duminică, 30 august 2009


Caroline Gill: Was it always your destiny to be a writer? Do you read and write poetry in Welsh and English?

Byron Beynon: I have a need to write. I need to say what I know and feel. I write in English and I've also written a few poems in Welsh.

You have written both poetry and reviews. Do you approach these two genres in different ways?

Yes. The process of beginning and writing a poem can be like a journey: the outcome can never be totally predicted, whereas when I reviewed for Planet, Poetry Quarterly Review, Roundyhouse etc. I had before me, so to speak, the completed book, the poems presented in the order, with the form and structure, intended by the writer.

Do you have any strategies or techniques for unleashing fresh ideas?

I wouldn't advise a dependence on alcohol or drugs, although Coleridge, Rimbaud, and John Berryman, to name just three, would have had a different viewpoint.

What was your first publication success?

My first published poem appeared in the Edinburgh-based magazine, Graffiti, in 1982; I remember there were poems by Norman McCaig and Alan Brownjohn in the same issue. The first time I was paid was by the South-West Review, edited by Lawrence Sail in 1983, with a cheque for L3.75!

Why is Swansea a key poetry centre? (In your opinion, of course).

There are several very good poets/writers living in and around Swansea: Alan Perry, Sally Roberts Jones, Peter Thabit Jones and Nigel Jenkins are some that come to mind. It is impossible, too, to ignore Swansea's association with Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins, Harri Webb and John Ormond. There is a lively literary scene, and the annual Dylan Thomas Festival in October. Maybe it has something to do with what Dylan said, 'never was there such a town'.

Can poetry be taught? Please could you tell us a little about your poetry classes?

You can create a feeling and understanding for it. I think for me it's the exploration of mood that is being taught and encouraged, although the techniques of writing can be taught. In my classes for Swansea University I have tried to stimulate, encourage and challenge people who have an interest in writing, especially poetry.

Do you welcome or resent the promotional aspects of writing? I am thinking of interviews / book launches / the judging of competitions / the addressing of writers' groups / touring, etc?

I don't resent the promotional aspects of writing, although it is important to see through the hype. The interviews, launches etc. have a purpose, to sell books: they can also add spice or controversy, but they should never get in the way of the writing, which the writer will ultimately be remembered for or not.

Do some poems write themselves or does poetry always require effort, revision, fine-tuning, tweaking?

Most of the time they require hard work and effort.

Formal or free verse? Rhyme or non-rhyme? Do you write your first drafts in longhand or on the PC?

Free verse and rhyme, craft with harmony, form and structure. First drafts, always in long-hand.

Do you bin much of your work or keep wrestling it into submission?

I put it to one side, return to it again, revise it, work at it, re-work and sharpen it.

Do you read your work aloud to yourself or share and discuss work-in-progress with anybody else?

Sometimes I do read my work aloud to myself, although as a rule I never discuss work in progress.

What are the vital components of your poetry? (e.g. precision, immediacy ...)

Certainly precision and an enjoyment of language. My poetry has been described as 'rich in association, well-crafted' plus what Sue Hubbard said in Poetry Wales about my collection 'Cuffs' as having that 'vivid sense of place'.

Do you keep a notebook and/or use a dictaphone?

I've kept journals/diaries since the early 1980s. Occasionally I'll use them for reference; a line or just a few words may trigger something.

Would you tell us about your recent role with Roundyhouse?

I was invited to join the editorial team in 2003, and remained until 2007. I was also responsible for the reviews section, contacting reviewers and publishers. I invited the poet and critic Raymond Garlick to be interviewed for Roundyhouse 15, an issue I put together in December 2004. The experience gave me an insight into the general organisation, layout and deadlines for such a magazine.

Why do you feel that poetry of place and landscape is important? I feel sure that Wales has something to do with this.

I was brought up in a village by the Carmarthenshire sea. My parents still live in the house where I grew up. It gave me a sense of place, which I feel is one of the distinguishing marks of Welsh writing in both languages. As Kathy Miles said 'To write about landscape… becomes an act of re-creation, an acknowledgement of the poet's own place in the cultural development of the country'.

