Sunday, September 21, 2008

An interview with poet Dorin Popa, Romania

I came to know Dorin Popa for the first time thanks to some photographs he sent through internet of Christmas (2007) in Iasi. And this, again, through my contacts with Teresinka Pereira. Last May/June I went on an educational visit to Iasi but could not meet Prof. Popa because we were both busy with other things. However, I managed to give him a set of poetry books written by the members of the Maltese Poets Association.

Prof. Dorin Popa was available from the first e-mail I sent him. He was delighted when I sent him the following questions to answer.

1. As a poet do you believe that there is a place where things are not "cracked, dull and decayed"? How do you react to people saying that poets are only dreamers?

D.P.: When I was younger, I thought such a place couldn’t exist. I thought that indeed everything is "cracked, dull and decayed" in this world. Back then, although I believed in love, I couldn’t picture and I couldn’t really understand the heavenly power of love. I did not know that love could even revive the dead people. I think the place you’re asking me about is in the hearts and souls of people. Of all people, not just of those of poets. I do not look like Don Quijote, although I respect him very much and I think he is still traveling among us. Poetry can be our continous proposal, our response to the challenges of reality. And this proposal can be suave, inquiring, friendly or devoid of any rigidity and authoritarianism. Although I believe in poetry, I do not believe in poets. I've never looked in the mirror telling myself that I am writing poems. Poetry is rather a fault, than a jubilation to me.

2. In one of your poems you write: "I want to run away". Run away from what?

D.P.: Run away from my guilt, my childhood, my youth, from everything that I was and I didn’t like to be. I gathered and kept a lot of perplexities about me, during my childhood and youth. I felt like I could have wings, whose extent I could not measure and whose existence I could not approximate. I want to get rid of all my faces that I have not liked.

3. Why is it that poets wish that their poems be published in different languages? In which languages do you directly write your poetry?

D.P.: In Romanian. I write my poems in my native language. Your question about the poets’ wish to be published in different languages is so deep that it could support several levels of response.
1. First of all, there is a joy of communication and meeting with each other.
2. Then, there’s the desire to find out if you are compatible with this world, not only with the world of your own language. When I first sent poems to literary competitions in France, I was less interested in the awards, but in the fact that I can come close to people from other geographical and linguistic spaces, to whom I have something meaningful to say. They could comprehend me and my world, they accept me and my thoughts. This was the first sign showing that I’m not living outside this world, outside its sensitivity – an enormous and positive emotion that I always feel.After communism - when no one could communicate with anyone - all of a sudden, after 1990, I could communicate with this world. I found it fantastic and this emotion never leaves me since then.

4. How important is it for poets to have contacts with other poets all over the world?

D.P.: First, we have the human contact that can be many times awesome. I could not get out of Romania until the age of 40, when I was invited to attend a congress in Portugal where I met leading poets - among them Wole Soyinka, Nobel Prize laureate in 1986. I was going to meet him again after 10 years, in 2005, with the occasion of another important conference in Medellin, Colombia. Albert Camus took a dislike to poets who considered themselves damned. I am not a lover of poets who think they can write poetry in every moment of their existence – from Monday to Sunday. Poetry cannot be achieved and touched in any/every moment of our lives. Most of the cases it’s better to be reluctant against the quality of the poetry that introduces itself too fast. Likewise against the poets who seem to write effortless.

5. As a poet but also as a human being, what are the questions that torment you most? Is there a solution or an answer for them?

D.P.: I have always been fascinated by the infinite opportunities to fool yourself, to lie to yourself, to be blinded by yourself and your "unique" solutions. I believe in every person’s chance to advance, to grow as much as, to cry peccavi and to try it back. Do you think we can ever make a new departure after the moment of birth?

6. Is poetry for you a play on words or does it have to carry a message?

D.P.: Poetry it's a play on words, but on those words expressing the truth. The message, if any, may come solely after the play on words. Not before. Otherwise, poetry disappears in science or politics, ideology, etc.

7. Life and death are 2 words which you often use in your poetry. Why so? What else does poet Dorin Popa write about?

D.P.: I think I started to get close to life and death exactly by using these words – life and death. I might have used them at first unwittingly, wishing to capture everything important. Perhaps I use the word life and the word death more often today precisely because I want to get closer to my death and my life. Actually, one of my obsessions is the fear of loosing them both, of not being truly alive to any of them. I can only write about the depredation that reality carves out in my soul.

8. You are a teacher at the Journalism Dept of Cuza Univ. in Iasi. Is there a common factor which unites the teacher, the journalist and the poet?

