About RODICA DRAGHINCESCU and Words, Under My Skin
The Art of Saying “Come! »
Words, Under My Skin superbly translated from French by Howard Scott (Finishing Line Press, 2014) is a 2014 Pushcart Prize nominee. In a Note to this book the poetess wrote that her poetry “adheres either to the exacting games of the language of warriors or to the bewitching games of the language of wizards.” This strong tension between the poles of fighting and bewitching, harsh speech (in old times the armies in conflict used to curse at each other before the battle started) and angelic sweetness is not a poetic adornment but the lyricism’s substance. Howard Scott preserved this paradoxical non-animosity into the English translation. I witnessed this pressure in real life, in one of Draghincescu’s readings in New York City, at the Cornelia Street Café in the Village. A blond long curly haired angel with a sweet face marched toward the stage as if ready to fight a dragon. At least that had been my feeling. She didn’t have a spear but a book in her right hand and while reading, with the left hand she pierced the air and the listeners’ souls. It had been excess and restrain altogether, a sort of ancient play as if Pallas Athena, the goddess, would come to read her poems. I asked her afterwards why she writes only in French. The answer was that this is the language in which her poems flow, the language her poems had chosen, something beyond her will.
Rodica Draghincescu moved to France from Romania about two and a half decades ago and from that time on she wrote poetry mainly in French. The amount of passion in scrutinizing everything from the soil to the gods reflects a stage of her poetry. If we assess the magnitude of desperation, rage, and inquiry of everything around including the poet’s very intellectual existence and biological composition, the poems in this book, written more than a decade ago, reflect a young age of lyricism.
The French language that had become the language of her poetry suggests a personal connection with the non-native language. Writing about this experience, the poet gets to the heart of the matter. The native tongue words are “Muted, bruised and damned” after being tainted by half of century of the communist discourse in Romania; the new language words Avoir ou être, naître ou mourir,//Être ou avoir, mourir ou naître (To have or to be; to be born or to die/ To be or to have, to die or to be born) seem purer for the exiled poet. This is an excerpt from EX(o)ilium:
What did I put
In my suitcase starting out?
Old scars and clever tricks,
Social misery and emotional demons,
Vices and fairy tales
With words on the other side of the word:
Muted, bruised and damned,
What did I keep
In my suitcase arriving?
The coloured batiks of my mother,
The dor for seedy places,
A fleeting proverb
The fever of tested illnesses,
Mud pies, dusted with clay,
My first toys of wood and wool,
The sparse rains, the winds and frosts of the pousta,
The woodcocks and storks brooding rebel roofs.
The drums and fires in the streets at Christmas
With its mirror words:
Avoir ou être, naître ou mourir,
Être ou avoir, mourir ou naître,
No time to win,
No time to lose.
The tongue is no more
The heart organ in this case
Instead the organ of knowledge
And of power.
Where are you birthplace
When you become un-quietude
A place in a postcard
With no future, never mailed
Trace stored deep in the eyes,
Trace stored deep in the eyes,
Trace banished in the space of writing..