Would you name a couple of favourite poets?

Poets who I continue to read and admire include the great R.S. Thomas, Idris Davies, Edward Thomas, Dylan Thomas, Tony Harrison and Waldo Williams.

What single piece of advice would you offer an aspiring writer?

Read and study modern and contemporary poetry/short-stories/novels, including quality literary magazines. Needless to say, read and be intimate with the canon of literature from the past.

You have taught classes on poets who hold strong political views (e.g. Harri Webb and Tony Harrison): how would you describe the relationship between current affairs/politics and poetry?

Social, political, economical and historical factors help to shape the landscape of a country; it is up to writers/poets to respond to what they see/experience at home or abroad, whether it’s unemployment, injustice, greed, Iraq, Darfur etc. I wrote some poems that were published in the magazine Wasafiri in an issue dealing with the Cultures of Terror.

What, in your opinion, is the poetic value of podcasting?

I believe it adds that human element, the original, recorded voice of a particular poet reading his/her work for present and future generations to hear and listen to. Imagine if the technology had been available centuries ago, we could listen to Dafydd ap Gwilym, Shakespeare, George Herbert, John Clare, Keats, Emily Dickinson, G.M. Hopkins: the list seems endless. I find myself wishing.

This is a chance for you to tell us about your published work. Do you have a presence on the web? We would love to hear about ‘Cuffs', your latest collection.

You can log on to the Welsh Academi site and find me there. (Click the letter ‘B’).

You can listen to me reading some of my poems on Poetcasting. (Click top link to ‘Poets’).

'Cuffs' (Rack Press Poetry) was first launched in 2008 at the Swedenborg Hall, Bloomsbury, London. It was a very enjoyable experience with some positive feedback; since then encouraging reviews have appeared in Poetry Wales, Planet, The Seventh Quarry, Western Mail, and I believe Agenda will give it a mention. Some of my poems will also appear in a Wales issue of Agenda, which is due out in 2009.

You can buy a copy of ‘Cuffs’ from Rack Press.

Rack Press Blog

Caroline Gill 2009

This interview was first published in eTIPS for Writers, issue 7, 2009 (editor Wendy Webb of Wendy Webb Books and Norfolk Poets and Writers). Caroline Gill wishes to thank Wendy Webb and Byron Beynon for permission to reprint this interview. Thanks are also due to Norman Bissett, who devised a number of the questions.

Wendy Webb Books
Email: tips4writers@yahoo.co.uk
Blog: http://norfolkpoets.blogspot.com

('Contemporary Literary Horizon', issue no 7 / August 2009)

luni, 24 august 2009


African American writers are preoccupied with the notion of blacks as marginalized and black literature as the non-canonical literature. Their literary careers start with the crisis of their identity as the respectable American citizens. They strive to redefine white/black hierarchy of mainstream discourse. Mainstream hegemonic discourse always undermines black's presence in the making of American literature and culture.
The first African American writer to win the Nobel Prize for literature in 1993, Toni Morrison is a leading voice in current debates about the construction of race and black marginality in literature and culture. As a prominent writer of the age she refuses to allow race to be marginalized in literary discourse. Throughout her writing Morrison uses narrative forms to express African Americans' dislocated, marginalized oral tradition, and culture, and reclaim African American's historical experiences.

