My Interview with Romanian poet Elena Liliana Popescu:
Mainak: You were born in Turnu Măgurele. Please tell us something about your childhood memories that might have influenced you afterwards.
Elena: I was born in Turnu Măgurele, but when I was four, my parents moved to Buzau, where they settled and lived there till 1990, then they moved to Bucharest where they lived till the last part of life. I am sure that these first four years of my life left me some vague memories which had little impression on me. I think that the years later I spent in Buzau contributed most to my formation ( influence): the years in elementary school when the teacher tried to approach the first readings, then the years in high school when our teachers introduced us the basic disciplines, step by step, for the formation of later part of our culture, and the years in college when the basic culture of the students in which period we belonged to was formed.
Mainak: Tell us something about your reading habit in your growing years.
Elena: As I grew up, especially during the college years, some aspirations began to take shape to continue studying after finishing college within a university, valuing knowledge which was assimilated step by step and our preferences to the disciplines which attracted us more.
Mainak: When have you started writing? How did you come to this world of writing? Any political or social incident or the stimulation of inner passion ?
Elena: I started writing at the age of 17 years, when I was a first year student at the Faculty of mathematics in the University of Bucharest. An inner impulse was unleashed then, caused by some emotions, feelings and sensations where I lived in that epoch. Those feelings generated by the sensitivity that I had since my birth, found an unprecedented way to express themselves through poetry.
Mainak: Many of your poems have an inherent sense of stability that is almost as serene as immortality. Under the restless international circumstances, as a poet, where do you find this serenity?
Elena: This stability, or balance, previously noted, may be related to the study and my profession, mathematics help to sort thinking power, to improve concentration and simplicity and sobriety in the expression. But it may be related to my experience of life where ongoing research effort tries to understand what I am actually, it has played an increasingly important role. The constant and fervent search for the true nature beyond the anguish and suffering which are manifested in the world, you will increase the strength to fight more and you've addressed that point to support for everything what we build on this earth.
Mainak: Do you think that poetry should have a sense of liability to its contemporary or future readers?
Elena: It must show a sense of responsibility in everything we do. Your experience of life is expressed through poetry writing- in another way, generated and generator of sensitivity where it rhymes sometimes, but the rhythm is always present. You are, therefore, responsible for what is written, about all those who come in contact with what you write, and you are responsible for all the thoughts, words and actions.
Mainak: You have a vast experience as a translator also. How has this experience of translating authors/poets enriched you?
Elena: The translation from one language to your mother tongue helps to bring the readers in your country of what you think, it is useful to know, helping them to cross the barrier of not knowing the language (by some of them) in which the given text is written. For those who know multiple languages - so many doors open to other cultures, literature, the experiences of life from other places and times - the acquired experience through translations from one language to another is richer and it welcomes the readers. The work of the translators is never appreciated enough, in reality they are who re-create the original work of the author in another outfit.
Mainak: Irrespective of languages, please name some of your favorite poets.
Elena: Omar Khayyam, Rumi, Dante Alighieri, Juan de la Cruz, William Shakespeare, Goethe, Friedrich von Schiller, Victor Hugo, Edgar Alain Poe, Mikhail Lermontov, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Rabindranath Tagore, Rudyard Kipling, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rubén Dario etc.
Mainak: Have you ever lived anywhere outside Romania? If so, did you try to experiment with your poetry at that new environment or stick to your roots—in terms of using locale words related to people, culture, landscape etc.?
Elena: For a small period of time I was outside the country, not more than a few weeks. Sometimes, I wrote poems inspired by the vivid mood of my staying in that different environment from my family, sometimes I get inspiration from the picturesque landscapes or some works of art from these countries.
Mainak: Does music have any role in your poetry? What kind of music do you like?
Elena: Music plays an important role in my poetry, not always directly, i.e., harmony in any genre of inspired music , perhaps at a particular time of life can touch a chord of sensitive soul and create a conducive environment for poetic inspiration.
Mainak: Do you think it may have grown difficult for poetry to confine itself within the written form of words to express the ardor—caused by the growing distress in the human society, irrespective of borders?
Elena: The poetry was initially expressed orally, to convey a type of knowledge, teaching, and the rhyme helped it to be memorized more easily. It was initiatory poetry through which religious and spiritual texts were transmitted. Gradually poetry was expressed in various forms, as fixed or free verse, and several states of mood were sent through poetry and the poets wrote about fundamental or personal issues. Humanity and every human being passed and undergo painful experiences which help them to understand more and more the role to be played by each one to perfect himself or herself to aid in the construction of a better world.
Mainak: There have been many experimentations throughout the world; e.g. visual poetry, video installation of poetry etc. to strengthen the usability purpose. Have you ever been involved in any such experimentation?
Elena: Poems can be written in fixed forms, classical, forming verses in order to get the rhyme, rhythm, or they contain a number of syllables in compliance with more or less rigid rules and techniques, which put to the test the ability of a person who dares to follow them. Others put the words, the verses of mold built specifically to suit a certain image, to reveal more some nuances.
I am not concerned with writing in some way, the poetry that I receive in a subtle manner and I express it then through words which can express themselves with or without rhyme, as the poetry wants, rhythm comes by itself, and it is not my intention to write about a topic or another.
Mainak: Every language has a blind spot—a distance from another language that makes the work of translating poetry very challenging. Please share your experience with us.
Elena: The translator's work is heavy, the translator of poetry is very difficult, because you have to be able to reproduce as faithfully not only ideas, but also some musicality- when it exists -in the original poetry, the fact that could come back to re-create it in the new outfit.
Mainak: Through your writing, do you consciously communicate with your readers? Or, are you still delving through the eternal quest to find one’s ultimate journey?
Elena: The dialogue is permanent: when it is written, it implicitly communicates with the reader, although, paradoxically, any writing is a dialogue with itself at the same time. Sometimes the dialogue is created explicitly when readers question about the poetry that is written, the author tries to answer them.
Mainak: What did you inspire to write the eternal volume of poems 'DACĂ AI ŞTI' ?
Elena: Many years ago, my husband, Nicolas Popescu, great mathematician and academic, had the idea of publishing multilingual volumes of poetry. He had published ,at that time, some bilingual volumes, and several poems circulated through various literary magazines in other countries, in many languages more or less large-circulation, thanks to the translators who believed in this poetry. Nicholas intuited that this type of simple and direct poetry which already had some impact on the soul of readers in other countries through literary magazines would be nice to be published in multilingual volumes.
After five years of his demise, I published this volume, dedicated to him. The volume contains 22 short poems in Romanian and they were translated into 28 languages.
Mainak: What kind of promotion and dissemination does the art get in your country (the commercial circuit)?
Elena: I think that there is no major difference between modes of work in the promotion and distribution of art in Romania, compared to those in other countries.
The poetry still exists thanks to the poets, they will continue to write in this world that is suffering. Poetry will continually being translated through translators, and it will continue to be published thanks to the editors and those who finance the publication of poetry. The Internet helps a lot to maintain the alert rhyme of the dialogue between the editors and the authors, writers, authors and readers, and even if the physical publication is not easy to achieve, the virtual publication completes it so that poetry can reach at readers faster than earlier days.
We are writing a lot, these writings come to those who wait for them, in one way or another, these writings will jostle the time, and the poetry will continue to be deserved to stay.