Radu Andriescu

The Sour Cherry Pie

                          you really know how to make your biscuits
                                                        soft and brown
                          mama, don't you know
                                                                                  —Taj Mahal

the girl with her hands in the margarine
was singing a sweet and empty song
slowly the night streamed through the vent
and froze the breath
of the girl with her hands in the margarine

smiling almost frozen, the girl watched with empty eyes
the chattering midnight flock
in the dead of every night—
the flock which would slice the night into downy
and black pieces
like a sour cherry pie

the chattering flock of migratory
self-referential lines
searching for sundry Germanys
with roads guarded by windmills
spinning round in the breeze grinding light for the trees

two small wings
alliterative and self-referential
searching for a nesting site
far away from the girl with her hands in the margarine
and her town slumbering in the linden-sweet air

like the girl's dream
the lines go in search of the haughty shadow of the castellan from whose manor garden the Danube springs
—or of his shadowy dream

however, the culmination of this adventure
took place nearby when the town awoke
and threw a dense net of starlings
over those migratory lines
commonly known as

© 2007 Radu Andriescu, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Radu Andriescu

Author Biography

Radu Andriescu, born in lasi, a city in northeastern Romania, on June 9, 1962, has authored five books of poetry. His first collection, Mirror Against the Wall (1992), won the Poesis Prize for a debut volume. It was followed by The Back Door (1994) and The End of the Road, the Beginning of the Journey (1998), awarded the poetry prize of the Iasi Writers Association. Some Friends and Me (2000) and The Stalinskaya Bridges (2004) both featured illustrations by Radu Andriescu's close friend, Dan Ursachi; the latter included e-mail poems with Ursachi, whose art interpreted some of the poems in a multimedia project. With Adam J. Sorkin, Andriescu co-edited and co-translated the 2001 anthology of the young writers of his city, Club 8: Poems; the poet himself is a major voice of his generation and mentor to this younger generation of poets who are now coming into their own and gaining prominence. He received a lasi Goethe Center prize for this book.

Andriescu teaches British and American literature in the Faculty of Letters at the Alexandru loan Cuza University of Iasi, whose University Press published his doctoral study of contemporary Romanian poetry, particularly of the Romanian postmodern movement, Parallelisms and Cultural Influences in Contemporary Romanian Poetry (2005). In 2002 Andriescu spent six weeks in the U.S. as a grantee at the Fulbright American Studies Institute on Contemporary American Literature.

Critics have recognized Radu Andriescu's work as the achievement "of an authentic poet," "an original" who is refreshing "the resources of poetry": his lyrical-narrative gift of shifting registers combines the serious with the skeptical and the playful, irony with nostalgia, subtlety and the profound with a parodic banality raised to the ethereal. His poetry has been included in a number of collections in English: City of Dreams and Whispers (1998), Speaking the Silence: Prose Poets of Contemporary Romania (2001), and The Poetry of Men's Lives: An International Anthology (2004). Andriescu is one of three Romanian prose poets
in the forthcoming Memory Glyphs, a book Sorkin edited for Twisted Spoon Press. Andriescu's work will also be included in the forthcoming Graywolf anthology, The New European Poets.

Critical Response

"It's a 'carpenter's work,' as Radu Andriescu says in his first Poem, this construction of an intelligent and heartfelt poetry from the fragmentation of contemporary life. Constantly shifting in tone, filled with disparate images that echo and metamorphose, relying on non-sequiturs and digressions, this is an amazing and important poetic world searching for the happiness it also questions amidst isolation and distance. If, as he says, 'I can no longer find/my equilibrium' it i. because the 'game' around him always 'shifts to another level' that the poetry itself tries to contain and make sense of. So an elegy allows itself to be distracted by quirky memories that reveal the depth of emotion at play, and a love poem may be to a turkey hen as much as a lover since image and referent can so easily change places. This, then, is a sophisticated and important poetry of self-consciousness that questions not only the frenetic pace of the world it describes but also its own poetic techniques. The result is an O'Hara-like openness to a unique and exciting vision that struggles to make sense of our times."

—Richard Jackson

"Once again brilliant and energetic Adam J. S.orkin, one of the most important and lively translators of our time, brings us a poet we hope for, and deeply need. This time it is Radu Andriescu. His The Catalan Within is a dream of people—and how brilliantly memorable its people are! On one page, a girl with her hands in the margarine sings a sweet and empty song, an another we find Leo, who teaches us 'there's a little of each of us in that tourist / photographing the poor S.O.B.'s ass.' Here too is Badge who 'had Greek blood in his veins and in consequence / the whole of the world was a fishing boat and the whole of the sky / a bottle of rum.' This is poetry of clear passion, something rare these days in America, and therefore so valuable to us, a voice that laughs and cries in the same hour, often in the same line—the way we live on earth. 'I think about happiness,' Andriescu writes, 'as if it were a piece of lumber.' And I a reader think of this book asa wonderful well from where wisdam and beauty come."

—Ilya Kaminsky

©2009 Longleaf Press at Methodist University | Fayetteville, NC