She profoundly uses the fictive narratives to transfigure the old south – the bedrock of black dehumanization, degradation and sorrow into an archetypal black homeland, a cultural womb that lays claim to history's orphaned, defamed and disclaimed African children. In her novels Morrison humanizes black characters in fictions that strive to overcome and excavate enforced invisibility of African Americans' social reality.
Morrison critiques the mainstream thinking and acclaims that black writers and black characters are the relative means by which text demonstrates to be human and superior. Imagination is possible in the presence of black characters and black contents. At the same time talking African discourse is inferior and submissive tends to impoverish cultural interpretation of reality. Morrison questions the validity and vulnerability of a set of assumptions conventionally accepted and taken for granted among literary historians and critics.
Africanist presence, in a constitutive part in the entire history has been rejected. Morrison in Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and Literary Imagination proposes, "The contemplating of this black presence in central to any understanding of our national literature and should not be permitted to hover at the margins of the literary imagination." Morrison argues that American culture is built on, premised by, and always includes, the presence if blacks' as slaves and outsiders.
She likens the unwillingness of academics in a racist society to see the place of Africanism in literature and to the centuries of unwillingness to see a favourite discourse, concerns and identity. She posits whiteness as the 'Other' of blackness, a dialectical pair, each term both creates and excludes the other: no freedom without slavery, no white without black.
The major themes of Toni Morrison's writing is to redefine the notion of white American canonical texts and their idea of African American writing as being non-canonical or inferior. She demonstrates the idea of racial superiority and hegemonic culture in her writings. Morrison, in the preface of her critical work Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and Literary Imagination says she is "struggling with and through a language that can powerfully evoke and enforce hidden signs of racial superiority, cultural hegemony and dismissive 'Othering' of people and language which by no means marginal or already and completely known and knowable in my work."
Toni Morrison decenters the whiteness and its domination over blackness in America. She opines that whiteness always sees black or Afro-American [people as dead, impotent or, under complete control but this is lacking very important part of black people and their construction of social realities. Unlike the notions of white American Morrison claims that black slavery enriched the country's creative possibilities.
Morrison in "Afro-American Presence in American Literature" figures out that race does not exist (Bloom 203). When race does not exist there is no question of racial superiority and inferiority as such. The notion of white American as being superior is not true. She says that those who created the hierarchy of race do not accept that there is indeed Afro-American culture. Afro-American culture exists but it is poorly recognized or understood (Bloom 203).
Morrison focuses that contemporary Afro-American literature addresses the attitudes that have silenced the autonomy of Afro-American literature since the seventh century. The change of "There is no Afro-American art" is buried by the rediscoveries of Afro-Americans' works and their appropriateness to the present context (Bloom 208). Afro-American literature counters the label of Afro-American literature being inferior so that non-canonical texts can be incorporated into existing.
It is clear that Morrison's writing is different from that of mainstream white discourse, which always observes that African American literature is subsidiary product. Her intention, thorough her writing , is to reinterpret and redefine the hidden, dislocated and alienated Afro-American presence in American mainstream discourse and claim that Afro-Americans are no more inferior human beings.
Toni Morrison's fiction demonstrates a central interest in the issues of boundary, attachment, and separation. Her characters experience themselves as wounded, or imprisoned by racial and economic divisions within American culture. The boundaries that circumscribe black people are not only the prejudices and restrictions that bar their entry into the mainstream but the psychological ones they internalize as they develop in a social structure that historically has excluded them. Toni Morrison draws from a rich store of black oral tradition as well as from her own imaginative angle of vision to illuminate the potentialities for both annihilation and transcendence within black experience.
Black lore, black music, black language and all the myths and rituals of black culture are the most prominent elements in Toni Morrison's writing. She feels a strong connection to ancestors because they were the culture bearers. She thinks that it is the responsibility of African American writers to dig out that annihilated history and secure the importance of it in the making of American civilization.
Toni Morrison's first novel, The Bluest Eye (1970) examines the experiences of a young black girl as she copes up with the ideal of beauty and the reality if violence within the black community. She tries to demonstrate that people hurt each other when they are chained to circumstances of povertyand low social status. The ideal experience of white world and the actual experience of black people is portrayed in the novel. After being raped by her drunken father, deceived into believing god had miraculously given her the bluest eye she prayed for, suffering a miscarriage and being ridiculed by the other children Pacola Breedlove loses her sanity. Pacola's determination to achieve beauty and acceptance by acquiring blue eye never succeeds.
Morrison's second novel Sula (1973) is about the theme of the friendship of two black girls. One Nel Wright follows the pattern of life society has laid out for her, and the other, Sula Peace, tries to create her own pattern to achieve her own self. It is not only about Nel Wright ad Sula Peace but also about the cultures that spawn them. Her third novel Song of Solomon (1977) basically draws upon the concern for the quest for identity of a black family, which is disinherited and has lost its name in black America. Morrison presents her concern for African Americans and their black tradition, which is disregarded and marginalized in America.
In her fourth novel Tar Baby (1981) a successful black model and a young black male who rejects middle-class American values are at centre stage in a work that examines the relationship between men and women, as well as between blacks and whites. Her fifth novel Beloved (1987) is set in rural Ohio after civil war. It centers on Sethe Suggs, proud and beautiful woman, who escaped from slavery and kills her own daughter to save her from the torments of it but is haunted by its heritage. It unearths the historical realities of horrifying experiences during Middle Passage, Slavery, Emancipation and its aftermath.
Morrison's Jazz (1992) is based on the theme of music in the lives of her characters. It is a manifestation of the conditions of life among migratory Negroes, their family love, romantic love and desire. Jazz describes the consequences that result from migration, integration and geographic dislocation.
Toni Morrison ranks among the most highly regarded and widely read fiction writers and cultural critics in America. As a critic she refuses to allow race to be relegated to the margins of literary discourse. She focuses on the importance of African American's oral and musical culture and to reclaim black historical experiences. Morrison says that African American have rediscovered texts that have long been suppressed or ignored, have sought to make places for African American writing within the canon, and have developed ways of interpreting these works.
Morrison recalls the ubiquitousness of African American culture rituals in her childhood and adolescence; the music, folklore, ghost stories, dreams, signs and variations that are so vividly evoked in her fictions have been shaping and empowering presence in her life as well. The impact of these forces in her life has inspired her to capture the qualities of African American cultural expression in her writing. Morrison has described the influence of oral tradition, call and response, jazz and dance in her narratives. Yet the presence of myth, enchantment, and folk practices in her work never offers an escape from the sociopolitical conditions that have shaped lives of African Americans. Cultural dislocation, migration and urbanization provide inescapable contexts within which her explorations of African American past are located.

