Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A poem is an equation?

     Exiled Romanian poet Nina Cassian (1924-2014) spoke with a daring and imaginative voice that I have much admired.  And she occasionally used mathematical imagery in her work -- as in the following poem:

Controversy   by Nina Cassian
                                          (translated from Romanian by William Jay Smith)
I wrote a poem, an oblique poem,
a kind of calligram, I mean.
Someone said it was an equation
being solved behind a screen. 

Another laughed and said:  It's a broom;
it is just a broom, I swear.
The third one cried:  A tree, a tree,
tossing its oranges into the air.

No one knew what the poem was.
But the Plastic Artist understood
and thereon deflated a world of rubber
to construct a world of wood.

I have "Controversy" on my shelf in Cassian's collection, Life Sentences: Selected Poems (Norton, 1990), edited and with an introduction by William Jay Smith.  Previous postings in this blog of poems by Nina Cassian are found here and here; to find mathy poems by other Romanian poets, go here.

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