Nina Cassian (1924-2014)

cassianSaddened to hear of Nina Cassian’s passing.  She was a Romanian poet, journalist, film critic and who also translated works of William Shakespeare, Bertolt Brecht, Christian Morgenstern, Yiannis Ritsos, and Paul Celan into Romanian. She published more than fifty books of her own poetry. The New York Times’ obit can be read here.
Born into a Jewish family in Galaţi, they lived in Brașov between 1926 and 1935, when the family moved to Bucharest, where she went to high school. In 1944 she entered the Literature Department of Bucharest University, but abandoned her studies after one year. Cassian travelled to the United States as a visiting professor in 1985. During her stay in America, a friend of hers, Gheorghe Ursu, was arrested by the Securitate for possessing a diary. The diary contained several of Cassian’s poems which satirized the Communist regime and the authorities thought to be inflammatory. Hence, she decided to remain in the US. She was granted asylum in the United States, and continued to live in New York City until her death.

Here’s a poem of her’s first published in Plume:

Purity

Amazing solitude.
Only me and my cigarette,
and this tiny dragonfly
painted in Moldavian monastery blue.

Nothing threatens me,
not even the sun.
The sky is an immense cloud
made of mother-of-pearl.
The lake is an immense cloud
made of mother-of-pearl.
I am the mermaid of the lake.
– I am an infinite melody
like the murmur of the rain.

And I am clean,
like the poem I’m writing.

 

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