Book Reviews

Rodiga Draghincescu's Words Under My Skin

Draghincescu, Rodiga. Words Under My Skin, Finishing Line Press: Georgetown, Kentucky

Words Under My Skin is an anthology of beautiful verses composed by famous Romanian poet, Rodiga Draghincescu which have been translated in English by Howard Scott. Draghincescu was born in Buzias, Romania and was part of a movement of nonconformist Romanian writers born out of the fall of the Ceausescu regime in 1989, artists and writers that critics called the “90’s generation.” In Romanian Press, for many years she was called as “the female Michel Butor of Romania, the Natalie Sarraute of the Romanians, the Amazon of Romanian Letters”. So this means that she holds a prestigious position in the field of poetry in Romania. She has published 10 books in her native country. Not only poems but she is credited with publishing novels, books of interviews and literary essays. She has won many international awards.

Howard Scott, the English translator of poems of Words Under My Skin lives in Montreal and has translated many books of non-fiction. He is a past president of the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada.

The anthology, Words Under My Skin is divided into two chapters; Chapter I which is also given a subtitle as NON SOLUM has poems, Not sleeping!, Educational Violence, (Ex)Inspire!, Astrum, Postcard, as if and ‘The West will be for tomorrow’. And Chapter II, subtitled as SED ETIAM has poems  ‘Words, Under My Skin’, ‘Nodes of Water’, ‘Bach’, ‘The Voices of Habit’ , ‘Chopped Carpet’, ‘whatever comes, whatever happens’ , ‘No’, ‘as since’, ‘as why’, ‘Aponia’, ‘The forgetting of being’, ‘The Monarch Butterfly’, ‘Between Abyss and Abscissa’, ‘extreme patriotism, exaggerated self-criticism’ ‘Cécifoot’ , ‘oxymoron’, ‘Trans Poetam’.

The very first poem, ‘Not sleeping!’ is subjective in nature in which poetess is telling about her innocent childhood wish and the harsh realities of life when a person grows elder. In ‘Educational Violence’, she recollects an incident of her childhood. This theme is carried forward in her next poem, (Ex)Inspire!, in which she tells the readers one of her childhood’s hobby. As she says:

As a child, I loved the fields of cemeteries with
their black bands on the margins of life.
I didn’t go there to see and listen to the wind of bones and flesh,
This volubility of a successful end
I always cried after,

In poem, Astrum, she tells about the simple life of a village and the people living there but which has been affected by war. The poem ‘Postcard’, reveals various emotions related with letters. In poem, ‘as if’, she discusses about Romanian tradition and also of her family history. She talks about the departure from place to another in ‘The West will be for tomorrow’. She speaks:

The journey from east to west
before the sign of your parents.
abadoned in a corner of the bus station.

The poem reflects the pain when one has leave one’s own country and cross international boundary to another country. There are many things which changes with the change of place.

In Chapter II, the first poem which is the title poem, ‘Words, Under My Skin’, she is revealing her passion for writing poetry as she tells about her motto of her life, “Nothing is more dear to me nor bring me more pleasure”. There are some love poems in the anthology like, ‘Nodes of Water’ and ‘Bach’. In ‘Nodes of Water’, she speaks:

That kind of freshwater, briny, saltwater answers,
speaking drifting on the bracket of the snorkeling couple
where the no said:
yes, stay, I don’t love you

In next poem, ‘Bach’, she talks about accursed love. In ‘The Voices of Habit’, she has displayed one of her motto behind composing verses:

Facing the water, in this rift of words,
I am the buoyancy of all things. (rd)

The poem is very symbolic in tone in which Draghincescu various words conveying symbolic meaning like ‘unexpected sleep’, ‘eyes spell’, ‘lack of meaning’, ‘leaping bite’, ‘slaughters of never day’, ‘words wind’, ‘search of a verb’, ‘sleeping things’, ‘translucent tongue’ and ‘shipload of poets’. This symbolic theme is carried forward in another poem, ‘whatever comes, whatever happens’.

The poem, ‘Chopped Carpet’ is a very tragic and poem, ‘as why’ seems to discuss about an individual’s intention of killing. ‘No’ is a very philosophical poem, at the same time it has an optimistic note. Both ‘No’ and ‘as since’ deals with past, present and future. The poem, ‘Aponia’ is inspired by Socrates’s philosophy, “The only thing I know, is that I know nothing” which poet seems to believe in love. ‘The forgetting of being’, ‘Between Abyss and Abscissa’, ‘oxymoron’ and ‘Cécifoot’ are highly philosophical poem. While ‘The forgetting of being’ deal with the idea of forgetting, ‘Between Abyss and Abscissa’ is about writing verses. In poem, ‘The Monarch Butterfly’ she has compared happiness with that of a butterfly reflecting her inclination towards nature poetry.

The poem, ‘extreme patriotism, exaggerated self-criticism’ is a highly imaginative poem creating a different world. It is a masterpiece poem which has been pen down reflecting poet’s sensitivity towards writing poetry. The last poem, ‘Trans Poetam’, begins with a philosophical line, “But what is beyond the poet is there something?”

Most of the poems in the anthology are subjective in nature exhibiting her desire, emotions and sensitivity pen down beautifully in the forms of verses on myriad themes. Some of the verses reflect pains and sufferings present in human lives in various forms. Draghincescu speaks about her passion behind writing poetry in ‘Ars Poetica’ as she says:

I write poetry so as not to live.
I write poetry so as not to kill.
I write poetry to be the moods of my “non being,” my “non having”!

Motto of Rodiga’s writing poetry is, “Poetry is not a roadside hooker that anyone can have for two or three precious words!.”

Michel Bernard, a poet, painter and art critic, highly praises her writings and comments:

“Draghincescu’s writing is very personal, original, strong, constant, moving at her own pace, setting her own meter. In it, we encounter falls, ruptures, blackouts…! The words hammer our consciousness, make us face up to what is obvious in life, the outcome of which eludes us, and perhaps it is better that way.”

He also believes that Draghincescu writings possess postmodern characteristics; her poetry is lucid, without concessions, full of imagery which appears like a beautiful ornament where readers glean from line to line. Though the anthology has been translated into English but the influence of native language is quite visible with the use of many words and this also due to the influence of Poet. This also demonstrates poet’s love for her native language.

Draghincescu believes that, “I don’t write to aim at the target but rather to pierce the mechanism with its pinhole…”


More by :  Dr. Shamenaz Sheikh

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