Friday, December 30, 2005


Marin Sorescu

Marin Sorescu (1936 - 1996) was a Romanian poet and playwright whose poetry is characterized by a degree of whimsy that gives rise to gentle but perceptive irony, as in "Precautions":

I pulled on a suit of mail
made of pebbles
worn smooth by water.

I balanced a pair of glasses
on my neck
so as to keep an eye
on whatever
was coming behind me.

I gloved and greaved
my hands, my legs, my thoughts,
leaving no part of my person
exposed to touch
or other poisons.

Then I fashioned a breastplate
from the shell
of an eight-hundred-year-old

And when everything was just so
I tenderly replied:
-- I love you too.

(Translated by Paul Muldoon and Joana Russell-Gebbett)

In the following poem, Sorescu contrasts the actors who understand so well how to bring their characters and their characters' passions to genuine life with the audience, the "we," who don't know "how to come alive":


How naturally spontaneous -the actors!
With sleeves rolled up,
How much better they know how to live our lives for us!

Never have I seen a more perfect kiss
Than the actors' in the third act,
When the passions start
To make themselves clear.

Stained with oil,
In authentic caps,
True-to-life in their perfectly plausible jobs,
They enter and exit with speeches
That unfurl like carpets under their feet.

Their death on stage is so genuine
That, next to its perfection,
Those in the graveyards,
The truly dead,
Made up for tragedy, once and for all time,
Seem stagy and unstill!

Whereas we, so stiff within our single span,
We don't so much as know how to come alive!
We speak our lines at the wrong time or keep silent for years on end,
Histrionic and unaesthetic,
And we haven't a clue where the hell to keep our hands.

(Translated byAdam Sorkin and Lidia Vianu)

His poems are most often firmly rooted in the ordinary, the everyday, but this becomes a lens which allows Sorescu and his reader to see more deeply beyond the initial surface into metaphysical depths:

"It's Been a Day"

You're coming home
A bit worn out,
But satisfied.
Satisfied as a tram ticket
Showed to the collector
And punched exactly in the right place.

You've been unwinding generously
During the whole day,
And now you gather again, little by little,
You are waiting to rewind
And you return, you return from everywhere,
You return and you're never ending.

It's been a day like any other,
Full of achievements,
No sooner did you arrive at work,
Than you began to spread your own activity
On table, chairs, and telephone
And all surrounding objects meant for that.

You also faced some other tasks:
You asked for and you offered cigarettes,
You shook hands with at least one hundred fellows
Anticipating questions like "How are you?"
Before they had the possibility to ask you,
Thus managing to place them
In a position of inferiority.
And obviously you spoke all day, as usual,
Within the limits of the Current Romanian Language Dictionary,
Five thousand words or so.

And now while you are picking up the rust
From the key you forgot in your pocket,
The pebbles which got into your shoes,
Have now, one by one, slunk also in your soul.
And are so strangely jingling there,
Thus, now your children will have one more toy to rattle.

Even your nerves
Which have been so artistically twisted
All day long,
Will be in such a glorious way used by them
As a new buzzer for the paper kite.
In a few minutes, the kite will be joyfully hoisted
Over your house,
Signalling to the Cosmos that still,
Life does exist on Earth in spite of all,
and it's exploited to the maximum.

(Translated by C. Iliescu)

In what has struck me as one of his finest poems I've yet seem, "Paintings," Sorescu combines all these elements to reveal to us how the observer becomes involved in the perception of art:


All museums are afraid of me:
When I spend a whole day
Contemplating a painting
The following day they announce
It has disappeared.

Every day I am found stealing
In another part of the world
Yet I am unperturbed
By the bullets which whistle past my ears
And the police dogs
Which now know the smell of my steps
Better than lovers
The perfume of their beloved.

I talk loudly to the oil paintings
That endanger my life
I hang them up on the clouds and trees
Then step back to study the perspective.
With the Italian masters it's easy to start a conversation
What a chatter of colours!
And so with them
I am easily detected
Heard and seen from a distance
As if I were carrying parrots.

The most difficult to steal is Rembrandt.
You reach to touch him and come upon darkness
You panic, his people have no bodies
Only. eyes locked in dark cellars.

Van Gogh's canvases are mad
They swirl and turn head over heel
You must keep a tight grip With both hands
They are sucked in by some power of the moon.

Why should Breughel make me cry?
He was no older than me
Yet he was named the Elder
Because he was omniscient when he died.

I try to learn from him
But I can't keep my tears
From running on his golden frames
As I escape, the seasons under my arm.

As I say
Each night I steal a painting
With a dexterity to be envied
And yet it is such a long way
And finally caught I am caught.
So home I come late at night
Tired, torn by dogs,
Bearing in my hands a cheap reproduction.

(Translation by Constantin Roman)

In late 1996, dying of liver cancer, Sorescu dictated his last volume of poetry The Bridge to his wife, directly confronting without hesitation his own death:

"Ladder to Heaven"

A silken thread, spun by a spider
Hangs from the ceiling
Just above my bed.

Day by day I watch it descend.
And think, 'now heaven offers me ladder,
It reaches to me from above'.

Weakened though I be,
A shadow of my former self,
I think the ladder might not
Support my weight.

Listen, my soul, on you go ahead,
Softly, softly.

(Translation by Constantin Roman)

Precautions-- is one of the best "love" poems I have read in a long while.
I like this poet!
I love "Precautions," too, one of my favorites of his I've read so far. I've ordered his Hands Behind My Back: Selected Poems, so will have more to pick from in a few more days.

And thanks for stopping by.

merci for the redirection. love these.
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