In this 12th episode of our journey through Romanian Poetry in English, I will present to you a poet with who’s verse I resonate the most. The rebel and antagonist in me (and there is a LOT of that…) – latches onto his poetry…
…initially pigeonholed as a neo-symbolist (by critics like George Călinescu, mainly because of the nature of his debut volume Lead/Plumb in 1916), Bacovia’s poetry transcended this label through elements of modernism, surrealism, imagism, expressionism, and even existentialism (says Ion Caraion) – He excels through poems expressing depression, decadence and decay. Charles Baudelaire is often mentioned in relation to Bacovia – but you feel that the great French symbolist keeps some of his verminous decadent aesthetic in reserve, while Bacovia wears his poisoned-heart on his sleeve, and both the heart and the sleeve are fascinatingly disgusting, disintegrated and dark.
The opinions about Bacovia – the poet and the person – differ in the extreme. I quote from literary historian Nicolae Manolescu here – Bacovia he was labelled, in turn: symbolist and anti-symbolist, post-romantic and avantgarde, modernist and post-modernist, sentimental and anti-sentimental, musical and tone-deaf, natural and histrionic, insane and faking insanity, genius and idiot. There is famous precedence for this – while most critics concluded Baudelaire was a genius, Saint-Beuve characterised his work as not really belonging to literature. One thing is beyond dispute: Bacovia’s insanity is unique in Romanian poetry. If there is a label for Bacovia, it might be what Hegel and Nietzsche described as Stimmung, or mood.
The mood that is evoked in Bacovia’s work (writes Alistair Ian Blythe) is one of isolation, neurosis, lovelessness, despair, and existential anguish. His poetry’s décor is of muddy, provincial streets, pluvial autumn weather, deserted municipal parks, claustrophobic salons, dark railway sidings, abattoirs, ramshackle slum dwellings, cemeteries, and insalubrious taverns. This eerie stage-set is trodden by a cast of consumptives, alcoholics, madmen, funeral processions, suicides, the sniggering ghosts of Poe and Rollinat, and the alienated, anguished persona of the poet himself, assailed by disembodied voices boding imminent self-annihilation. Fascinating! I am not being sarcastic, I LOVE this stuff! But as said, let’s not make this about my poetical proclivities. I just cannot resist it.
The three poems I will recite for you from Bacovia’s work, will therefore be from his earlier period. One of them will be Lead/Plumb, the famous poem which launched him as a phenomenon in 1916, a short poem full of emotional intensity delivered in absolute simplicity, much as a great naïve painting.
Then December – there have never been such terrifying feelings told in such direct and simple manner – news of an inescapable terror, delivered in an even, reflective voice, and therefore 100 times more terrifying! At the other meteorological pole, in the poem August, the incessant heat-wave kills people and decomposes their corpses, bringing with it a total sense of hopelessness and despair. As I said, fascinating!
As we have done until now, the English recitals will come first, followed by the originals in Romanian.
I hope to convert you into decadence-craving, gothic-decay morbid George Bacovia fans! Enjoy! Sursa: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lg3fClW-HU