Chaosmos - Magda Carneci

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Chaosmos - Magda CarneciMagda,magda

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 1


    Magda Cârneci

    translated by Adam J. Sorkin and the poet

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 2

Copyright ?2006 by White Pine Press

    Copyright ?2004, 2006 by Magda Cârneci

    Translation copyright ?2006 by Adam J. Sorkin and Magda Cârneci

    Introduction copyright ?2006 by Richard Jackson

    Translator‘s preface copyright ?2006 by Adam J. Sorkin

    Original Romanian text copyright ? Editura Paralela 45, Pitești & București, Romania

    Cover collage by Magda Cârneci, copyright ?2004 by Magda Cârneci and used by permission of Editura Paralela 45, Pitești & București, Romania


    Adam J. Sorkin and Magda Cârneci express thanks to Călin Vlasie, President, Editura Paralela 45, for

    permission to use Magda Cârneci‘s cover collage and for the English rights to the poems in Haosmos și alte

    poeme (2004).

    Adam J. Sorkin gratefully acknowledges the support of the National Endowment for the Arts in the form of a Translation Grant in Poetry to complete this book.

    Appreciation is also offered to the editors and publishers of the following periodicals and anthologies, in which versions of the translations in this book have appeared: Apostrof, Calende, Cimarron Review, Exquisite

    Corpse, The Greensboro Review, International Feminist Journal of Politics, Krasnogruda, Orient Express, The Poetry Miscellany, Respiro, Romanian Civilization, The Southern California Anthology, The West Wind Review; Romania and Western Civilization / România și civilizația occidentală, ed. Kurt W. Treptow, Day After Night:

    Twenty Romanian Poets for the Twenty-First Century, ed. Gabriel Stănescu and Adam J. Sorkin, Romanian Poets

    of the ’80s and ’90s: A Concise Anthology, ed. Andrei Bodiu, Romulus Bucur, Georgeta Moarcăs, Speaking the

    Silence: Prose Poets of Contemporary Romania, ed. and tr. Adam J. Sorkin with Bogdan Ștefănescu.

Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 3


     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 4


    Introduction by Richard Jackson:

    Inhaling the World‘s Body: The Poetry of Magda Cârneci

    Foreword by Adam J. Sorkin:

    The Harmonization of Contraries and the Counterpoint of Translation

    I. The Vision

Flashgun. Photograph. Slow Developing /

    Siamese Sister /

    Into the Body /

    A Sea of Flames /

    In the Last Light /

    Cosmic Magnolia /

    Blue Iris of Infinity /

    Red. Purple. Blood /

    Portrait of a Flash /

    In Brâncovean Style /

    Huge Wing /

    II. Cosmic Burial

    Cosmic Burial 19 /

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 5

    III. And the World

    Loved Nevertheless /

    Night Garden /

    The Green Kiosk in the Public Gardens /

    Hyacintha /

    Dark Orchid /

    Couple Poem /

    An Amphitheater in Greece / Ana Ipătescu of the Block /

    Psalm /

    By Hope /

    Chaosmos /

    IV. Post-Manifesto

    A Vast Reader /

    Notes on the Poems /

    The Author /

    The Translator /

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 6

    ―That I no longer reveal, that I no longer interpret,

     but that I transform consciousness itself into a drug

    and through it attain vision and the world.‖

    Roland Barthes

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 7

    Inhaling the World’s Body:

    The Poetry of Magda Cârneci

    Richard Jackson

    In his little essay, ―The Mythologizing of Reality,‖ Bruno Schulz once wrote that while the development of language consists in stretching the meanings of words until language is ―torn apart‖ into everyday speech, ―forms adapted to practical needs,‖ until language itself ―loses its grip‖ and is subjected to new rules that society and government dictate, the job of the poet is to discover where ―short circuits of sense occur between words, a sudden regeneration of the primeval myths.‖ This, he says, is poetry. As part of the poetic experience, he adds, one enters a

    kind of dream world, a world that seems beyond us but also confronts us every day, a world that is as mist-filled as it is solid. In Magda Cârneci‘s terms, it is a world that is chaotic on the local level and cosmically ordered on a larger scalea chaosmos, something akin to what modern

    physicists call chaos theory.

    In this context one can see why her lines move so eclectically and associatively, but always aim ultimately at an intense, almost Blakean vision, and why there is a counterpointing between a kind of swirling cloud of abstractions that suggest an unknowable cosmos and the very concrete, everyday details through which the self starts to experience the cosmos. ―In the end / disorder reaches perfection,‖ she writes in the title poem, a perfection imaged in a ―daring and profound photograph,‖ an image that threads its way through many of these poems. And yet that end is not an end, for a Saturn-like creature grasps the photo ―and gulps it down‖ after dialectically examining it and himself ―for a long, long time.‖ Temporality enters again at the end of the poem. The movement suggests not finality but a perfection that is a dialectic movement itself.

