Christian Popescu,"Teatrul"

Translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin. More Popescu translations by Adam J. Sorkin are forthcoming in Calque 3, Oct-Nov 2007.

un psalm al lui Popescu

De ce nu iei, Doamne, odată și-odată, o inițiativă d-aia, d-a lu’ Matale, ca să-i angajezi pe toți bătrînii ăștia anchilozați, paralitici, ăștia de nu mai pot să umble decît cu scaunu’, să-i angajezi acolo, la Tine, la ,,Țăndărică“, la teatrul de păpuși?! Să-i prinzi cu sfori. Să le miști și capul, și mîinile, și picioarele… Să umble și să transpire, să-și trăiască și ei viața de unde li s-a oprit, săracii… Să facă și ei acolo la Tine ce-ar fi făcut pe-acasă dac-ar mai fi putut… O cafeluță, o ceartă, o cumpărătură… Și după aia și ,,Scufița roșie“… Păi ăștia și-ar da și sufletul pentru Artă, Doamne! Nici nu le-ar păsa! Ar putea să și doarmă în timpul pieselor, ca spectatorii… Le-ai trage Matale la toți pînă și visu’ pe sfoară… Ce mai: Artă mare, ca-n viață! Păi, acum, spune și Dumneata, spînzurații ăia de pe vremuri, nu erau ei cele mai grozave marionete? Nu le țineai Matale c-o mînă sforile de-acolo, de Sus, de se-aduna lumea să-i vadă cum bîțîie din mîini, din picioare și scot limba? Se-aduna sau nu se-aduna lumea? Striga ea sau nu striga fericită bis?! Păi vezi, Doamne?! De ce nu iei Matale o inițiativă d-asta d-a Ta, o dată pentru totdeauna?…

A Psalm by Popescu

Just this once, O Lord, why not simply follow through on one of Your initiatives and hire all the sclerotic, paralytic old-timers, who can’t get around except with a wheelchair, to perform at Your puppet theater, “Pinocchio”?! Hook strings to them. In order to move their head, their hands, their feet… Let them strut and work up a sweat, let them resume their lives from the point they had to stop, poor wretches… Have them do there for You what they would have done at home, if they could have… A cup of coffee, a spot of bickering, a bit of shopping… And after that, it’s curtain time for “Little Red Riding Hood”… Why, they’d be offering up their souls for Art’s sake, Lord! No way would they raise a stink about it! They could even sleep during the plays, like the audience… You might as well pull a string or two in their dreams, too, couldn’t You do that, Lord?… All the better: great Art, like in real life! Now tell the truth, own up to it, the hanged in the bygone days, weren’t they really Yours, Your most extraordinary marionettes? Wasn’t it Your hand yanking their strings from on high, wasn’t it You who gathered together the multitudes to watch them jerk their arms and legs, stick out their tongues? Well, did those mobs flock together to watch, or didn’t they? And did they keep yelling loudly for an encore, or didn’t they? Well, then, You see my point?! So why can’t You follow through on one of Your initiatives, just this once and for all?…

• • •

Cristian Popescu (1959–95), a unique poetic voice, published three books during his lifetime, almost entirely prose poetry: the chapbook The Popescu Family (Familia Popescu, 1987), Foreword (Cuvânt înainte, 1988), and The Popescu Art (Arta Popescu, 1994). A commemorative volume of manuscript reproductions was published in 1999 as issues 1-4 of the review Manuscriptum in Bucharest, and other volumes of his oeuvre are planned. His works have appeared in English in Adam J. Sorkin’s co-translations in Green Mountain Review (one poem won a Pushcart Prize nomination), The Prose Poem and The Best of the Prose Poem anthology, Poetry Daily, Brevity, Prague Literary Review, Respiro and Mississippi Review, as well as in Adam J. Sorkin’s anthology with Bogdan Ștefănescu, Speaking the Silence: Prose Poets of Contemporary Romania (Paralela 45, 2001) and in Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry, ed. Carmen Firan and Paul Doru Mugur with Edward Foster (Talisman House, 2006). Cristi – as he called himself in the poems, and as his friends always still speak of him – suffered from schizophrenia. He died a few months shy of thirty-six on 21 February 1995 from a heart attack induced by a mixture of medications for schizophrenia and depression and of vodka. A book of three Romanian prose poets including Popescu, entitled Memory Glyphs, is forthcoming from Twisted Spoon Press, Prague.