D.P.: I always wanted to hide to my students the fact that I’m writing poetry. Anyway, I never talked about poetry at classes and seminars. It seems to me, likely wrong, this is just a matter of mine, intimate, unworthy of being brought up. Therefore, even this year, a graduate confessed that she did not know, all along the years of study, that I write lyrics. This is a problem that I dare to get close to only now. Not to consider poetry a failure, an eczema, an excrescence or an invalidity of my being. Only now, after 50 years, I’m trying to face up to the fact that yes, I write lyrics. I was a journalist for many years and that helps me a lot as a teacher. I think the poet inside is helping me nothing but to love my students, to experience a deep brotherhood beyond any reasons of age, status etc.

9. Describe in brief: a. Dorin Popa as person; b. the city you live in.

a. Associate Professor, Department of Journalism and Communication Sciences, Faculty of Letters, University Al.I.Cuza, Iasi. Ph.D. in Humanities, specialty Philology. Master of Journalism. B.S. in Physics. Peer evaluation expert of the Romanian National University Research Council (CNCSIS, 2004-present) and the Romanian Agency for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ARACIS, 2007-present), the Socio-Human and Economics Sciences Committee.He has published 7 books in the field of Journalism and Communication, over 20 volumes of poetry (original and in translation in over 10 languages) and 3 volumes of interviews with great Romanian personalities. He has been invited to numerous prestigious international festivals (Medellin / Colombia, Chile, London / UK, Havana / Cuba, Los Angeles / USA) and organized 2 international congresses in Romania. He was editor, secretary general, editor-in-chief and deputy chief editor at the magazine Dialogue of the University "Al. I. Cuza "(1979-1983), editor-in-chief at Time magazine, Iasi (1990), editor of the publishing house of the "Al. I. Cuza” University, Iasi (1990-1992), first editor (columnist) at the Contemporanul magazine, Bucharest, pathronized by the Romanian Ministry of Culture (1991-1999), head of the cultural department at the newspaper Monitorul / Ziarul de Iasi (1992-1997), director of the radio talk-show Comprehension’ Exercises, Radio North-East, Iasi (1998-2000). Member of the Romanian Writers Union, of AFJC (Association of Trainers of Journalism and Communication), AROSS (Romanian Association for Semioctics - founder).

b. The city of Iasi, in north-eastern Romania, was mentioned in documents for the first time by Alexandru cel Bun (Alexander the Good), being a remarkable educational centre and preserving some beautiful pieces of architecture, like Trei Ierarhi Church and the neo-Gothic Palatul Culturii (Palace of Culture) (the place where are to be found four museums: the History Museum, the Technology Museum, the Ethnography Museum and the Art Museum). Many buildings in the old city center were demolished during the Communist regime, with a few Soviet-style blocks of flats, but also some recent modern buildings, like “Petre Andrei” University or “Europa” Hotel built instead.
Many great cultural personalities have their roots in Iasi: Ion Creanga, Mihail Kogalniceanu, Gheoghe Asachi, Mihail Sadoveanu, Octav Bancila and so on.
The local authorities organize each year an extraordinary festival, in the middle of October: the festival of Iasi, called “Sarbatorile Iasiului”. This is also the time of a religious pilgrimage at Saint Parascheva’s relics. Sometimes there come even a million persons from our country and from abroad.


had things not hit me
with such fury
I might not have seen them
I might have never cared about
my sadness - my joy
sometimes I am allowed to see
how evil mingles with good
how from their combination
everything comes to life
my death - my life
I would have never found the way to you
if I hadn’ t wandered about
if so many nights hadn’ t blinded me
if I hadn’ t found comfort in loneliness
sometimes in the middle of the tempest
deep silence overwhelms me
and while I am hit, battered and slashed
I can see in silence
how my death feeds my life


“There is a worm hidden in the Cosmos”
( Constantin Noica )

even though things are stained
in wonder I notice:
they are still getting further stained
no one ever stops,
no one ever advances.

very closely
a pure sound passed
those that can still hear it
hasten to forget it
quando stramazzavo credevo di innalzarmi
ero malato, incantato dai miei propri confini
una voce di dentro - straniera - mi sussurava
che dentro era fuori, mentre il fuori si trovava
profondamente dentro.
poi ti ho scorto per la prima volta
molto dopo che ti avevo stretto fortemente in braccio
il mio pensiero ti ha scelto ed io scelgo sempre te.
ogni momento scopro di vivere dentro di te ma
me ne allontano per non perderti.
mi avvicino alla vecchiaia e continuo a nascondere
sotto l´abito
i miei vagiti di bambino
Dio, rimango sempre indietro !
la malinconia ed il vuoto
il mio universo troppo piano
gli ostacoli e l´incertezza
per me
lo spavento viene a trovarmi
insieme alla speranza
neanche un secolo se vivessi
non mi basterebbe per
piangere in terra
fino alla fine
questa mia vita
che e` sul punto di sfuggirmi.

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