Four Poems

Bogdan Ghiu

You feel it before and then feel something after. As you write you feel nothing. The pressure upon the face of the world, the one shaping our features, becomes pressure, by hand, on the paper. You need to know to continue, move forward, extend the domain of that great inertia.

I'm pressing these words on the paper. And what about me — who, what presses me?

Speak what you've seen.
What fell into your mouth through your eyes.
You speak what you eat.

The poem as accident and postal delivery

a)     Bring to the words.
b)     Choose the words.
c)     Put into words.
d)     Nicely wrap up the words.
e)     Carefully transport or forward the words.
f)     Check if delivered.
g)     Wait by all means for an answer or confirmation of receipt at least.
h)     Rest for a while, bring together, pack up, put aside and resume work without delay.

a)     Do not bring to the words. Gather words unto words, out of which some, already prearranged, somehow, you do mean to say, while the others (most of them, as a rule) you employ to that end.
b)     Check whether you've conducted the operation properly, whether you've operated correctly, aesthetically, that is, going unnoticed, that is.
c)     You think, as you work, to make changes. You get the idea to lie. You will claim that everything matters, that all words and all sentences are equally important, that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts etc., though you know only too well it isn't like that, but you've already forgotten.
d)     You change the addressee. You meant to say something particular to someone in particular and now you ask yourself why not say everything (something perfect and total) to each and every one. Indeed, why not? There's nothing to stop you and everyone seems to be waiting for just that. Which, of course, is not true, but you've long since forgotten and you continue to slide. You're already writing. You cross out the addressee.
e)     Someone's still waiting — you did brag about it — something from you. They're deceiving themselves. They are waiting in vain.
f)     You now do away with the decisive moment of writing itself, with the authentic moment of writing — the only one. You no longer fill in the label, nor do you write the address. Why, how could you ever send something so beautiful, so important to one address alone, to one name alone, to one alone, to someone alone?
g)     Now you believe writing is meant for everyone, not just for someone. You have a mind to continue that way, yet
h)     you do wait for an answer, you even demand it, though you've sent not a thing to no one.
i)     You unwrap the packed words and realize, in a flash, 'twould be best, 'twould be proper and meet, to save just the strings, the connections.
î)     You make an empty parcel, the bulkier the better, and start writing it over, all over. That's more like it!
â)     There's no room left for either label or address. Once again, no room left for writing.
a e i o u)     You take the poem in your arms, pick it up with the hands you have written it with and you leave. You go to deliver it personally. You were right (you've been right all along): the addressee, the address, the contents should by all means be kept secret, yet it should reach its destination all the same.
ă)     You have learned at long last how it's done: you are supposed to write to each and every one, yet deliver the message in person. Be the courier of your own message (as long as it's yours and you've got someone to tell it to), be not ashamed. Write it by heart and leave.

As I write, on the back of the page (on the verso), it's you. You hide and the leaf's hiding you. As I write I (fore)feel you, I can feel your trembling, unequal, motionless body, one with the earth. I feel you around. You prevent me from writing correctly and neatly. Why are you underneath my sheet of paper, beyond it? Come out of there, come on top, next to me, in my place! You uphold my sheet of paper. Our contact is this very sheet of paper. I owe the text I'm writing (mostly) to the geography of your body.

translated from the Romanian by Florin Bican

Read the original in Romanian

Bogdan Ghiu (Bucharest, 1958) is one of the best known Romanian poets of recent decades, being at the same time an active and valued theorist in literature, media, art and architecture, as well as a translator of French theory. Defined at first as textualist and metapoet, he refuses postmodern relaxation and blocking, seeking a post-literary expansion of poetry with the performative arts and geopolitical reflection. He has received awards from the Romanian Writers' Union for his volumes The One Meter Side Poem (1996) and The Art of Consuming (1996). His most recent book of poetry is (The Cardboard Poem) Traces of Destruction on Mars (2006), and his most recent essay collections are I, the Artist. Life after Survival. Bar Code for Art's Monstrous Future (2008) and Telepithecapitalism. Media Middle Ages 2005-2009 (2009). At the Venice Biennale 2011, Romania was represented by an exhibition based on his concept, Performing History.

Florin Bican studied English at the University of Bucharest where he became a compulsive translator of Romanian literature. The resulting translations have been published in Britain, Ireland, the United States, Singapore, Germany, and Romania. His translations from English into Romanian include Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark and T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. When not translating, Florin Bican works on subversive children literature. His first volume of poetry, A Slob's Treasury of Verse (2007), is a collection of politically incorrect cautionary rhymes. A second volume in the same vein, The Recyclopedia of Nonsense Rhyming Tales, was published in 2013. Bican's work in progress, Torpid Tropics, is an attempt at cautionary prose and is just as politically incorrect. In 2009 he edited and contributed to The Cook-a-Book Pancyclopedia of Texts and Images, an anthology of Romanian children's literature. Between 2006 and 2012 Florin Bican was in charge of the Romanian Cultural Institute program, Translators in the Making, training foreign translators of Romanian literature.