This article was first published in "African Executive" journal

KHEM GURAGAIN is a lecturer in Ratna Rayja Laxmi Campus, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, and main contributor to C&LH for Nepal.

joi, 20 august 2009



Nautiluses, marine vegetation
club together
forming a wreath
in your thick dark hair.
It’s as though I’m gently caressing
at light’s witching hour
a fragile Camares style Minoic pot.

I’ve rounded off a captive arm
on the shoulder’s warm and matted
I can make out a primitive
sinful sign
but with each passing moment,
I carefully measure
only the glowing fire
of the eternal present.


have their unique way
of solving an unanswerable
They feel duty bound,
to star-stud the earth,
and that is enough!
Never again will they be able
to give more than they already have:
their entire being.
So do not cast your suspicious eyes on them,
stop saying their existence on this earth
is barren.
They’re neither ugly, nor beautiful,
they just are.


Any poem should be a deadly leap
over absences. Our Age
(mine and yours) should begin for each of us
along with the flight of the irredeemable gesture;
we should limit ourselves to two or three vital
objects and two or three vital books
the others should be sold to junkmen, as a luxury
we can’t afford anymore. We should
make a shrine for the humble and wretched 1
which cannot become 2 other than by
scissiparity. We should...

I utter ‘should’ and feel the cold envelopping me .


Today I might tattoo a poem right on the
inflamed skin, the skin that makes rain sizzle.
But I run away
from the drumming words of rain - though
it makes the body ooze out, the mind waver
in the heavenly obscure charm.
And yet
December comes once again to mind
the hardly dried sleek skin:
in the sweet and lofty pyrography,
how my lips would tattoo a poem

- I feel the poem’s nerves, its rope-like muscles,
its fleeting nature in my fist,
I touch it with great care, lest, pressing it too hard,
a bloodstream should gush out!


I offer
only to better possess,
as the purpose is unknown
even to me

In my stretched out hand
the thousand crossroads are throbbing
just as many ruthless whips
turning you, my beloved, into history.

A man – what a wonderful theorem - ,
you would have remained, hadn’t it been for my gesture
the same sublime sleeper who unconsciously aspired at cosmic indifference.