    For example, in ―Into the Body,‖ the third poem of the book, Cârneci begins by focusing on everyday details and then suddenly moves to ―the frantic / proliferation of cosmic and microbial realms‖:

    I would like to inhale the entire world into the body:

     acid sunsets, electric cities and snow,

     the dead in the field, soaring dawns and the clatter and honk

     of the streets in the morning, relentless migrations and the frantic

     proliferation of cosmic and microbial realms.

    That the entire world would swarm into me

     through my skin, my nails, my blood

     to saturate me overwhelm, destroy, dissolve me.

    This desire to be absorbed into the larger, nearly chaotic, cosmos, to be ―dissolved,‖ constitutes one of the defining impulses of Cârneci‘s vision. But only one. For the lines go on:

    That I would abide like a pebble under its enormous,

     heavy cascade, annihilated and happy:

     that I would be a mere point

     over which a mighty ocean looms suspended.

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 8

    What seemed at first to be a dissolving into the cosmos becomes in these lines a demarcation of boundaries: the self is a point and the cosmos, distinct, is suspended over the self. Further, our perspectives also undergo redefinition, for when she looks she sees the bottom of the oceanic cosmos, and then goes on to re-describe the process of absorption:

    And suddenly the ocean would burst, like a distended plastic bag

     of salt water, a gigantic placenta,

    it would wash over me, wave upon wave,

     flood upon flood,

    but this tide wouldn‘t kill me: instead, enveloping me in an instant,

     it would scour my blood course through my veins and arteries

    like an enormous roar with a blinding brilliance like lightning

     threading through a needle‘s sharp point.

    This is no mere repetition, of course, for the terms have changed: it is not an end but a beginning, a rebirth, and the cosmos would not dissolve her but rather enter her. The individual and the cosmos become one, as the cosmos, now personified, would

     assume a body and be born,

     not to disintegrate me not at all to die.

    Nothing less than the entirety of the world would fulfill me.

     That I would absorb it into the body. That I would be world.

    What is crucial here is not the final result but the process, the dialectic process that occurs again and again in various forms under various themes: the poems, and the entire book, move by this symphonic process of suggesting, qualifying and further suggesting. It is an endless process, for Cârneci understands the essential role of poetry as not to provide simplistic answers but to provide process, a way of thinking that points towards possible solutions.

    That is why there is so much of the subjunctive and conditional in these poems, whether given overtly or in visionary suggestions, as in ―Blue Iris of Infinity‖ which is characterized by use of the conditional ―might.‖ And yet, as in that poem, the conditional becomes so insistent that the desire becomes a present, even in some cases a past. ―I am with you,‖ she repeats in that poem, as she moves towards ―a huge Yes‖ that surmounts the qualifications and worries about her possible

    relationship that is the poem‘s ultimate subject.

    The conditional expresses a desire, a willso many of these poems are love poems, but a

    transcendent as well as physical love. And the dialectic between the enormous and overpowering will of the world, the cosmos, and the imaginative will of the individual traces itself back to Schopenhauer‘s sense of a double knowledge gained from the interaction of these two perspectives. For Schopenhauer, as for Cârneci, the world is always abstract when seen in its cosmic dimensions, and it is the job of the poet to give it substance through the continuing process of making poems. In The World as Will and Representation, Schopenhauer writes: ―the

    abstract concepts that are the direct material of poetry . . . must be so arranged that their spheres intersect one another, so that none can continue in its abstract universality, but instead of it a perceptive representative appears before the imagination, and this is then modified further and further by the words of the poet.‖

    Poetry is, as Paz says, ―metamorphosis, change, an alchemical operation.‖

    We see this in the very first poem where the poet and a ―we‖ (a lover, all of us) are ―stretched out on beds‖ on which someone has tossed photos of them, ―heaps of photos,‖ where the individuals become representations of themselves, part of the “great happening” as the

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 9

    repeated phrase keeps insisting, a world of ―images upon images,‖ a world that is itself ―a boundless image.‖ The dialectic between the individuals, their images and this larger ―happening‖ gradually metamorphoses towards a recognition that the world is represented in ―a photo / of another much bigger photo.‖ Indeed, the characters become photos themselves, undeveloped, waiting at the end for someone ―to develop us to fix us in poses and expose

    us.‖ What this will lead to, finally, is a vision that will either ―save the earth‖ or else ―make it vanish.‖ The poem acts as an interrogative prologue to which the rest of the book continually seeks to discover answers: does our vision of the cosmos dehumanize us or define us as individuals, or both, is the essential question here.

