July 3, 2013KR OnlinePoetry

From “The Animal-Tree”

Translated from Romanian by MARGENTO and Martin Woodside


Generally we cannot know for sure whether it is a good thing or not to speak of that banished thing
of the well-known
strange thing we habitually do when alone
of the migrations to the gentle labyrinths where moans can be of an immeasurable value
generally, they make love day and night and evening and some mornings
following some slightly erroneous calendar
baking bread and bandaging shoulder blades
and we walk great boulevards telling each other our locust memories
walk like heaps of dry cobs our rustle stirring the nostalgia of those who walk with fingers in creoline
speaking that urban-rural language
with a firmness capable of more and more in
the Swimming pool, the rocking cradle, and the birdcage.

Plants grow in the world all-powerful overwhelming
a vegetable world watches us from a distance sending up illustrated postcards and fans
in a searing heat which doesn’t belong in any era
an encompassing heat like a mattress with no memories no dreams just one canopy
urban-rural and we exist each other and the whole
is one single thing
a thing forefelt in bra and petticoat lost and yellowish on rough surfaces

But on those pathways plausible through the garden plots
you can hear the words from words you can see
the hourglasses lost in their nostalgia
your iron rusted in them
The mistress of the universe the girl from the ballet sleeps among us as in a tin can
Heron of Alexandria spins out the principles
on a small table’s corner inside a box of matches
and everything is clear as you leaf through the treatise on the Void
and you walk around in a crinoline dress or on the benches along the fence
with your Ophelia-drowned-in-steam-style hair
and I declare to you the most noble sentiments in a white amphora
in a tower like an apprentice with his feet as wet as the women’s after the lamps
are lit
eaten up in the evening by mosquitoes in an area of total transparency
while a sad parrot gives me geography lessons
without nothing and without nowhere

Gellu Naum (1915-2001) is one of the greatest European poets of the twentieth century. He started as an orthodox Surrealist, together with André Breton and his fellow Romanian artist Victor Brauner in the Paris of the 1930s, where he pursued a PhD in philosophy from the Sorbonne. After returning to Romania in the early 1940s, he embarked on a solitary and prolific career, riskily immune to the political agenda of the Communist regime. He reshaped surrealism by means of a mode-of-existence poetics that absorbed (often jocosely) erudite eastern and western references along with popular culture and the quotidian, thus managing to fuse a wide range of styles and dictions into a unique discourse, shamanistic and ironical at the same time. His verse contains innumerable multitudes and infinities, while also staying mysteriously homogenous and enlightened by the pursuit of the same unmistaken path.


MARGENTO (Chris Tanasescu) is a poet, translator, critic, and performer who, with his poetry/action painting/jazz-rock project by the same name of MARGENTO, has received a number of national and international awards, including the Fringiest Event Award at Buxton Fringe (UK, 2005), and the Romanian Gold Disc (2008). He is currently assembling a graph-poem, a communal book poets from all over the world contribute to following the principles of mathematical graphs and the spirit of jam sessions. In 2012-13 he has been invited as a Visiting Professor to the Université Paris Ouest and Université de Lorraine.


Martin Woodside is a writer, translator, and a founding member of Calypso Editions. He has published five books for children, a chapbook of poetry, Stationary Landscapes, and an anthology of Romanian poetry in translation, Of Gentle Wolves. He spent 2009-10 on a Fulbright in Romania, studying contemporary Romanian poetry, and he is currently a Presidential Fellow working towards a PhD at Rutgers-Camden. His book of translations–together with MARGENTO–from Gellu Naum’s poetry, Athanor, is forthcoming from Calypso in August 2013.