‘I had the courage to work at the very root of evil:’ 3 poems by Romanian poet Mariana Marin

11 February 2022

Among Romanian literary circles, Mariana Marin (1956-2003) is considered one of the brightest beacons of light, both for her poetic gift and her resolute civic spirit in communist and post-communist Romania. She published her first poetry collection, A Hundred Years War, in 1981, winning the debut prize of Romania’s Writers’ Union. Marin then went on to contribute to a collective, generational anthology, Five (1982) and write four more poetry collections to great acclaim. The three poems below are selected from Paper Children, a volume that brings together her work in English, translated by Adam J. Sorkin for Ugly Duckling Presse.


​​Destiny

Written by Mariana Marin and translated by Adam J. Sorkin


They were in love,

but not because they saw each other only once in a while –

as was recorded much later.

They were in love because they had the very same fear

and the very same cruelty.

They took long walks in the old parts of town

and they rehearsed one another’s future.

/ dust and powder,

dust… /


Elegy XIV

Written by Mariana Marin and translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Mia Nazaria


You don’t even know:

I’ve started all over from the beginning

the way morning cleans up insomnia’s crumbs

and lays on your table a fiery life.

I had the courage to work at the very root of evil

and exactly there to establish the studios of

“the person who would draw nearer the self,”

who would conquer nothing but truth,

its own paltry tale.

Look at me!

I’m a little uglier and a little more absurd.

I seldom laugh and hardly ever speak.

Much too late I again reach out this hand to you.

And you, do you hear the blizzard already sweeping away our future?


M.M.

Written by Mariana Marin and translated by Adam J. Sorkin


The lines on the palm of my left hand

appear the mirror image of the lines on my right.

I don’t know what this would mean to a palm-reader.

It’s as though they came into the world in prayer.


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