There’s no saving you. I will not spare you,
my denial. Just look how
future venoms
trickle on the roundness of an apple.


“Mihai Cantuniari’s poetry does not carry any documentary value. The poet did not let the lifestyle of the age permeate his writing. (...)
Some of his best poetry seems to have been written anytime, anywhere; however, not by anyone, but by a studious, solitary and isolated man. The reverie infused in his books is not “blinded”, as Elias Canetti’s character. On the contrary, he’s so sensitive to everything happening in this world that it makes him vulnerable. “

Alex Ştefănescu, History of Romanian contemporary literature p. 891.


I. Poetry

“Poezii” (‘Poems’), Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1977; “Ultramar”, Bucharest, Eminescu Publishing House, 1978; “Plante carnivore”(‘Carnivorous Plants’), Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1980; “Nova”, Bucharest, Eminescu Publishing House, 1980; “Cavalerul cu mâna pe piept” (‘The Knight with the hand on his chest’) , Bucharest, Cartea Românească Publishing House, 1984

II. Prose

“Bărbatul cu cele trei morţi ale sale” (vol. I din ciclul “Omul ca iarba”) (‘The Man with his Three Deaths, I vol. from the cycle ‘Man like the grass’), Bucharest, Humanitas Publishing House, 2007

Translations from : Mario Varga Llosa, “Războiul sfârşitului lumii” (‘The War of the End of the World) (1986), “Conversaţie la Catedrala” (‘Conversation in the Cathedral’) (1988), “Scrisori către un tânăr romancier”
(‘Letters to a young novelist’) (2003) etc.; Cesar Vallejo, “Heralzii negri” (‘The Black Heralds’) (1979); Christos Yannaras, “Libertatea moralei” (‘The Freedom of Morality’) (2002) etc.

Translated by Alina-Olimpia MIRON


Scoici nautili, vegetaţie marină
se adună
în părul tău negru şi des.
Parcă mângâi uşor
în miez de lumină
un fragil vas minoic de stil Camares.

Am rotunjit un braţ captiv
pe umerii cu luciu cald
şi mat
să desluşesc un primitiv
semn de păcat
dar clipă după clipă,
dogoarea numai o măsor
eternului prezent.


au un fel numai al lor
de a dezlega o ecuaţie
fără răspuns.
Să consteleze pământul,
fiecare se simte dator,
şi asta e de ajuns!
Mai mult decât au dat
nici că vor putea da vreodată:
simţirea toată.
Deci, nu-i priviţi suspicioşi,
nu le mai spuneţi că fac umbră degeaba
pe pământ.
Ei nu sunt urâţi, nu-s frumoşi,
ei sunt.


Ar trebui ca orice poezie să fie un salt mortal
peste absenţe. Ar trebui ca Era noastră
(a ta şi a mea) să-nceapă pentru fiecare
odată cu zburătăcirea gestului ireparabil;
ar trebui să ne restrângem la două-trei obiecte
de nelipsit şi la două-trei cărţi de nelipsit
iar celelalte să le vindem la telali, ca pe un lux
ce nu ni-l mai putem permite. Ar trebui
să ridicăm altar umil chinuitului 1
în imposibilitate de a deveni 2 altfel decât prin sciziparitate. Ar trebui...

Zic ar trebui şi mi se face frig.


Poate că azi voi tatua un poem chiar pe pielea
încinsă, pe pielea ce face să sfârâie ploaia.
Dar fug
de darabana cuvintelor ploii - deşi
dă trupul să se prelingă, mintea să şovăie
în neînţelesul descânt din înalt.
Şi iar
aminte-mi aduc de decembrie
de pielea cea netedă zvântată abia:
în dulce, semeaţă pirogravură,
cum buzele mele tatuau un poem

- palpez nervii poemului, muşchii-odgoane,
făptura lui ageră-n pumn,
cu grijă nespusă, nu cumva, apăsându-l
prea tare, de sânge şuvoi să ţâşnească!


Eu nu ofer
decât ca să posed mai bine,
ci scopul nu-l cunosc
nici măcar eu.

