Mariana Marin (1956-2003) is one of the most important figures of the Romanian 80’s literary generation. She has published five poetry collections: A Hundred Year War, 1981, 2001 (Un război de o sută de ani), The Secret Wing, 1986 (Aripa secretă), The Workshops, 1990 (Atelierele), Mutilation of the Artist as a Young Man, 1999 (Mutilarea artistului la tinerețe), The Golden Dowry, anthology, 2002 (Zestrea de aur). 

Mariana Marin’s poems are starker and more expressionistic than the work of Gellu Naum and an almost physical tensing in our translation felt appropriate with her work. It is telling that her poetry not only meant a lot to her peers, but that it is also valued highly by the generation following her: she has not been dismissed by new experience, but remains a marker of it. She died at the age of forty-seven (smoking and alcohol took their toll), Naum when he was eighty-six: both poets lived through harshness and slapped the word structure of poetry against brutalities of ignorance. This is why we have loved translating their exacting work. (Stephen Watts)

Elegy

In the mountain sanatorium
sheltered ayay! sheltered once more
until one day (an ordinary one, of course,
like our wedding day)
I saw the way someone was digging
another face into my young flesh.
Shy, in the beginning. Then, indifferently.
Nothing more grandiose than the pageant
of a dying body,
my new face seemed to be telling me.
Nothing closer to the gods.
This way I started living
through two faces at the same time.
One of them – lonely and pale.
The other, the one you can see,
through which I can at any time show you
more than one head, more than two eyes.
So, here I am,
in the sanatorium in the mountains
(sheltered ayay! sheltered)
once more sheltered by this severe illusion,
swallowing words from two faces,
talking with them and dreaming shamelessly
and, of course, ordinarily,
as on the day of our death.

 

Elegy

She had been forced to go on living
at life’s limits
(and that for quite some time!)
in the terrible young years of the dream
and the hollow wall.
Her soft hair did not fall
across any of this ever,
neither was her walk that of the doe.
Her secret mania and the sickness have though
given her something:
the passion of describing the self from every point
and in depth.
The illness clamped itself one day to her throat so sweetly
that, looking at each other lazily, calmly,
she put a stop to the game
that made her so beautiful
and so mean.

 

Elegy

Mutilation of the artist as a young woman at minus 15 degrees.
Not the gas of Sylvia Plath is possible,
nor any soap for the rope of Veronica Micle.
From time to time the faded memory of Tsvetaeva,
the silence in which Akhmatova is drowning
and the misery, the poverty of that Jerusalem
from where Else is summoning me.
Yes, Sappho, the soil is now much richer
since you left us.
Your notorious ugliness & Emily’s gentleness
have brought me nothing but these thorns
that like manacles are constricting
my talent and my life.

Translated from the Romanian by
Stephen Watts & Claudiu Komartin