Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 23 March 2009

  • Collected, Selected, Neglected …

    ... My poems ...
    I write them, I forget them, I misplace them! They come back,
    then I change them - though they can’t change the world,
    they change me ... Sometimes they disagree with me.
    They are my inheritance - but who are the heirs?
    Who needs this improbable, almost useless fortune, no matter
                   how poor people are,
    while the great oppressors maintain and adore others’ poverty?
    Why should I collect them (some of them are really pitiful)?
    Why should I select them (am I the impartial judge of their
                   supposed value)?

    Better neglect them, those rags of paper and words, leave them
                   on their own.

    We disappear in the chilly global warming
    of Stepmother Earth ...

    by Nina Cassian

    © Nina Cassian 2008
    from Continuum (Anvil, 2008)

    Nina Cassian has been living in New York since 1985, when she was warned not to return to Romania, then still under Ceausescu's iron grip, from a trip abroad. An involuntary exile, she quickly began to learn English - to such good effect that her latest collection of poems is her first composed entirely in English. (Her last collection had mixed her own original English with translations by others, and before that her poems were only published in translations.)

    This is perhaps not a typical Cassian poem, but its wry humour is attractive. The apparent modesty about her poems is not, I think, self-deprecatory but a perfectly serious self-assessment of their place in the greater scheme of things. Question: why Stepmother, rather than Mother, Earth?

    Anvil Press Poetry was founded in 1968 and publishes English-language poetry and poetry in translation, both classic and modern.