A few weeks ago, we at Asymptote blog highlighted the importance of vibrant, youthful literary journals—in exchange. In that post, we featured Fleur des Lettres, from Hong Kong, and the fruitful artistic encounters that partnership has yielded.
This week, we highlight another budding intertextual friendship, namely that one between Asymptote and Romanian lit-mag Steaua. Contemporary literature is scarce and relies heavily on exchange. This could hardly be truer than with international literature—where impediments like translation, marketing, and the consumer publishing culture risk obscuring gems we should all be watching out for. Here’s Romanian editor-at-large MARGENTO’s take on what looks to be the beginning of a long and fruitful cross-journal collaboration.
Steaua (whose name speaks for itself, “Star” in Romanian) is indeed a literary star: it is one of the foremost Romanian literary journals, featuring columns, widely-followed literary questionnaires, thematic contributions (whereby established writers and rising stars address issues related to contemporary Romanian letters and/or their own writing), reviews, nonfiction essays, poetry, and fiction, as well as translations—in a recent issue, the “Top American Women Poets” section featured for instance brilliant renditions from the poetries of legendary writers Eileen Myles and Bernadette Mayer.
Steaua is also marked by a trademark design, one that regularly showcases impressive illustrations and photography as well as highlighting fascinating music reviews—the abovementioned issue, for instance, includes a brilliant (serialized) contribution by famous poet, jazz critic, and performer, Virgil Mihaiu, on Brazilian poetry and jazz interferences. The biggest names in contemporary Romanian literature appear regularly in its pages.
Steaua is high-profile thanks to its editors and regular contributors, which include several famous writers. Two examples: the Editor-in-Chief is one of the most important poets in postwar Romania, Adrian Popescu, and the Deputy Editor-in-Chief is also a major voice in contemporary poetry, fiction, and criticism, Ruxandra Cesereanu. Cesereanu is well-known both at home and abroad, her work having been translated in many languages (including five collections published in the United States, one of which was co-authored with famous Romanian-American poet Andrei Codrescu).
Later this year, she will launch an anthology of contemporary erotic Romanian poetry, MOODS & WOMEN & MEN & ONCE AGAIN MOODS (from Tracus Arte Press, distributed in North America by Calypso Editions) to enthusiastic reception from big names such as Jerome Rothenberg and Ilya Kaminsky, who writes:
“Erotic, erratic, heretic that is what Romanian poetry is like, writes Chris Tanasescu (MARGENTO), himself a major voice who has labored tirelessly in promoting poetry in translation both from and into Romanian. Make no doubt about it: the work by new Romanian poets writing today is among the strongest, perhaps the strongest poetic tradition in Eastern Europe. And, here is our chance to see these wild and brilliant Romanians at play: there are songs of praise, of lament, chants, invocations, surreal moments, realist sketches, lyrical asides, hymns, and many other forms of poetic utterance brought together by their erotic impulse. There are great voices here, totally unpredictable, totally unafraid. Special gratitude goes to the editors and translators of this work for making it available in English in versions so mesmerizing as these.”
A partnership with Asymptote is bound to uncover as-yet hidden gems to new audiences.
MARGENTO (Chris Tănăsescu) is Asymptote’s editor-at-large for Romania. He is a poet, academic, translator, and poetry performer whose pen-name is also the name of his poetry/action-painting/jazz-rock band, the winner of a number of significant national and international awards. See his work in Asymptote here and here.