The poems are not easy to read, the pain and desperation are too powerful. I remember John Berryman’s definition of poetry: “Imagination, love, intellect ̶ and pain. Yes, you’ve got to know pain.” Draghincescu’s poems display the almighty and the outmost extinction of the poet: “I strike with my head the crust of heaven, / I give feet to the crust of the earth. If I hold out my hands, horizontally, I perforate the boundary with the world.” Everything is about the painful ‘I’ and the writing: “Words sing and things dance. Every two minutes, switch places. The air has godflesh. A perfect death, a new life is opening for each one. The rainbow separates them. Words designate things and things designate words. (Slope); “I bury my head in writing/ I blow my head up,/I go the speed of words./I bury my head in writing,/I blow my head up,/I go the speed of write.” (Fuse); “This dividing line/Between cry and write” (The game line) is almost nonexistent. Sometime her poems into English translation linger in the remembrance of Elizabeth Bishop’s expression of mortality: “The art of death is disappointed angel grey:/The weak weeper/Lips sealed//Speaks shrinking smaller. / I’m hungry/I am the have of the one who is no more “ (The Angel Doesn’t Come Anymore). “That reality died yesterday morning. It was my last witness. Its image lays a chick in the hurricane eyes where tears formed a Red Ice Age.” (Perrault’s Tale)
Draghincescu is aware of her lyricism’s uniqueness: “When I turned 30 toured 30/I wrote my poetry with the facts/ (No one could imitate me/They intellectualized in vain,/wiping their heads with the edge of a blade). (Text with crank and butterflies). The descriptions, frequently employed in her poems, have the visual power of an elegant suicide:
then I stick together the pieces:
mine, yours, mine, yours,
a sandwich with which I feed my good will
I lick my hands
I lay them in wait:
comecomecomecome, like a flytrap, comecome
I will give you your education on not dying weary, I will stick you to me
until you become a huge lit cigar
Then you will smoke yourself,
you will taste your truth, your lie, your fear
and turning towards Hell,
you will evolve silently,
like the rifle on the back (The Art of Saying « Come! » )
Draghincescu’s poetry provides to the booklovers what Kenneth Burke wrote that the literature’s task is to bring to them: “equipment for living.” After reading her poetry, life becomes bearable; the beauty of the drama coming from her poems is similar to a vaccine that protects the souls from the harshness of destiny.
Mirela Roznoveanu is a literary critic, writer, and journalist who has published novels, literary criticism, essays, and poetry. She was a noted dissident journalist during the turbulent period in Romania during the late eighties.
On the 10th of April 1947 Mirela Roznoveanu was born (birth name: Roznovschi) – literary critic and prose writer; after the refusal, in 1973, to attend the Communist Academy « Stefan Gheorghiu » she is fired in 1974 from the literary and cultural magazine « Tomis » in Constanta; in 1975 she moved to Bucharest where she intensely contributed on cultural issues with the Romanian Television, without being employed; between 1978 and 1989 she worked for the scientific and cultural magazine « Magazin », published by the newspaper « Romania Libera »; in April 1989, during the process of the journalists from the Bacanu Group, she is investigated by the Securitate and disciplinary moved as a » health worker « ; her books and writing is banned; in December 1989 she is part of a group of journalists who takes over the newspaper « Romania libera » from the hands of the Communist government, making it the first independent and anti-communist newspaper in Romania :
In 1991, she moved to the U.S. where she has continued her writing career. She is a tenured, full time faculty member of the NYU School of Law where she is the Associate Curator: International and Foreign Law Librarian.
On December 2000, Mirela Roznoveanu was honored by outgoing President of Romania Emil Constantinescu, for exceptional contributions from abroad in the service of Romanian culture and democracy. Mirela has been named an Officer of the National Order for Faithful Service.
Her book The Civilization of the Novel: A History of Fiction Writing from Ramayana to Don Quixote received the 2008 Award of the Romanian Society of Comparative Literature and the 2008 Award of the Romanian Academy.
Personal home page: https://files.nyu.edu/mr24/public/index.html
Interview: Mirela Roznoveanu’s Four Decades of Professional Writing: A Dialog with Vladimir Wertsman for Multicultural Review:
Modern Readings, essays, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1978
D.R.Popescu. Critical monograph, Bucharest, Albatros Publishing House, 1983
The Civilization of the Novel: A History of Fiction Writing from Ramayana to Don Quixote. An essay on comparative literature, Albatros Publishing House, vol.I -1983, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House vol. II – 1991
Always in Autumn, novel, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1988
Life on the Run, novel, Bucharest, Sirius Publishing House, 1997; Apprehending the World, poetry, Bucharest, Luceafărul Foundation Publishing House, 1998
Platonia, novel, Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1999
The Time of the Chosen, novel, Bucharest, Univers Publishing House, 1999
Toward a Cyberlegal Culture, essays, New York, Transnational Publishers (2001, 2002)
Born again–in Exile, poetry, New York, iUniverse, 2004
The Life Manager and Other Stories, novellas, New York, iUniverse, 2004
The Poems and the Poet. A multimedia companion to Born Again — in Exile. Eastern Shore Productions, 2007;
Elegies from New York City, New York, Koja Press, 2008
The Civilization of the Novel: A History of Fiction Writing from Ramayana to Don Quixote. An essay on comparative literature,Cartex Publishing House,2008. 2nd edition
Academic, Writer and Translator. She writes both in French and in Romanian.