Adam J. Sorkin’s recent volumes of translation include three 2006 books: Magda Cârneci’s Chaosmos, translated with Cârneci (White Pine Press), Mihai Ursachi’s The March to the StarsPaper Children, done with various collaborators (Ugly Duckling Presse). Other books include Daniela Crăsnaru’s short stories translated with the author, The Grand Prize and Other Stories (Northwestern UP, 2004), and Marin Sorescu’s The Bridge, translated with Lidia Vianu (Bloodaxe Books, 2004)—the winner of the 2005 Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation of The Poetry Society, London. Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of English at Penn State University, Delaware County.

Bogdan Ștefănescu is an associate professor in English at the University of Bucharest who currently teaches courses in British Literature and Critical Theory. A journalist, editor and professional translator, he taught as a Senior Fulbright Lecturer at Penn State and has received research grants from the British Council, the University of London, the University of Stuttgart, and the New Europe College. He has published books and articles on literature, education, nationalism, translation theory, etc., as well as many translations from and into English.

Marina Tsvetaeva, 2 Untitled Poems

Translated from the Russian by Ekaterina Rogalsky

Не думаю, не жалуюсь, не спорю.
Не сплю.
Не рвусь
ни к солнцу, ни к луне, ни к морю,
Ни к кораблю.

Не чувствую, как в этих стенах жарко,
Как зелено в саду.
Давно желанного и жданного подарка
Не жду.

Не радует ни утро, ни трамвая
Звенящий бег.
Живу, не видя дня, позабывая
Число и век.

На, кажется, надрезанном канате
Я - маленький плясун.
Я - тень от чьей-то тени. Я - лунатик
Двух темных лун


I do not think, or argue, or complain.
Or sleep.
I long for neither sun, nor moon, nor sea.
Nor ship.

I do not feel the heat amidst these walls,
Nor garden’s green,
Nor do I long for your desired gift,

Neither the morning gladdens nor the trolley’s
Ring-singing run.
I live, forgetting date and age
And daylight sun.

I am – a dancer on a tightrope slashed
And hewn.
I am – a shadow’s shadow: lunatic
Of two dark moons.

Летят они, - написанные наспех,
Горячие от горечи и нег.
Между любовью и любовью рaспят
Мой миг, мой час, мой день, мой год, мой век.
И слышу я, что где-то в мире - грозы,
Что амазонок копья блещут вновь…
А я - пера не удержу! Две розы
Сердечную мне высосали кровь.


They fly – quick-wrought and quickly written,
Still hot from all the bitterness and bliss.
My moment, hour, day, year, lifetime – smitten,
Twixt love and love lie on the crucifix.

And I hear word of thunderstorms a-rising;
Spears, Amazonian, again flash through the sky…
Yet cannot hold my pen back! These two roses
Have sucked my heart’s blood dry.

• • •

Marina Tsvetaeva (1892-1941) is considered to be one of the most original 20th Century Russian poets. Her extremely eccentric personality and difficult character found release in her poetry writing. Tsvetaeva’s perfect control of language is one of the key elements of her poetry, as are the striking images her short, full-throated poems practically overflow with. Themes of love, female sexuality and the private, many times inexpressible (though not by Tsvetaeva) emotions of the feminine mind and heart rise to dizzying heights of tenderness and then plummet down into the blackest forms of despair a never-ending rollercoaster ride of insight and emotion. But it is the rhythm and cadence of Tsvetaeva’s language that makes her poetry truly unique - changing pace and musicality to match her images and her meaning, Tsvetaeva’s fluid, “ring-singing” lines reflect the depth, accuracy and emotional capacity of the Russian language, which presents quite a challenge for translation, as the meaning of her poetry is intertwined with its musicality to form a single organism, which is lost to the reader when one of these components is left out. At times soft and lilting, like a trilling folksong, at others – short and breathless, as though ripped from the heart, Tsvetaeva’s rhythms incarnate the vast boundlessness of her homeland. Tsvetaeva did not accept the 1917 Revolution and thus emmigrated to avoid persecution, spending an emotionally and financially devastating 17 years in exile. Her return to Soviet Russia in 1939 was a forced flight of evacuation following the Nazi invasion, and her suicide coupled with her exile made her a prohibited poet for most of her life. Only in the 1960s was her work was brought back into the literary sphere.