În mâna mea întinsă
zvâcnesc cele o mie de răspântii
ca tot atâtea bice nemiloase
ce te împing, iubite, în istorie.

Bărbat – frumoasă teoremă - ,
ai fi rămas, făra de gestul meu,
acelaşi adormit sublim ce în neştire
râvnea la cosmica indiferenţă.

Scăpare nu mai ai. N-o să te cruţ,
negarea mea. Priveşte numai
cum se preling veninuri viitoare
pe rotunjimea unui măr.


“Poezia lui Mihai Cantuniari nu are valoare documentară. Poetul n-a lăsat să pătrundă în scrisul său aproape nimic din stilul de viaţă al epocii. (...)
Cele mai bune dintre versurile sale par scrise oricând şi oriunde, dar nu de oricine, ci de un om de bibliotecă, solitar şi abstras. Acest practicant al reveriei pe marginea cărţilor nu suferă de “orbire”, ca personajul lui Elias Canetti. El este, dimpotrivă, sensibil până la vulnerabilitate faţă de ceea ce se întâmplă în lume. “

Alex Ştefănescu, Istoria literaturii române contemporane, p. 891.


1. Versuri

“Poezii”, Buc., CR, 1977; “Ultramar”, Buc., Em., 1978; “Plante carnivore”, Buc., CR, 1980; “Nova”, Buc., Em., 1980; “Cavalerul cu mâna pe piept”, Buc., CR, 1984

2. Proză

“Bărbatul cu cele trei morţi ale sale” (vol. I din ciclul “Omul ca iarba”), Buc., Hum., 2007

Traduceri din: Mario Varga Llosa, “Războiul sfârşitului lumii” (1986), “Conversaţie la Catedrala” (1988), “Scrisori către un tânăr romancier” (2003) etc.; Cesar Vallejo, “Heralzii negri” (1979); Christos Yannaras, “Libertatea moralei” (2002) etc.

