Saturday, May 08, 2010

Liviu Campanu, translated by Patrick McGuinness

On my way to school on Thursday, I was completely excited by reading Campanu's poems in PN Review 192. A Romanian poet (1932-94) exiled by the Ceausescu regime to Constanta (Roman Tomis that also hosted Ovid's exile), he wrote about place and placelessness in a voice at once witty, regretful and lyrical. The poems from The Ovid Complex (1989) are astonishing.

The combination of thought and sight:

Drift is what they worship here:
on the cast iron shore
the sea is rolling its dice and the heron,
the only bird who cane make flying look difficult,
hauls himself up on a ramp of wind
like a geriatric on his stairlift. (from VIII)

The knotty self-questioning expressed in self-irony: "I test my weakness...

against some idea of fortitude, my impatience
against the stoic or the socialist ideal...
and I'm happy enough to be found wanting,
or would be if I knew what it was I wanted. (from I)

I have bought McGuinness's book Jilted City, which contains these translations, as well as his own poems of exile.

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