Ekaterina Rogalsky was born in Moscow, Russia and has been writing poetry since the age of twelve in both Russian and English. She has lived in America since the age of six. Currently, she continues her literary and cultural development in both languages, retaining her fluent Russian and majoring in Literature at the College of Creative Studies at the University of Santa Barbara. Her work has been published in several literary magazines in Russia, including Literaturnaya Ucheba (Vol.6, 2003), the Anthology of Yunost, “Teny Strannika”(Vol.12, 2003), Cosmos and Man (Vol.24, 2004) and Profsoyuzy (Vol.7, 2004), and has had several publications in English, including the Colors of Life Anthology of Poetry and Colors of the Heart Anthology of Poetry in 2004. Ekaterina is also a member of the Yunost Literature Association, and has published two books of poetry, Pervyie Kapliy Dozhdya (First Drops of Rain) in 2004 and Spolokhi (Gleamings) in 2005. Her experience with poetry has raised her awareness of the importance of sound and rhythm within a poem, and in her translations, Ekaterina draws on that awareness to preserve, as nearly as possible, the sound patterns, rhythms and cadences of the poetic original. Ekaterina has been translating both prose and poetry since 2001, and sees translation as the natural synthesis of creativity in both Russian and English, a bridge of language linking the two cultures.

Jacques Prévert
"Pour faire le portrait d’un oiseau"

translated from the French by Jacqueline Michaud

"Pour faire le portrait d’un oiseau"

A Elsa Henriquez

Peindre d’abord une cage
avec une porte ouverte
peindre ensuite
quelque chose de joli
quelque chose de simple
quelque chose de beau
quelque chose d’utile
pour l’oiseau
placer ensuite la toile contre un arbre
dans un jardin
dans un bois
ou dans une forêt
se cacher derrière l’arbre
sans rien dire
sans bouger . . .
Parfois l’oiseau arrive vite
mais il peut aussi bien mettre de longues années
avant de se décider
Ne pas se décourager
attendre s’il le faut pendant des années
la vitesse ou la lenteur de l’arrivée de l’oiseau
n’ayant aucun rapport
avec la réussite du tableau
Quand l’oiseau arrive
s’il arrive
observer le plus profond silence
attendre que l’oiseau entre dans le cage
et quand il est entré
fermer doucement la porte avec le pinceau
effacer un à un tous les barreaux
en ayant soin de ne toucher aucune des plumes de l’oiseau
Faire ensuite le portrait de l’arbre
en choisissant la plus belle de ses branches
pour l’oiseau
peindre aussi le vert feuillage et la fraîcheur du vent
la poussière du soleil
et le bruit des bêtes de l’herbe dans la chaleur de l’été
et puis attendre que l’oiseau se décide à chanter
Si l’oiseau ne chante pas
c’est mauvais signe
Signe que le tableau est mauvais
mais s’il chante c’est bon signe
signe que vous pouvez signer

"To Paint a Bird's Portrait"

to Elsa Henriquez

Paint first a cage
with the door open
next paint
something pretty
something simple
something lovely
something of use
to the bird
then put the canvas near a tree
in a garden
in the woods
or in a forest
hide behind the tree
say nothing
don’t move…
Sometimes the bird comes quickly
but it can just as well take many years
before deciding
Don’t be disheartened
wait years if need be
the pace of the bird’s arrival
bearing no relation
to the success of the painting
When the bird comes
if it comes
keep very still
wait for the bird to enter the cage
and once it has
gently shut the door with the brush
paint out the bars one by one
taking care not to touch any of the bird’s feathers
Next paint the tree’s portrait
choosing the loveliest of its branches
for the bird
paint likewise the green leaves and fresh breeze
the sun’s scintillation
and the clamor of crickets in the heat of summer
and then wait until the bird decides to sing
If the bird does not sing
that’s a bad sign
A sign the painting is no good
but if it sings that’s a good sign
a sign you can sign

• • •

Jacques Prévert (1900-1977) was a French poet whose poems are often about life in Paris after the Second World War. He also wrote several classic screenplays for film director Marcel Carné, the most famous of which, Les enfants du paradis (The Children of Paradise, 1945), is considered one of the greatest French films of all time.

Jacqueline Michaud’s poems have appeared in New England Review, New Laurel Review,Florida Review, and American Letters and Commentary, among others. Her recent work includes translations of Francophone poets, as well as a major collection of poems by Prévert.