R.D. was born in Buzias, Romania. She was part of a movement of nonconformist Romanian writers born out of the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, artists and writers that critics called the « 90’s generation. » In the Romanian press, Rodica Draghincescu was for a long time considered » the Amazon of Romanian Letters. »
After teaching French literature in university and doing research in linguistics and stylistics at the Romanian Academy, after publishing10 books in her native country (some of which won prizes from the Romanian writers union, the Bucharest writers Association, etc.), after five years of studies and writing residencies in Germany, after 4 books published in Stuttgart and Berlin, Rodica Draghincescu settled in France, Metz, where she became a literary advisor to several cultural institutions.
In France, Rodica has published, in addition to poetry, novels, books of interviews and literary essays. Her latest book is a poetry collection, RA(ts), illustrated by engraver Marc Granier (Éditions du Petit Pois, 2012), which won the VIRGIL prize for European French-language poetry and literature from the SOCIETE DES POETES FRANCAIS (Paris 2013).
In USA, Rodica has published poetry, translated from French (Words, under my Skin, Finishing Line Press, Translation: Howard Scott, Montreal) and from Romanian (A Sharp Double-Edged Luxury Object, Cervena Barva Press, Translation: Adam J. Sorkin, New York).
Publications in literary magazines and anthologies worldwide – poetry, prose, essays, translations, interviews, and critics.
Participation at festivals in U.S.A., Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Luxemburg, Italy, Sweden, Serbia, Slovenia, Romania, Moldavia, Canada.
At many festivals and literary events, Rodica has collaborated in readings of her work with Romanian, German, American and French actors and musicians known throughout Europe, such as Hélène Cardona, Hélène Martin, Jean-Luc Kockler, Michel Biehler, Philippe Joncquel, Andrej Lazarev, Ion Caramitru, Dorothea Fleiss, Marc Granier.
In addition, she directs the multidisciplinary, multilingual webmagazine: LEVURE LITTERAIRE (http://www.levurelitteraire.com) and is a member of the editorial board of the German Publishing House Klak from Berlin: http://www.klakverlag.de
Key publications in French:
– Fauve en liberté, poems, Les écrits des Forges, 2003
– Ra(ts), poems with engravings by Marc Granier, Éditions du Petit Pois, 2012.
– Distance entre un homme habillé et une femme telle qu‘elle est, novel, Éd. Autres Temps, 2001 (translation from Romanian by Florica Ciodaru-Courriol).
– À vau-l‘eau, novel, arHsens édiTions, 2006 (translation from Romanian by Florica Ciodaru-Courriol and Rodica Draghincescu)
Awards and fellowships:
2013: EUROPEAN PRIZE FOR LITERATURE AND POETRY « VIRGIL », CENACLE EUROPEEN & SOCIETE DES POETES FRANÇAIS, PARIS, France.
2006: European prize for poetry, INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL & Society DANTE ALIGHIERI, METZ-NANCY, France.
1992: Special Prize for Poetry, Académie de Lettres et de Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, France.
1995: Special Prize of the Poetry Festival ‘Goccia di Luna’, Pomezia, Italy.
1996: Prize of the Writer’s Union, Constanta, for debut novel (‘Distanta…’).
1998: Romanian national Prize for Poetry ‘Geo Bogza’.
2001: Prize of the Writer’s Union, Bucharest, for the best poetry book of the year (‘EU-Genia’).
2000-2002: Fellow of the Academy Schloss Solitude and Schriftstellerhouse, Stuttgart, Germany
2015-2016 : Fellow of the DRAC (Lorraine-France)