August 14, 2012

Nichita Stănescu

Nichita Stănescu [Romania]

Born in Ploieşti, Romania on March 31, 1933, Nichita Stănescu was born to, what he describes as “a Romanian peasant and a Russian woman.” The young boy finished school in his home town before moving to Bucharest to study Romanian language and literature at the University of Letters, graduating in 1957.

    He first published poems in the Tribuna literary magazine, publishing his first book of poetry in 1960, Sensul iubirii (The Sense of Love).  O viziune a sentimentelor followed in 1964. Over the next few years, until his early death of hepatitis in 1983, Nichita Stănescu produced 14 more books of poetry, resulting in the Herder Prize in 1975 as well as a Nobel Prize for Literature nomination. Translator Sean Cotter describes him as “the defining poet of Communist-era Romania.”

                    In an era of intense cultural politics, his aesthetics made him a leader
                   of his generation, and his poetry was widely read. Stănescu’s work was
                   reviewed everywhere, required in high-school curricula, and recited on
                   stage and television by leading actors of his day.

     Besides poetry, the writer also produced essays, prose poetry, and translations. The poet also edited and contributed to Gazeta Literarŭ, Româia Literarŭ, and Luceafŭrul.

      Stănescu was married three times, in 1952, 1962, and 1982.

     After the fall of the Romanian government linked to Communism, Stănescu was elected, post-mortem, the Romanian Academy.


Sensul iubirii (1960); O viziune a ssentimentelor (1964); Dreptul la timp (1965); 11 Elegii (1966); Alpha (1967); Roşu vertical (1967); Laus Ptolemaei (1968); Necuvintele (1969); Un pământ numit România (1969); În dulcele stil clasic (1970); Belgradul în cinci prieteni (Vršac : [Klub pisaca],1972); Măreţia frigului (1972); Epica magna ([Iași]: "Junimea", 1978); Operele imperfecte (1979); Noduri şi semne (1982); Fizologia poezie (Bucureşti: Editura Eminescu, 1990); Cărtile sibiline: poezii inedite (Bucureşti: Editura Grai şi Suffet, 1995); Opera Poetică (ed. by Alexandru Condeescu) (Bucureşti: Humanitas, 1999)


The Still Unborn About the Dead: Selected Poems (trans. by Petru Popescu and Peter Jay) (London: Anvil Press Poetry, 1975); Unfinished Work (trans. by Stavros Deligiorgis) (Bucureşti: Cartea Românească, 1979); (Bas-relief with Heroes: Selected Poems, 1960-1982 (trans. by Thomas C. Carlson and Vasile Poenaru) (Memphis: Memphis State University Press, 1988); Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems (trans. by Sean Cotter) (Brooklyn: Archipelago Books, 2012)

Sad Love Song

Only my life will truly die for me,
but who knows when.
Only grass knows how earth tastes.
Only my blood truly longs
for my heart, as it moves on.
Tall is air, tall is you,
tall is my sadness.
A time will come when horses die.
A time will come when cars rust.
A time will come when rain is cold
And every woman has your head on
and wears your dresses.
A bird will come, large, white,
And lay the egg of the moon.

(from Dreptul la timp, 1965)

 —Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

A Sleep with Saws Inside

A sleep with saws inside
decapitates horses.
They neigh blood and run
down the street, like red tables fleeing
the Last Supper.

And the horses run, in red clouds,
and clatter their shadows. Ghosts in the saddles.
Leaves stick to their throats
or fall straight through,
like the shadow of a tree falls down a well.

Bring the buckets, bring the glass goblets,
bring goblets and mugs,
bring helmets left over from the war,
bring whoever has one eye missing,
or an empty spot for an arm
where he can be topped off.

Everywhere, blood runs from headless horses,
runs wherever it wants,
and I, the first to see
all this,
may inform you that I drank some
and it was very, very good…

(from Alpha, 1967)

—Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

I may be forgotten, because
I don’t care for my arms. I may lose them.
I may be abandoned, because
I don’t love my legs. I can walk
just as well with air.
I may be left alone, because
my blood will pour into the sea
in any case.
There’s room. My ribs have all risen
like sea walls.
There’s enough light. My eyes
see only one mask.
But it does not yet exist,
so there’s room, there’s room, there is.

(from Necuvintele, 1969)

—Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter

Poems reprinted from Wheel with a Single Spoke and Other Poems (Brooklyn, Archipelago Books, 2012). Copyright ©2012 by Sean Cotter. Reprinted by permission of Archipelago Books.

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