Modern Poetry in Translation’s 2021 Writers in Residence, Cătălina Stanislav and Sam Riviere, are pleased to introduce this online workshop sponsored by the European Cultural Foundation, on the poem ‘Loredana’ by Romanian poet Deniz Otay.
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Original poem by
Dimineața părăsesc o locuință
care nu e a mea
și nu e plătită de mine
traversând puhoiuri dintr-o micuță groapă
din care aștept să vină dumnezeu
să mă scoată.
Fac drumul spre fabrică.
E o putere să ceri de la corp adaptare
și tot de la corpul înghesuit în autobuz
printre proletariatul distrus,
elevii cu ochii umflați,
să te țină în bunăstare.
La orele astea
pe sub layers, ca muncitorii din fabrică
când trec podul spre fabrică
sau calea ferată cu câini vagabonzi
și frică de antitetanos
oare cât sunt de frumoasă,
Cum îți vine halatul muncitoresc,
prințesă extrasă din petreceri
și trai vegetal,
alunecând între ființe estice, buhăite
pe care nu le iubesc.
Despre experimentalism și mistică
e numai viața pe mess,
când trec poarta la fabrică
nu am autorități interne,
ierarhii de iubire.
Suntem dizgrațios de apropiați și
ieșiți din case după bani
Viața la pontaj pune ceață
peste viața iluminaților privilegiați.
Au fost ani cu splendoare
continui să cred că a fost halucinație
și că munca e forță.
Însă dacă e să aleg –
suprema fericire derivată din carduri
diavoli și lux
în fața voastră mă plec.
In the morning I leave a dwelling
that is not mine
and is not paid by me
passing by floods of people in a small pothole
where I wait for god
to help me out of there.
I make my way to the factory.
It is a power to ask the body to adapt
also to ask the body, crammed in a bus
among the destroyed proletariat,
students with swollen eyes,
to keep you intact.
At these hours
under layers, just like factory workers
when I pass the bridge to the factory
or the railway tracks with stray dogs
and fear of tetanus shots
I wonder how beautiful I am,
am I, still?
How does the worker coat fit you,
princess drawn out from parties
and plant-based lives,
gliding amidst puffy faced eastern beings
that I do not love.
About experimentalism and mysticism,
is only life on messenger,
when I pass by the factory gate
I do not have internal authorities,
hierarchies of love.
We are ungracefully close and
out of the house for money
life on the clock casts fog over
the life of the illuminated privileged
There were years with splendour
I continue to believe it was hallucination
and labor equals force.
But if I were to choose –
the supreme happiness coming out of cards
devils and luxury
Before you I bow.
Help on translating this poem
Deniz Otay (b. 1993) was born in Suceava, Romania and has lived and studied in Cluj-Napoca and Bucharest, where she currently lives. Deniz has published poems in literary magazines in Romania since she was a teenager. Before the release of her first and only poetry book, Fotocrom Paradis (OMG Publishing, 2020), which also received two of the most important literary prizes in Romania (the Mihai Eminescu Literary Award for debut poetry and the Sofia Nădejde Literary Award for Literature Written by Women), Deniz had stopped writing for a number of years, as a law student and for some time after she graduated. Recently, Deniz has started writing again, experimenting with a voice that is so unique in contemporary Romanian literature that it has undoubtedly become hers. It is a voice that is regarded as innovative, neutral – likened to Siri even – but the tone of her poems is also confessional, biographical. Fotocrom Paradis, although at first sight about a lifestyle of parties and people, is also candid, unrelenting and fragile at the same time.
‘Loredana’ is by far Deniz’s biggest ‘hit’ poem, widely quoted and posted on social media ever since people laid hands on her book. ‘Loredana’ is a biographical poem that, in a way, encompasses the spirit of her poetry debut book. She wrote it on the bus, on the way home from the factory she worked at as a secretary – her first job after graduating Law School. Everyone’s first shitty job, that is. Not only does it paint a vivid picture of a post-industrial Eastern-Europe, but it also has a story. A story about a girl’s walk home from a job she dislikes, a painful and morbidly dull reality-check. A poem about two-timing a bleak reality with an existence made of stroboscopes, shades of pink light, dreamlike rhythms and lustre.
Notes from the translator
I originally translated this poem communicating with Deniz along the way, but for the purpose of this workshop, I redid a ‘literal’ translation for this poem, to serve as a canvas, so that different, creative versions could flow from it.
I tried to keep Deniz’s inversions although they may sound odd in English, but this is a poem where you can play with the topic a lot. For instance, in the verses ‘It is a power to ask the body to adapt | also to ask the body, crammed in a bus’, I would normally have placed the verb in a gerund form at the beginning of the verse in the first verse, and ‘power’ at the end, the topic of the second and the following verses can be modified too, it’s easy to play with this section. For the word ‘destroyed’ many alternatives can be found. ‘Distrus’ in Romanian literally means ‘destroyed’ in English, but the sense there is closer to ‘messed up’ or ‘exhausted’. For ‘plant-based lives’ the actual literal translation would have been ‘vegetal living’, but I chose to go with the sense of this particular line, as I felt it would have changed its meaning to stick to the literal translation.
‘Messenger’ refers to Facebook messenger and although the original poem uses the shortcut version ‘mess’, I felt it makes little sense outside Romania, where this shortcut is common in spoken and written casual language. Finally, ‘cards’ refers to credit or debit cards.