Monday, April 18, 2016

Remembering Solomon Marcus

     Almost five years ago I received an email from Romanian mathematician Solomon Marcus in response to my posting of a translation of  a poem by Nichita Stanescu (1933-1983) entitled "Poetic Mathematics"  -- a poem that Stanescu dedicates to Marcus.  In his email, Marcus offers this:
          Nichita Stanescu published his "Poetic Mathematics" in January 1971, in the magazine ARGES, as a reply to my book "Mathematical Poetics" (in Romanian, 1970; in German in 1973, at Athenaeum Verlag, Frankfurt/Main).
Here is a link to an interview with Marcus last year (at age 90) and it tells of his ongoing literary interests.  Recently I learned the sad news of his death, last month at the age of 91.  Some interesting details of the way Marcus and Stanescu experimented with the uses of language are included in this 2008 article by Emilia Parpala and Rimona Afanaa and are illustrated in the following poem, "Ritual," in which Stanescu uses numbers to explore and extend the meaning of The Last Supper.

     Ritual     by Nichita Stanescu  (trans. Sean Cotter)

     I cry before the number five --
     the last supper, minus six.
     Where are you, you who are,
     and you who are no more,
     where are you?
     Break this word, it is my body.
     Blood may flow from a syllable.
     For you will I make wine from V and I
     and gentleness from a barbarous body.
     Whoever kisses me, kisses me.
     I will stay with you eleven.
     Five of us are here, six have left;
     The last supper cries before the number five.
     Today we have founded loss,
     pain, and departure.

"Ritual" is found in this fine collection of translations by Sean Cotter of Stanescu's work: Wheel with a Single Spoke (Archipelago Books, 1912). Earlier postings in this blog include Cotter's translation of "Life of Ptolemy" and two (of ten) sections from "An Argument with Euclid."  Postings of translations on which I have collaborated include  "A Lesson on the Circle," "Another Mathematics," "Poetic Mathematics" (also noted above), and "Learning to Count."  Romanian versions of many of Stanescu's poems are available here.

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