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Nina Cassian

Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (112 pages)
(Pub. Oct 2008)
Out of Stock
  • Description
  • Excerpt
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    Utopia Unlimited

    These tools were good, at first,
    to cut, to slash, to stab – but then
    they seemed too petty, too inefficient.

    So other tools were soon invented,
    which could wipe out a man
    as easily as you wipe off a stain,
    making him vanish – nobody would care –
    in the transparent coffins of the air.

    These tools were called weapons of mass destruction.
    And if iron was not used to make a plow,
    and if steel did not give birth to bridges,
    it is because they were hungry for death.

    But this was long ago and far away,
    when there was always war on earth.
    Indeed, it’s hard for us to understand –
    for us who live, for centuries, in peace …

    But blood, a stubborn witness, takes the stand.

     A Metaphor

    Let’s not allow our weaknesses
    – like some hungry, insinuating cats –
    to chase our pots and pans,
    to shed hair on our bedsheets,
    to insult our hearing
    with their heartbreaking, hypocritical

    If you pity them for an instant,
    and scratch their bony heads,
    they won’t ever leave.
    They’ll take on perfect shapes,
    like long-molded amphorae,
    and become decorative and indispensable.

    Leave them at the door,
    those vagabonds of old slums.
    Don’t allow their sinuous tails
    to encircle the furniture’s ankles
    or ours.

    “Oh, but I love cats
    as I love my weaknesses.”

    Continuum follows the path taken in Take My Word for It, with poems written in her original English. As in her translated Romanian poems, Nina Cassian is a born lyric story-teller. Many of her poems take the form of short fables or even parables, fashioned with a unique blend of fantasy, seriousness and humour. The section titles – Remember, Creatures from Inner Space, Travelling, Homages, Love’s Boomerang, Finale – give an idea of the book’s range and her capacity for striking turns of phrase, but do not suggest the expressive power which reaches new heights in the longer poem ‘Interpreting Bach’.

    Nina Cassian, born in Romania in 1924, has published over sixty books, including works of fiction and children’s books. She is also a composer and translator (notably of three Shakespeare plays), and was a journalist and film critic. Since 1985 she has lived in New York City, having remained in ... read more
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