Claudiu Komartin was born in Bucharest in 1983. His first poetry collection, Păpușarul și alte insomnii (“The Puppeteer And Other Insomnia”, 2003, 2007) won the most prestigious awards for literary debut (among which “Mihai Eminescu” National Award). He also published Circul domestic (“Domestic Circus”, 2005), which was awarded The Romanian Academy Poetry Prize, Un anotimp în Berceni (“A Season in Berceni”, 2009, 2010) and Cobalt (“Cobalt”, 2013). He is also co-author of two plays and of several anthologies of Romanian contemporary poetry.
A selection from his work was translated in German by Georg Aescht (“Und wir werden die maschinen für uns weinen lassen”, Ed. Korrespondenzen, Vienna, 2012), in Serbian by Ljubinka Stankov Perinac (“Vrpce potaman za balu mesa”, Treći Trg, Belgrade, 2015) and in Turkish by Gökçenur Ç. (“Bir Garip Roman”, Yitik Ülke Yayınları, Istanbul, 2015). A Bulgarian version of “Cobalt” will soon appear, translated by Lora Nenkovska.
Komartin’s poetry was widely translated and he had readings and participated in international poetry festivals, book fairs and workshops in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Graz, Oxford, Belgrade, Prague, Zagreb, Sofia, Bratislava, Brussels, Madrid, Granada, San Sebastian, Novi Sad, Sarajevo, Rijeka, Stockholm, Göteborg, Druskininkai, Kishinev, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Seoul.
Since 2010, Claudiu Komartin is editor-in-chief of “Poesis international” literary magazine and of “Max Blecher” Publishing House. He is also coordinating a popular reading club in Bucharest, “Institutul Blecher”, that reached its 144th edition in 2016. He is member of the Romanian PEN Club.
The following poems have been selected from the poetry collection, Cobalt (2013), published by Casa de Editură Max Blecher and were translated into English by Andrew K. Davidson
We Try to Convince the Madness
My brain hurls me into the walls,
your brain is a Martian drifter
combing rice sauté for the meaning of it all.
In the end, you may come nearer,
you may move in with me here, between waters.
Tossing out from our arteries their stage freight—
soon, we will scrape together
our despair with a palette knife.
We try to convince the madness
to respect a familiar pace.
This world with string of catgut
will one day sew our mouths shut.
Images conceal themselves in august.
I wake, rise from the wheelchair
and burn. I think of us,
walking side by side where nothing
the lake sparkling underground in the depths
seeds germinating in silence
at their margins where we could sleep.
The hills and forests above
the dark green iris insinuates
the caress of refracted light
on skin cooled by winds in the night.
Cranes of the day crush any thought
and the debilitation doesn’t drive nails through our spines,
it drives us considerably apart.
We won’t end up in a paradise
or a hell, my love
we’ll crawl carelessly under a rock
waiting for thunder.
And then you get to dance with ghosts in the house
The old questions have changed (“Are you okay?”, “What are we doing today?”,
“How long will you be this beautiful?”), and a wrinkle has appeared,
the slowly emptied glass, the more uncertain hand,
The dance’s calculated ease, gestures lost,
steps, the sweetwood and kerosene
taste of conversation, the snow
melt from a tiny skeleton on the last day of winter—
they’re no more,
you remain calm, phlegmatic, undisturbed
in front of a window or next to a table
covered in pages once grazed by her hair—
and find that you are alone with ghosts,
with your heart and its weary stories (the last film you saw together
weeping at the images of whales
washing up on the shore, killing themselves)
and it’s the chokehold of a bad dream
and you can’t move
the water level continues to rise, but you smile
and it’s the line before you, the line you promised not to cross
A Spikey Creature
I walked the streets all summer
with an obsession hard to name
and with the image of a child burning baby hedgehogs
at the borders of the clearing where
we walked naked and barefoot, knowing
love is a spikey creature
that will never again
A Riddle for Monsters
To what end?… is not all but madness?
So are the times. The choir of angels is silent.
Better not to speak
of moral decay. Over there
a little stray light
in a small provincial town or
in a patch of wood threatened by
the white snouts of bulldozers. Left-overs
from yesterday’s dinner. Insects cloned a sun.
Somewhere there’s a room, with a hole in the middle
and a surly, little fellow sweating, writing and mumbling
in a language on which leans
something rust has not (yet) eaten up.
The skeleton of a giraffe. Or maybe the final
a telepathic beam from the Jiguli constellation
scrambled our brains completely.
I’ve seen those foreign objects. Some thought they would
save the world with them. They didn’t save anything.
Subtle machinery. Batteries, coils and watches
and animals wearing them around their necks
laughing at the god who sits
in an empty movie theatre
watching a spaghetti western
since the last Aquarius hung himself.
Like a Poet in a Korean Film
I sat that afternoon
with a raucous animal in my chest
on a bench at the university
and everything around me whispered that I’d failed
and the hands on my knees
told a sad story from five years ago
(I hadn’t dreamt anything in months
and though I tried to trick them,
no one believed I could be a bad boy).
evening came. little lights shown in the sky
maybe something was coming, I couldn’t care less.
next to the fountain, two chubby pigeons
roused the image of your breasts in the morning:
looking in the mirror
with your hair gently tossed and that smile
making me wish
I could be one of those nice people feeding the pigeons.
sitting on the bench, something shimmering next to me in the fountain,
people passing, embracing,
I was sad like a poet in a Korean film
thinking that you should go
and that the clouds are so beautiful.
I want to believe you when you say
someone will come
with a perfect smile
and unfailing gestures
an insect with the soul of a wet nurse
to push me on towards tomorrow
as you lead a horse crippled by sadness
at night to the slaughter
the sun is cobalt when it rises from the body and shines
and my suntanned mind where
exotic birds come to lie is cobalt
the defiance to compromise and helplessness
was always cobalt
the night terror I wanted
to beat like an ornery animal
the hand I write with on an ever distant screen
and my elongated and contracted muscles sweating
for joy and terror when faced with love
and the faint and refined shiver which poetry
still stirs inside me
mother’s late forgiveness is cobalt
the leaf fallen on glistening water
where a friend thought he would find peace
the need for you was and still is
the aged innocence of poets which informed
the comforting lyrics I cannot
get out of my head
there are worlds with tiny skies and
there are happy worlds
where memory is hope
and the wounds are healed from the start
there are worlds where no one sells anyone
and their premonition
so when I speak to you again about love
don’t believe a single word
my cobalt eyes will
on that day
Autumn Still Comes Without Us
You see, we can too, he told me,
we can feel safe too,
we can lose story lines without feeling ashamed,
we can smoke, sure, hearing
the city’s breath, its sounds slowed by cold
we can go out on the balcony and light fireworks
now syntax is a mist in which we cut down
random silhouettes, shapes that shatter in an instant
great galleons of smoke travelling east
and, with our neurotic chatter, attend
the watch someone left ticking on the handrail
as if we expect something irrefutable to come, something
that strong cables enter and exit shiny veins of black
thinking of the autumns we could have
blown our brains out hollering
hollering like hell, like after a job well done.
“We Try to Convince the Madness,” “August Images,” “A Riddle for Monsters,” and “Autumn Still Comes Without Us,” have previously appeared in English at “Trafika Europe,” Issue 8.