure of the Beast. A Post-research (2016) are everything but poetry. One can find more about her literary madness here:



Florin Dan Prodan

Macovei the Dead

in ‘46 he brought the voters
lists to Focşani
the communists wouldn’t take them
names missing they say
in ’48 they swing by and condemn his mountain
he grabs a gun and goes up the mountain
where Colonel Strâmbei Ion hangs around
they resist till 1950
and then turn themselves in

for 18 years he chats with Lădaru
who served in the Don bend
with ex-prime-minister Maniu in the prison in Râmnicu Sărat
with Ghiță from Transylvania in Jilava
with Lesnea Professor of Law
and with Burloi in Rubla on the Bărăgan Planes

when he gets out he finds
his village looking like a giant chain
his home a broken padlock
he climbs back into the mountains
and drives logs with pike poles for a living
he talks only to his horse

translated from the Romanian by MARGENTO


Macovei Mortu

în ‘46, s-a dus cu listele
de la alegeri la Focşani
comuniştii nu le-au acceptat
cică erau incomplete
în ‘48 au venit la el şi i-au luat muntele
el a luat o armă şi s-a dus pe muntele
colonelului Strâmbei Ion
pînă-n ‘50 au luptat acolo
apoi s-au predat

18 ani a stat de vorbă
cu sergentul Lădaru
care-a fost la cotul Donului
cu Maniu la Râmnicu Sărat
cu Ghiță din Ardeal la Jilava
cu profesorul Lesnea de la Drept
sau cu Burloi, în Rubla, Bărăgan

când s-a întors
satul i s-a părut un lanț uriaş
şi casa lui un lacăt stricat
aşa ca s-a dus iar pe munte
la buşteni, la corhănit
şi vorbea numai cu calul


Florin Dan Prodan (b. 1976) is the founder of the literature and art group Zidul de Hârtie (Wall of Paper) from Suceava, Romania. As a poet he has published among other books, On the Road. Poeme de călătorie (Shambhala Press, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2012), Poem pentru Ulrike (Vinea, Bucharest, 2013), Poeme şi note informative (Zidul de Hartie, Suceava, 2014). Florin has contributed to various Romanian cultural magazines. His poems have been included in various anthologies, such as Best Romanian Poetry 2012 (Tracus Arte Publishing House). He is the director of the Inside Zone International Festival of Poetry and Visual Arts and of the artists and writers residency in Borsec. As a visual artist he exhibited in Europe and Asia.



Translator Bio Notes:


Tara Skurtu, born in Key West, Florida, is a two-time Fulbright grantee and recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship in Poetry. Her recent poems have appeared in SalmagundiThe Kenyon ReviewTahoma Literary Review, and Poetry Wales. She is the author of the chapbook Skurtu, Romania (Eyewear, 2016) and the full collection The Amoeba Game (Eyewear, October 2017). She lives and teaches in Bucharest.


MARGENTO (Chris Tănăsescu, b. 1968) is a poet, performer, academic, and translator who has lectured, launched books, and performed in the US, SE Asia, Australia, and Europe. He has recently completed the libretto for a rock opera composed by Bogdan Bradu, and he continues his work on the Graph Poem Project together with Diana Inkpen and their students at the University of Ottawa. MARGENTO is Romania & Moldova editor-at-large for Asymptote.


Martin Woodside (b. 1972) is a writer, teacher, scholar, and founding member of Calypso Editions. He has written five books for children, a chapbook of poetry, Stationary Landscapes (Pudding House), and a full-length collection of poetry, This River Goes Both Ways (Wordtech). His unpublished novel, Family Business, has been a finalist for the Whidbey Island Emerging Writer’s Getaway Contest and a runner-up for the Maurice Price. As a literary translator, Martin’s work grew out of his time as a Fulbright Scholar in Romania. His translations of Romanian poetry have appeared in several books and journals, including The Kenyon Review Online, Asymptote, and the Brookyn Rail’s inTranslation. He’s published two collections of Romanian poetry in translation, Of Gentle Wolves, an anthology of contemporary Romanian poetry, and—along with MARGENTO—Athanor & Other Pohems, collecting the work of the brilliant surrealist Gellu Naum.


Raluca Tănăsescu (b. 1978) is a Vanier Scholar at the University of Ottawa’s School of Translation and Interpretation. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation, which challenges the traditional dichotomies between so-called “major” and “minor” languages and literatures, and examines the role that poetry translation and the digital space can play in increasing awareness of these questions.