Mirela Roznoveanu,"February"

translated from the Romanian by Heathrow O'Hare


An Elegant Manner of Settling Accounts…

I’ve been butchering math formulae and metaphors—
All languages – of both Nature and the World – are in shambles
now. Life looks like an atom
whose particles have been eviscerated.
The Mississippi introduced me
to an elegant manner of settling accounts
during the weary green night
of the hour of the final count.
My spectral self was invited to the banquet
of the New Orleans ghosts, at a moldy palace.
I’m gliding through the Mardi Gras night
alongside the Mississippi
toward seas whose anxieties have been euthanized,
so as to welcome my spooky condition
of body and mind from another era.
My life’s projects have all been fulfilled,
the bottom line was drawn,
all former quarrels fading away into the ridiculous.
That wakeful night I felt at a loss what other lies to tell,
since the bottle of rum, gulped down
in the Montego Bay, had failed to do the trick.
The Caribbean should have reconciled me
with my own self and with eternity.
Yet, here I am at one with the sea,
the Cayman Islands staring out in dismay
at the marine cemetery that has just missed its prey.
My human atom’s charged with more
protons and electrons than it has ever been.
I ride the ruffled waves northward,
hurriedly crossing the Mexico Bay,
gliding over the Mississippi marshes through the drizzle,
striking my name off the spectral list
of a New Orleans night club,
sipping a big coffee,
having a dinner to match,
followed by several glasses of Pinot Noir
at my friend the poet’s place.
She can’t help noticing the discrepancy
between the drained-out discourse of the past
and my present highly enriched human state.
In the French Quarter, on the verge of sleep, I capture
the whiff of its magnolia trees’ electric blossoming.

I breathe the silence in,
aware of the impending storm.

Noapte de Februarie

Măcelăresc formule matematice şi metafore—
toate limbajele s-au terminat.
Viaţa seamănă cu ce rămâne din atom
după ce nucleul şi electronii s-au evaporat.
Mississippi mă iniţiază în formula elegantă
a încheierii socotelilor
în noaptea verdelui obosit
al stării de bilanţ;
fantoma mea a fost acceptată la banchetul stafiilor
dintr-un palat mucegăit
de pe St. Charles Avenue cu Felicity Street
din New Orleans.
Alunec în noaptea de Mardi Gras
odată cu Mississippi
spre mările în care neliniştile trec în euthanasie
acceptându-mi starea de stafie
trupul şi gândirea tot mai dintr-o altă eră;
proiectele vieţii s-au împlinit
linia s-a tras
răfuielile au trecut în ridicol
nu ştiu cu ce se mai poate minţi o noapte albă
dacă nici sticla de rom dată pe gât
în Montego Bay nu-i poate ţine piept;
Caraibele ar fi trebuit să mă împace cu mine
şi eternitatea
dar iată-mă devenită chiar marea
insulele Cayman privesc consternate la cimitirul marin
care şi-a pierdut o pradă
atomul meu s-a umplut
de mai mulţi protoni şi electroni decât a avut vreodată;
îmi mân valurile nervoase spre nord
traversez galopant Golful Mexicului
şi burniţa din mlaştinile Mississippiului
îmi şterg numele din registrul fantomelor
dintr-un club de jazz din New Orleans
absorb o cafea triplă
un dinner pe măsură
câteva pahare cu Pinot Noir
în casa prietenei mele, poeta,
care observă discrepanţa dintre discursul obosit al erei trecute
şi atomul meu uman super îmbogăţit;
mi se face somn în French Quarter
în presimţirea magnoliilor electric desfăcute.

Inhalez tăcerea;
adulmec dezlănţuirea.

• • •

Born in Romania, Mirela Roznoveanu has published volumes of essays, literary criticism, poetry, as well as several novels. She also distinguished herself as a journalist. In 1991, she came to the USA where she continued to write for both American and Romanian publications. Her books include, The Life Manager and Other Stories, and Born Again-- in Exile (Poems), both in the U.S., and in Romania: The Civilization of the Novel: from Ramayana to Don Quixote in two volumes, and Apprehending the World, a volume of poetry. This year will see the realease of a new volume of poems, New York Elegies. For more information about Mirela Roznoveanu, please, visit

Heathrow O'Hare is the pen name of a comparative literature essayist and translator whose activity in both his native Romania and the U.S. spans four decades. He has published selected English versions of some 30 Romanian poets among whom Eminescu, Abaluta, Denisa Comanescu, Dumitru Chioaru, Gabriel Stanescu, Mircea Ivanescu, Varujan Vosganian, and Mirela Roznoveanu (the latter three in volume format). He has also co-authored translations into Romanian (with Constantin Abaluta) volumes of selections from the following British and American poets: Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Edward Lear, Theodore Roethke, W.S. Merwin, and Frank O'Hara. During the current year he hopes to release two volumes of selections from the poetry of William James Austin and Gabriel Stanescu.