War of the words


11 elegies (the last supper) by Nichita Stănescu



Outside Romania, his native country where he has been loathed almost like a god, Nichita Stănescu`s poems are practically unknown.

Nominalized for the Nobel prize in 1979, Nichita Stănescu died prematurely, at 50, in 1983. 

The "11 elegies" is not an easy reading. One of the peaks of his poetic creation, this cycle is a movable diary of his don quixotic fight with words, a visionary journey into the thin air of pure meaning.

The following fragments, cut and pasted from several Nichita Stanescu`prose works, will help the reader better appreciate, I hope, the spirit in which the elegies were written.


“Like the last supper, living inside a point, with all the times of my life, living suddenly inside a point exterior to the cercle, as the geometer would say, as would say our old grammarian, outside the past, the present and the future.”


“Time is, in fact, light. In this sense, the smallest unity of time is the photon.”


“Man is an accident of the light. In this sense, we can consider the solar light as a prenatal state, as time unorganized yet into a structure.”


“Existence itself, being sleep of the light, makes clear its discontinuity and thus, the discontinuity of time. In this sense, we can consider existence as a time cuanta.”


“Beauty and its tender emanation, the idea of beauty, is not an object and doesn`t have a touchable nature, it is an action, my dear Thomas.”


“The aim of the poetical act is not the description of the reality and not the expression of an unborn real, but the coincidence, that secret act in which the “I”-ness of the poet himself identifies with the one of the reality, leaving for the poetic differentiation only the past and its memories, the emotion to be able to observe a phenomenon that in essence is not different from yourself, the capacity to contemplate the species from outside, exactly in the moment when you are the most involved in them through their sensitive plasma.”


“The human capacity to penetrate the unknown does that in different ways. Sometimes, it seems to me that poetry is a channel as powerful as the scientific one.”


“Feelings are the purest form of truth.”


“Things can not be understood but they can produce astonishment through the words that names them.”


“Every poem by its nature is an act of revelation, of knowledge.”


“Poetry is the semantic tension towards a word that doesn`t exist, to a word yet to be found. The poet creates the semantics of a word that doesn`t exist.”


“Oh, if words could exist in themselves, as plant and animals exist in themselves, as things exist in themselves!”


“The cry is the ancestor of  the words. The pain inside, their meanings.”


“The organs of knowledge of the human being are adapted to the discontinuous analysis of the spectral speed of light. They are: the organ of sight, that perceives, narrowly, a small fraction of light`s vibration; for a much slower light appears the organ of taste, then, for another one even slower, the organ of odor, in the end, for the lower frequencies of the light, the organ of hearing, and for the almost complete stop, for the surfaced wave, the organ of touch.

As you can see from the nature of the universal matter, which is light embodied in different forms, men can perceive only some few separated fragments.”


“This writing tries to stop something that can never be stopped: the state of happiness, for example.”


“Feelings are non-figurative.” 


“The excess of notion, the incapacity to express perfectly a notion and the incapacity of notion`s structure which is caused by its discontinuity, coming from discontinuous organs, attract the idea of sphericity. In the plane of feelings, it is represented by anxiety, which is caused by the fact that the sphericity of the real is not perceived continuously, but discontinuously, because of the reduced and discontinuous categories of information brought to consciousness by the sense organs.”


“The greatest miracle of the terrestrial existence is the birth of ideas.”


“Man is its own abstraction.”


“I don`t fight with language, language fights with me. I always suspected myself of inadequacy to language. This is why, in certain periods of my consciousness, I wondered whether the language could not be transcended by a meta-language, the word by a meta-word. But it was just a dead-end, because in reality we need a meta-body and a meta-consciousness for a solid, healthy, real word. Not the word has to be perfected but the body, not the verbs and the nouns have to be tuned, but the nerves on which they play, they say and they utter. Washing your hands is more important than wiping with a rubber a word you wrote on paper or with the sponge a word written on the black-board.”


“ I don`t know very well what philosophy is but I know for sure that the poet is not a philosopher. Meditation, observation, revelation, metaphor and vision, in my opinion, belong all to poetry, mainly.”


“Change, God, my body into its name, one by one, my head into the name of the head, my torso into the name of the torso, my limbs into the name of the limbs.”


“Speech, language, words are kind of Noe`s ark. No flood bigger than life, nothing covers us-like life.”


“11 elegies is a book that I lived. If I wrote it again, it would be the only book that I would categorically refuse to write. It costed me too much. Today I look at 11 Elegies as Dr. Barnard looks at Blaiberg. I wonder: is that heart still running inside?”


            Well, after reading the 11 elegies, I could clearly feel “that heart” still running.                             How about you?


            Translations and notes by Paul Doru Mugur




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