miercuri, 19 august 2009



duminică, 16 august 2009


It all started in the year 2000. My daughter was a first year medical student and had to attend computer classes for a few months. Her homework was to design a site. That was the beginning of my ‘Desperado’ page (http://lidiavianu.scriptmania.com ).
I provided the interviews and essays. My field was, and is, contemporary British literature. In 1990, I had come out of communism with next to no knowledge of fiction and poetry published abroad after the war, and the time had come for me to teach it. I struggled hard to find my own hierarchy, to put to paper my own view of a literature which I knew pretty well in its Modernist guise, but whose after-Modernist works I was only beginning to discover.
It took me ten years to read, and then write a few books of criticism on contemporary British authors. Some of these authors were kind enough to answer my letters, and so the interviews were born: David Lodge, Peter Ackroyd, Julian Barnes, Alasdair Gray, John Fowles, Graham Swift, Timothy Mo. The poets followed: Dannie Abse, Michael Hamburger, Ruth Fainlight, George Szirtes, Alan Brownjohn, Elaine Feinstein, UA Fanthorpe, John Mole, Sean O’Brien, Fiona Sampson, and many others. Eventually a book came out of that.
As I wrote along, the British Council in Bucharest accepted to invite these writers to videoconferences with my second year students (whom I was teaching British after-Modernist literature). From these virtual mini-seminars, during which we talked about the students’ translations of the invited authors’ works, the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text was only a few steps away. I started it in 2005, at the English Department of the Faculty for Foreign Languages and Literatures of Bucharest University. It began with 15 students, and has reached 200 now.
While making the MA programme work, I had to invent my way as it unfurled before me. I founded a review of the MA Programme (and of my PhD students, who also publish there quite a lot), Translation Café, at http://www.e-scoala.ro/ctitc/translation_cafe_eliot.html ), which has reached its 78th issue (in only two years).
In 2008 I came to know (virtually) Anne Stewart (poet and literary agent, poetry pf, http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/ ), and we started together an international project of translation which she baptized poetry pRO (http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/poetrypro.html#Tour ). Its palpable results so far are a huge number of translations of British poetry into Romanian, hosted by the Romanian Broadcast Corporation (the poet Dan Verona, Radio Romania Cultural), a bilingual anthology of these translations (with a CD of the broadcast poems), published in England by Anne Stewart (And the Story Isn't Over..., http://www.poetrypf.co.uk/poetrypro.html#AntCD ), and quite a number of Romanian translations published in Timpul, Diagonale, Luceafarul,Caietele Internaţionale de Poesie.
This international project has become a living body of translators, and the best way for it to function was by creating a yahoo discussion group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/translationcafe/ , where England, the States, Romania, even South America meet. This group was meant to be a ‘living dictionary’ for young translators in need, but it has become something much stronger, a means of connecting young and old lovers of contemporary literature who embark upon translating
As expected, MTTLC (the MA Programme for the Translation of the Contemporary Literary Text) was the centre of all activities. This year, the 45 students who have graduated have translated a volume of contemporary British poetry each (the poets represented by Anne Stewart). The MAs have been in touch with the poets translated, have asked questions, have even interviewed them (a volume including these interviews is to be published soon). Their translations will be published in book form. To this purpose, I have created Editura pentru Literatură Contemporană/Contemporary Literature Press – an online publishing house of MTTLC, under the patronage of Bucharest University and the Romanian Cultural Institute, with whom my MA programme closely cooperates. We have not received an answer from the British Council yet (as to their possible support of this online publishing house), but hope to have one soon, since what we are doing serves their purpose.
A few days ago, the bilingual anthology of the Romanian PEN Club Mia-ar trebui un şir de ani/It Might Take Me Years. Antologie. Anthology came out in Bucharest. The volume was authored by the poet Constantin Abăluţă (head of the Romanian PEN Club), and it was translated into English by MTTLC students. The process of translation had three stages: first the MAs translated the texts; second, their teachers checked the correctness of the translations; and third, sixteen English poets (Anne Stewart’s group) stylized the students’ versions. What came out was first-rate poetry in English.
One more volume of the same kind (Lucian Vasilescu) is on its way to publication. Dan Verona’s poems are being translated. We hope more will follow.
Besides translating volumes of poetry, the MAs have also translated the site of the National Theatre of Bucharest (http://www.tnb.ro/index.php?page=home_en ) and are now translating that of Radio Romania Muzical (the person in charge there is Alina Olimpia Miron, a remarkable second-year MA with prodigious energy and eagerness to work).
Working with MTTLC students has been a reward in itself. I have included some of them in the volumes I have translated myself and published in my collection of Contemporary Literature in Translation at Editura Univers Enciclopedic (Ruth Fainlight: Autorul la Rampă / Author! Author!, Mimi Khalvati: Poeta din Zid / The Poet in the Wall, Peter Ackroyd: Bucurii din Purley, Alan Brownjohn: ‘Gasping for Love/Tânjesc după iubire’, George Szirtes: The Ache of Your Otherness/ Fiorul că eşti altfel).
I have started a collection within Editura Universităţii din Bucureşti, ContBritLit, and have included in it texts by my PhD and MA students (The Critical Rub. To read, to write, perchance to dream; The Critic’s Dilemma. The awful daring of a moment’s surrender; The Critic’s Light. The moment after clarity is night).
On the whole, I have tried to turn MTTLC (which was initially a mere MA programme in literary translation) into an active group (including all graduates so far and the present students) of readers, translators and propagators of contemporary literature both ways: translated from Romanian into English and from English into Romanian. Time will tell whether I have been successful or not...

August 6, 2009

sâmbătă, 8 august 2009


(Buffalo, New York, May, 1972)

BOB DOLE and Jack Kemp were going to be the keynote speakers at a CREEP (Committee to Reelect the President) dinner at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in downtown Buffalo. Reelect Nixon so he can continue to wind down the war. Right.

An SDS leaflet that I got from my friend Lenore put it this way: "Nixon Winding Down The War??? Nixon's Vietnamization program parades a pull-out of American troops and their replacement by South Vietnamese regulars. This patently racist maneuver, using yellow skins to secure their profits instead of whites, is but a smoke-screen to obscure the continuation and indeed, escalation, of America's imperialist war in Indo-China. It must be revealed for what it is: FRAUD!!!"

