Who’s afraid of poetry? Episode 4: Simona Popescu

I first met Simona Popescu in 2003 when I crashed her course on Romanian Avant-garde. I came to the class entirely unprepared. She told me: This class is not for you or for those that scare easily. I soon learned that her way of speaking about poetry very much resembled chess, a very serious game.  I can think of nobody else that talks about poetry, that can teach people about poetry better than she does. I asked her the age old question about Plato banishing the poets from the city. So who is afraid of poetry anyway?


Simona Popescu, a poet, prose writer and essayist who currently teaches contemporary Romanian literature and creative writing at the University of Bucharest (Faculty of Letters), has published five volumes of poetry.

Why bother to read poems at a moment of want or crisis, when it appears that we have more urgent things to take care of? More to the point: why even raise these questions “in dürftiger Zeit”! Simona Popescu’s latest book of poems, Lucrări in verde sau Pledoaria mea pentru poezie/ Works in Green, or My Defense of Poetry, with a wink at the Shelley tradition, asks these questions throughout its three hundred pages over and over again. Nor does it do it for the first time in its author’s career. In a culture at pains to come to terms with its ‘crisis’ openly following the fall of Communism, Simona Popescu has been among those who have formulated these interrogations as much as they have suggested answers constantly, ever since her first poetry book came out in 1990 (Xilofonul și alte poeme/ The Xylophone and Other Poems). Where the fate of and the faith in poetry are concerned, all we can do is suggest answers, hint at possibilities, venture a guess. Or so it seems.  (Radu Vancu).


Popescu’s first book, The Xylophone and Other Poems, was translated and published in Hungary; and her latest, Works in Green. My Defense of Poetry, has been partly translated into French and German, and published in Luxembourg; her “novel”, Exuviae, now in its seventh edition, was translated into Polish, Hungarian and recently into French.



Xilofonul şi alte poeme (Xylophone and Other Poems), Editura Litera, Bucureşti, 1990;
Pauză de respiraţie – împreună cu Caius Dobrescu şi Marius Oprea (Breath Break – co-authored with Andrei Bodiu, Caius Dobrescu, and Marius Oprea), Editura Litera, Bucureşti, 1991;
Juventus, Editura Cartea Românească, Bucureşti, 1994;
Noapte sau zi (Night or Day), Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 1998;
Juventus şi alte poeme, antologie (Juventus and Other Poems, anthology), Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 2004;
Lucrări în verde. Pledoaria mea pentru poezie (Work in Green. My Plea for Poetry), Editura Cartea Românească, Bucureşti, 2006;

Exuvii, Editura Nemira, Bucureşti, 1997; Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 2002; Editura Polirom, Iaşi, 2004, 2008, 2011, 2016, 2017;

Volubilis, Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 1998.
Salvarea speciei. Despre suprarealism şi Gellu Naum (Saving the Species. On Surrealism and Gellu Naum), Editura Fundaţiei Culturale Române, Bucureşti, 2000;
Clava. Critificţiune cu Gellu Naum (Clava. Critifiction with Gellu Naum), Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 2004;
Autorul, un personaj (The Author, a Character), Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 2015;

In translation
The Xylophone and Other Poems, Pont Kiadó, Budapest, Hungary, 1998;
Wylinka (translation of Exuvii), Czarne, Wolowiecz, Poland, 2002;
Travaux en vert. Mon plaidoyer pour la poésie (a selection of Lucrări în verde…, in French, with additional versions in German), Phi, Luxembourg, 2008;
Vedlések (translation of Exuvii), Pont Kiado, Budapest, Hungary, 2008;
Exuvies (translation of Exuvii), Non-Lieu, Paris, Grance, 2016;

In anthologies
Romanian Poets of the 80s and 90s (anthology by Andrei Bodiu, Romulus Bucur, Georgeta Moarcăs), Editura Paralela 45, Piteşti, 1999;
Ich ist ein anderer ist bang. Poesie aus Rumänien, Herausgegeben von Gregor Laschen, die Horen, Bremerhaven, Germany, 2000;
Comme dans un dessin dʹEscher, Phi & Ecrits des Forges, Luxembourg, 2002;
Nostalgia. Eseje o tęsknocie za komunizmem, Czarne, Wolowiecz, Poland, 2002;
Biennale Internationale des Poètes en Val-de-Marne 2002, dirigée par Henri Deluy, Paris, France, 2003;
Douze écrivains roumains, Anthologie Les Belles Étrangères, L’Inventaire, Paris, France, 2005;
Literarisches Tandem Bukarest-, Prag-, Warschau-, Sarajevo-, Vilnius-Berlin, SH-Verlag, Berlin, Germany, 2005;
Born in Utopia: An Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Romanian Poetry, edited by Carmen Firan and Paul Doru Mugur with Edward Foster. Introduction by Andrei Codrescu. Afterwords by Nicolae Manolescu and Virgil Nemoianu. Talisman House Publisher, Jersey City, New Jersey, USA, 2006;
New European Poets, by Wayne Miller; Kevin Prufer, Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, 2008;
Compagne di viaggio. Racconti di donne ai tempi del comunismo, Sandro Teti Editore, 2011;
Bucharest Tales, New Europe Writers, Warsaw, 2011;
Romanian Writers on Writing, Trinity University Press, San Antonio, Texas, 2011, editor Norman Manea, co-editor Sanda Cordoş.

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