    A number of Cârneci‘s poems examine this issue by focusing on individuals, as does the poem, ―In the Last Light,‖ which opens with her observing a poor woman by the side of the road

    claiming a small space of her own by spreading out her few feeble objects. That the poet sees through the imperfect dirty window of a bus not only suggests the limitations of anyone‘s vision and understanding but also allows her to remember other people and other places before returning to the woman to offer recognition in the form of alms. Upon seeing her, she quickly realizes the woman has her own world, made material by the objects she has accumulated, but she also signifies a much greater, immaterial role, an archetypal female principle, both holy virgin and ―wet nurse.‖ What happens next is the sort of vision that Cârneci regularly salvages from such scenes: she sees the woman ―in the pit of the universe, / lonesomely gazing at the smoking world, the

    wasteland.‖ Suddenly the perspectives are reversed: the woman becomes not an observed being but the center of a bleak world that includes the narrator, a world beyond them both and ―resolving into itself.‖

    We can see this dialectic sort of reversal in her long, nine-part poem, ―Cosmic Burial,‖

    which begins with a sense of how ―gravity forsakes me‖ as the cosmos seems to expand through the next several sections into a vast, ―blind‖ chaotic space that is all ―Frantic ascension illimitable.‖ Still, it is also something that can be known or sensed by individuals, by language:

    I, a voice I give you to describe this universe unraveled

    into the chasm of your thought a tongue I give you to taste

    its nonbeing

    Later, at the center of this chaos, she discovers ―the face of a little girl / a blond Alice,‖ and realizes that ―this universe is feminine‖ and therefore at least potentially life giving. Perhaps, then, the chaos is only what we make of it, our Schopenhauerian representation? She seems to suggest this in part 9 where she begins by countering the opening of the sequence with the phrase ―gravity finds me again‖ and goes on to say:

    I am sitting on the sea wall at a table buried in drifting sands

     and munching on words dead dried mollusks a universe of

    dried words destroyed by their proximity to the void

     to its cold absolute

    all around a red, sonorous sea words words words slowly rising

     over the sand over the ankles

    there are dead fish in the water archaic shells rusty coins

    These things, as the American poet Wallace Stevens says in ―The Man on the Dump,‖ are what imagination uses to create a new world, a new vision. ―What is the I?‖ the waves of things

     Cârneci/Sorkin Chaosmos 10

    surrounding Cârneci ask, and she replies with a vision spoken by a little child, a new birth from her feminine universe: ―everything everything.‖

    Having arrived at and defined the center of chaos, she can move, in the third section of the book, to more personal poems since the self, through the processes of the first half of the book, now also holds the world inside it. ―I myself was the whole world‖ she says in ―Loved Nevertheless,‖ the opening poem of the third section. It is in this section that she wishes to

    redeem the world, ―to intone a new vegetal euphony of goodness / retrieve for you the flowers‘ ancient green language‖ in which she herself once blossomed. Now the hugeness of the cosmos is reflected in the complexity of everyday life, the ―labyrinthine pathways‖ of ―Night Garden.‖ However, this is not a simple materialistic world, for Cârneci constantly sees beyond the objects themselves, sees their shimmer, their ―energies frequencies,‖ as the image of the swirling

    cosmos of the first section gives way to a variety of garden images, the cosmic flowers to the real flowers in this section, even people seen as flowers (―Hyacintha‖). The lover becomes the ―Dark Orchid‖ who inspires both fear and attraction such that she asks, ―Is it only through death I can

    touch your love?‖ So many of the poems of this third section focus on the thingness of things while not losing track of their potentially transcendental shimmer: a Greek amphitheater, an historical figure, minerals, flowers, the addressee.

    Strangely a note of guilt enters this third section, perhaps born of the sense of lost love that so permeates the poems. The cosmic absences of the first section have become the personal losses the poet feels, losses that are themselves, like the guilt of their loss, ―boundless,

    unpardonable.‖ At the end of the section she turns to hope and to prayer, to ―something like divine, cosmic love. // Or maybe, long ago, I have already fallen here to my knees?‖ Here she can project the past and remember the future, for the physical world she finds herself rooted in is also defined by a ―flickering between chiaroscuro and light,‖ a visionary stance that, as the title of this poem insists, is defined ―By Hope.‖ The poem ends on a prophetic note that is also a geologic history: ―For diamond is awakened coal.‖ So, too, we are meant to think, is the self, holding the history of its carbon, its past, as it looks forward to a future that is ―radiant.‖

    Cârneci‘s last poem of the book, a kind of epilogue, projects us as her ―Vast Reader,‖ each of us a self that contains a world, that involves itself in her dialectic of object and cosmos, particular and universal, the real and the imagined:

    he will encompass in the boundless blue crystal of his eye, and also the single

    strand of hair that the abandoned woman, in her piety, picks with tweezers from

    the scarf her lover left behind, the hyperbolic mind of the species, the sophisticated

    chess of civilizations, the poetical systems of nature, Morel‘s invention, desperate

    utopias and fairy-tale nightmaresevery one of these things he will encompass in

    the dazzling crystalline lens of his single, all-embracing eyeand the mustard seed,

    too, the dot on the letter i and this planet

Like Stevens‘s ideal reader, he is part text, part of the vision that he sees, so that his relationship

    to the world, to these poems, is a kind of metaphor for how we deal with our worlds:

    . . . only metaphor still can bear the crushing weight of past time, its endless gaze

    far behind, its endless gaze far ahead, when only poetry will go on pulsing through

    its veins the blood of resurrection.

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