Vietnamization meant bombing the Vietnamese people, all the people, not just soldiers. It meant destroying three old civilizations - not only Vietnam, but Cambodia and Laos, as well.

When I heard about the demonstration that was planned for "outside" the "Stalin-Hitler" (as some of us called that pile of brick) to protest what would be going on inside, I knew that was one demonstration I had to miss. I was sick and tired of marching down Main Street, rallying with the other marchers in Niagara Square. So what if Dole or any other of the CREEPs heard a chant or read a protest sign? I was sick and tired of being on the outside, looking in.

My housemate Harry agreed with me. "Let's go down early and do a little recon".

"Case the joint!"

"Yeah. Maybe we can get in through the kitchen or..."

On our way downtown, we talked wildly about all sorts of highly unlikely strategies. We knew we would do whatever we could. We'd take advantage of any opportunity, no matter how crazy.

"I've got no ID or anything", I said. "If I get arrested, I'm Emma Goldman. Who will you be?"

"Who else?" Harry smiled and shook the hair away from his eyes. "Alexander Berkman".

* * *

Inside the hotel, in the lobby of the enemy's camp, people were hurrying and scurrying about. The scene appeared to be one of chaos, but I'm sure everyone knew exactly what they were doing, where they were going. Everyone, that is, except Harry and me. We had no clear idea about anything, but to double our potential, we split up.

Almost immediately, I ran into someone I knew - a guy who was a cameraman for one of the local TV stations. He told me that before the one-hundred-dollar-a-plate dinner, there was going to be a press conference. He suggested I try to get into it.

"How?" I asked.

"Get yourself a notebook or something and say you're from "The Spectrum". I don't know, man. You gotta be creative if you wanna be subversive. I gotta run".

What an idea! I was wearing my dark blue SUNY Buffalo T-short and my jeans. I could certainly pass for a "Spectrum" reporter.

I spotted another familiar face in the crowded lobby. It belonged to one of the left-wing lawyers who'd been defending draft resisters and other antiwar activists. I caught him right before he stepped into an elevator. He was more than willing to part with a pen, some paper, and a manila folder. "I don't know if it will work", he said, after I explained what I wanted to do, "but good luck. And, here. Just in case..." He handed me his card with his phone numbers - office and home.

Once again, I spotted my cameraman pal. I waved the folder over my head. He was rushing off somewhere with the rest of his crew, but took a second to point toward the room where the press conference was to be held. I joined the group of reporters waiting to get in.

Someone was standing by the door asking: "What paper are you from?" and checking off the answers on his clip board. When I said I was Emma Goldman from the U.B. student paper, "The Spectrum", he said he didn't have that on his list, but agreed there must have been some mix-up. He gave me a pass to the dinner and let me through.

Once inside the room, I took a seat, opened my folder on my lap, and started jotting down notes. I was in the second row of metal folding chairs, just a few feet away from Bob Dole and Jack Kemp. There were TV cameras, microphones, lights. Expectation. We were instructed in the protocol and, finally,the conference began. I raised my hand. Dole nodded directly at me.

"In the fifties, when he was in the Senate", I said, "President Nixon went on record in favor of using nuclear weapons in Indochina. Is he in favor of using them now, in Vietnam?"

"No", Senator Dole said. He looked shocked for a split second. Then he moved on quickly to the next questioner.

The conference was brief. As everyone was getting ready to leave, I went up to another of the people in charge. I explained to her that I'd misplaced the pass the guy at the door had given me. She said, "No problem", and gave me another. On my way out of the room, I spotted Harry and handed it to him.

"Just act like you belong", I whispered into his ear. "If anybody asks, you're a reporter."

(Read the full text in: "Contemporary Literary Horizon", issue no 6 / July 2009)

NOTE: "Speaking Truth to Power" is one of two published excerpts from the manuscript of Peggy Landsman's not-yet-published novel, BUFFALO BRAIN, a story about coming of age politically and personally in the early seventies.

"Speaking Truth to Power" was published in the South African journal, "Jewish Affairs."