Paul Celan’s Romanian Poems

Trans. Nina Cassian

Spring 2015

 

 

Blurbs

 

Here are the long overdue translations of Paul Celan’s Romanian poems (one poem dated 1947) by a great poet, Nina Cassian: they contain the buds, bloom, and deathly flowering of the obsessions found in all of Celan’s work—never-before reaches of language, death, drowning, deportation, love, pride, loneliness. The book also includes important essays by Nina Cassian on Celan’s early life and work, and post-WWII Bucharest and Paris.

 

 

“Paul Celan is an indispensable poet for those who would understand the twentieth century.”

                                                                                    —George Steiner

Letter from Paul Celan to Nina Cassian, 1947:

 

“Ingrate!…Seeing yourself simultaneously in the double posture of sleeping bird and fountain pen…the foul mouths of Prosperity will never be able to say we did not love each other. Let the sea come over us and let our brother-sharks gobble us up!

[signed] Paul (more African than ever).”

 

“Nina Cassian was a fierce and highly determined poet. Her work is so witty and clever, so mordantly funny and skillfully made, that it is possible to underestimate her driving passions, her wild-eyed fevers, her ferocious presence.  Her sense of wonder was intense.  It’s as if she were aggressively remembering the creation or, more exactly, writing just after the expulsion.  She was a sublime artist, like Sappho, a poet of passionate depths—and great heights.”

—Edward Hirsch

 

Bios   NINA CASSIAN (1924–2014) was born in Romania and died at her home on Roosevelt Island. In her lifetime, she published sixty books. Principally a poet, she wrote fiction and children's books, and was also a composer and translator (notably of Shakespeare, Molière, Brecht).   CARMEN FIRAN has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays, and short stories in her native Romania. She has lived in New York since 2000. The Sheep Meadow Press previously published her book Rock & Dew.     Blurbs for Interviews and Encounters   Eavesdropping on this conversation between two brilliant women feels deliciously indecent. The elder, famous on two continents for her poetry and her dazzling life, plays and spars with the younger, but no less knowing, poet, in a fiery exchange on politics, love, letters, languages, and beliefs. Tolerant of each other’s differences, and deeply empathic for one another’s feelings, they create a lasting Figure of Friendship.                                                                              –Andrei Codrescu     Nina Cassian was a fierce and highly determined poet.  Her work is so witty and clever, so mordantly funny and skillfully made, that it is possible to underestimate her driving passions, her wild-eyed fevers, her ferocious presence.  Her sense of wonder was intense.  It’s as if she were aggressively remembering the creation or, more exactly, writing just after the expulsion.  She was a sublime artist, like Sappho, a poet of passionate depths—and great heights. –Edward Hirsch     She asked me to her apartment for supper after The New Yorker published on a single full page in 1990 (as we were to do again a few years later) a round of four poems of hers . . . When I arrived, having taken the little aerial tram to Roosevelt Island, Nina had prepared a Romanian feast for my simple Irish American palette. I had never been treated to so much pickled food. She sat me down, gave me utensils, placed the various dishes before me, and settled about 11 inches across from me, lit a cigarette, poured some scotch, and, demurring herself, proceeded to encourage me to gobble and gobble while she peppered me with questions, her salamander tail swishing the whole while. She was absolutely remarkable, and I’m sure I’ll summon her up and speak to her now and again for the rest of my life. And, of course, we have her poems. –Alice Quinn  

Bios

 

NINA CASSIAN (1924–2014) was born in Romania and died at her home on Roosevelt Island. In her lifetime, she published sixty books. Principally a poet, she wrote fiction and children's books, and was also a composer and translator (notably of Shakespeare, Molière, Brecht).

 

CARMEN FIRAN has published twenty books including poetry, novels, essays, and short stories in her native Romania. She has lived in New York since 2000. The Sheep Meadow Press previously published her book Rock & Dew.

 

 

Blurbs for Interviews and Encounters

 

Eavesdropping on this conversation between two brilliant women feels deliciously indecent. The elder, famous on two continents for her poetry and her dazzling life, plays and spars with the younger, but no less knowing, poet, in a fiery exchange on politics, love, letters, languages, and beliefs. Tolerant of each other’s differences, and deeply empathic for one another’s feelings, they create a lasting Figure of Friendship.

                                                                             –Andrei Codrescu

 

 

Nina Cassian was a fierce and highly determined poet.  Her work is so witty and clever, so mordantly funny and skillfully made, that it is possible to underestimate her driving passions, her wild-eyed fevers, her ferocious presence.  Her sense of wonder was intense.  It’s as if she were aggressively remembering the creation or, more exactly, writing just after the expulsion.  She was a sublime artist, like Sappho, a poet of passionate depths—and great heights.

–Edward Hirsch

 

 

She asked me to her apartment for supper after The New Yorker published on a single full page in 1990 (as we were to do again a few years later) a round of four poems of hers . . . When I arrived, having taken the little aerial tram to Roosevelt Island, Nina had prepared a Romanian feast for my simple Irish American palette. I had never been treated to so much pickled food. She sat me down, gave me utensils, placed the various dishes before me, and settled about 11 inches across from me, lit a cigarette, poured some scotch, and, demurring herself, proceeded to encourage me to gobble and gobble while she peppered me with questions, her salamander tail swishing the whole while. She was absolutely remarkable, and I’m sure I’ll summon her up and speak to her now and again for the rest of my life. And, of course, we have her poems.

–Alice Quinn