Monday, November 9, 2015

Writing poetry under tyranny: Nina Cassian (1924-2014)

Nina Cassian

A clean vowel
is my morning,
Latin pronunciation
in the murder of confused time.
With rational syllables
I'm trying to clear the occult mind
and promiscuous violence.
My linguistic protest
has no power.
The enemy is illiterate.
Translated by Brenda Walker and Andre Deletant

Nina Cassian (pen name for the poet born as Renée Annie Katz) was a Romanian born poet, translator and journalist.

She grew up primarily in Bucharest, where her family relocated when she was eleven. 
Her first poetry collection, published in Romania in 1947, was attacked by the Romanian authorities and her work characterised as an 'enemy of the state'.

For a time Cassian tailored her writing to be less controversial, but  secretly wrote satires of the government during the oppressive Ceausescu regime.  

In 1985, Cassian was invited to teach at New York University. She fled Romania during the visit to the USA after a friend was arrested, tortured and killed in Romania. She asked for and was awarded asylum.

Cassian died in New York in 2014.

Articles about Nina Cassian are here, here and here

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