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Alibi and Other Poems

Stefan A. Doinas

Translated by V. Nemoianu, Virgil Nemoianu and Peter Jay

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Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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    The Siege

    When they went out of the city walls to surrender,
    the enemy was nowhere to be seen. – POLYBIOS

    The walled town on a lance-tip. Unseen army.
    The wells clogged up and low clung the smoke.
    The eagle of the standard, live, shot from the sky
    has been our food for a while. We haven’t choked.
    Then, a wave of diseases. Bygone apparitions
    more faithful to the hearth than we, still shot
    arrows far from the battlements over the plains.
    Nothing. Only a star – the body-wound of some god.
    And late, the hour of treason struck. Our drawbridge
    was lowered by pulleys. Cowards, their foreheads in the dust,
    begging for pardon. No one; only the moon, like the ridge
    of a ship, going by the moat on a wind’s crest.
    Then no one again … We’ll be shedding tears of blood
    until our seventh death; we’ll be possessed
    with a sickness of open doors and smashed
    windows. No one’s ever about. But we, we have surrendered.

    Translated by Peter Jay and Virgil Nemoianu

    Ştefan Aug. Doinaş, born in 1922, is recognized as one of the outstanding figures to have emerged in Romania’s poetic renaissance since the war. This selection of his poetry, the first to be published in English translation, was to mark the occasion of his appearance at London’s Poetry International Festival in June 1975: the Romanian authorities did not allow him to travel. The versions are by Peter Jay (who has also translated from the Romanian Nichita Stanescu’s selected poems The Still Unborn About the Dead) and Virgil Nemoianu, a leading literary critic who taught English language and literature at Bucharest University and is now at the Catholic University in Washington, DC.

    Stefan A. Doinas
    Ştefan Aug. Doinaş (1922–2002) was the pen name of Ştefan Popa. He has been described as a Romanian Neoclassical poet of the Communist era. As a student he joined the Sibiu Literary Circle, a group formed around the philosopher and poet Lucian Blaga. The first of his many books of poetry ... read more
    V. Nemoianu
    ... read more
    Virgil Nemoianu
    Virgil Nemoianu was born in 1940. He left Romania during the dictatorship and now lives in Washington, DC where he is William J. Byron Distinguished Professor of Literature and Ordinary Professor of Philosophy at the Catholic University of America. He is a well-known literary critic both in Romanian and English. ... read more
    Peter Jay
    Peter Jay (b. 1945) read Classics and English at Oxford. Among his books are a collection of poems Shifting Frontiers, the Penguin Classic The Greek Anthology, and several translations including Gérard de Nerval’s Chimeras, János Pilinszky’s Crater and the novel Conversations with Sheryl Sutton (with Éva Major) and ... read more
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