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Book details:
Memory Glyphs

[ excerpt ]

writing from Romania

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Read: "Prose Poems in a Romanian Context"

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about the translator:
Adam J. Sorkin has published more than thirty-five books of translation and has placed the work of Romanian writers in over 350 periodicals and reviews. His recent translations include Chaosmos by Magda Cârneci (White Pine Press, 2006), Crusader-Woman by Ruxandra Cesereanu (Black Widow, 2008), and Mariana Marin's Paper Children (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006). His work has won a number of awards, including the Prize for Excellence from the Iasi Writers' Association, the Kenneth Rexroth Memorial Translation Prize, and in 2005 a Corneliu M. Popescu Prize for European Poetry Translation. Sorkin is Distinguished Professor of English at Penn State Brandywine.

  memory glyphs

by Radu Andriescu / Iustin Panța / Cristian Popescu

selected & translated from the Romanian by Adam J. Sorkin
with Radu Andriescu, Mircea Ivănescu, and Bogdan Ștefănescu

frontispieces by Cristian Opriș

Some of the most groundbreaking works of European literature, such as Rimbaud's Illuminations and Baudelaire's Paris Spleen, have been prose poetry. The present volume — a substantial selection from three contemporary Romanian prose poets — draws on this tradition.

Cristian Popescu experimented with personal myth by parodying his family and himself. The Bucharest found here is often sinister, cold, and dark. Displaying a mordant sensibility that could be called "urban pastoral" rather than political, he conducts his convivial disputations with God in the vernacular of the street.

Iustin Panta, from Sibiu in Transylvania, is more lyrical and intimate in exploring his personal autobiography. An amalgam of form, his prose poem takes on an aura of suspended meaning, a constellation of objects, gestures, conversations, and private associations that eschews the grotesquerie and solecism found in Popescu's work.

Radu Andriescu is from the artistic hotbed of Iasi, straddling the Moldavian border. His work is exuberant, direct, often manic (see his Club 8 Manifesto), and he is completely comfortable appropriating the forms of today's digital and media culture. A complex topography of language, his work ranges from the quotidian to inner meditations to fantasy, creating a texture that is thick with images and phrases often bordering on the absurd.



Memory Glyphs is a strange collection, no doubt, if only because the primary connection between the three poets is a formal one: the prose poem. ... Together, these writers provie the uninitiated with a sampler of Romanian voices—and provides those who follow Eastern and Central European poetry with some great discoveries.

Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics

Calling himself "Cristi" and grouping his texts under the title The Popescu Art, the author evokes his own family (or perhaps a fictional extrapolation of it) and lets members speak about him through dramatic prose monologues. The genuine theme is his own self, its paradoxes and prevarications, but also its ingenuous aspirations. ... A fragmentary history of family interaction and especially a "portrait of the artist as a young man" thus take shape as one piece leads to the next, while the main character remains so unabashedly self-centered (Popescu was actually schizophrenic) and gleefully boastful that he continues to be interesting despite, or, in a sense, beyond the limits usually restraining our full appreciation of cynosure narrators. Against all literary odds, the narrator becomes a kind of Romanian Everyman-individualist, even if he borders on solipsism. The poetic prose texts also suggest how and why they were themselves engendered.

— John Taylor, The Antioch Review

Paradoxically, although Romania is a very Francophile culture, and Romanian is the only Romance language in that part of the world, what we could call the "Romanian prose poem" is less influenced by the French tradition of the prose poem, its beginnings being closer to various forms of journalism (lyrical or satirical)—still practiced in Romania, where the most common profession among writers is that of journalist.

— Daniela Hurezanu, Three Percent

In his brief but illuminating translator's preface to the work of three Romanian poets born in the 1960s, Adam J. Sorkin describes prose poems as "a formless form, oxymoronic, with both lightness and heft, a chiseled, lapidary, elliptical poetry" that, according to Radu Andriescu, is "an abnormal mode of writing, marginal, irrelevant, and bookish." But anyone interested in the form or simply in challenging and sometimes brilliant writing will see through this false modesty.

— Robert Murray Davis, World Literature Today

If you thought that Romanian only comes into the spotlight when they usher forth their teenage uber-gymnasts during every summer Olympics, well, you're missing some seriously innovative literature.


A wildly roving narrative sensibility and the ability to render surreal images with poignancy and humor is a shared distinction in the work of these three poets, whose singular achievements and stylistic idiosyncrasies make Memory Glyphs a strange compound of elements, at once playful, confounding, inspiring and ultimately serious. ... Each poet ... takes his own path though darkness, humor, love, and mystery, and none is ashamed of groping aimlessly forward. The result is an unsettling pleasure, a collection of poems that grapple with our deepest questions, if only by representing the whims and cluttered wills of their authors.

— Stephan Delbos, Rain Taxi

Memory Glyphs makes a strong case for Romania's contribution to the evolution of the prose poem in the last few decades. ... In its diffuse nature, the prose poem demands both a poem and a theory of poetry. The three poets in Memory Glyphs may have little in common besides their Romanian heritage and the fact that they have individually mastered a form that few others have been brave enough to take on. For this reason, Memory Glyphs serves as an important addition to international poetics.

3:AM Magazine


ISBN 978-80-86264-32-5
168 pp.
14 x 20.5 cm
softcover with flaps
2 b/w illustrations
literature : prose poetry

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