Wheel With a Single Spoke and Other Poemsby Nichita Stănescu
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2013 Best Translated Book Award Winner in Poetry
Winner of the Herder Prize, Nichita Stănescu was one of Romania’s most celebrated contemporary poets. This dazzling collection of his poems—the most extensive collection of his work to date—reveals a world in which heavenly and mysterious forces converse with the everyday and earthbound, where love and passion and a quest for truth are central, and urgent questions flow. His startling images stretch the boundaries of thought. His poems, at once surreal and corporeal, lead us into new metaphysical and linguistic terrain.
Tell me, if I ever caught you
and kissed the arch of your foot,
wouldn’t you limp a little after that
for fear of crushing my kiss?…
There is, in the being of Nichita Stanescu, a strange mixture of an almost religious respect for poetry and an almost cynical surrender to reality ... Nichita Stanescu demonstrates a characteristic mode of being a poet in our world.
— Eugen Simion
The novelty of Nichita Stanescu's poetry was clear from his first book, even if only in superficial ways. His manner of speaking about himself and the world were, more than anything, shocking. What could resemble the lyrical anatomies of the poet innocently aware of his own body? Knees blossomed, arms sprayed like snakes, panthers and lions emerged from shoulders, dreams stuck in the temples, light in the skeleton, hands moved sunrays, the ring-finger clanked against the middle. An imponderability of things: jumping, dancing, floating, flying? His poetry imagined a world without gravity, immaterial, diaphanous, in which objects slipped from one form into another, one shape to another like mysterious fluids; and at the same time one in which states of the soul are substances and dense, in which feelings touch, hit, and hurt each other.
— Nicolae Manolescu
Nichita Stanescu is the most important post-World War II poet of Romania. With him, through him, the logos of the Romanian language takes revenge on its poets.
— Stefan Augustin Doinas
The greatest contemporary Romanian poet.
— Tomaž Šalamun
Nichita Stanescu blasted open the prison-gates of Socialist realism in Romanian poetry, and all of us rushed out, reveling in the freedom he gave us. His poems display an astounding brillliance that time has not tarnished. These splendid translations by Sean Cotter will introduce English speakers to a universal genius.
— Andrei Codrescu, author of So Recently Rent a World: New and Selected Poems
For those – sadly most of us – unacquainted with this brilliant post-World War II Romanian poet’s prolific accomplishment, this selection should prove a revelation. During a historical period of all-too-familiar repression and enforced orthodoxy, his work surged off the page with that liberty only the most gifted and courageous artists possess, giving the lie to the lies around him, and the slant truths of poetry to his listeners.
— Michael Palmer
Stănescu has a gift for creating active, startling images. . . In Wheel With a Single Spoke ... Stănescu is at his best; he examines the nature of time, space and geometry, and in the friction between science and lyric impulse, produces some of his most beautiful lines. We’re lucky that, nearly thirty years after his death, his voice still comes through, clearer than ever.
— Words Without Borders
For a poet who is thought of as one of the defining Romanian voices of the mid-20th century, Stănescu is poorly represented in English … Archipelago’s fuller treatment is long overdue. Stănescu is one of the poets who broke through the socialist-realism sound barrier and propelled Romanian poetry into new spheres. He has been revered for decades in Romania as a great voice and it is our considerable good fortune that Cotter has helped us to see why.
— The Arts Fuse
Cotter’s versions [of Stanescu's poems] ... put back into circulation one of twentieth century Europe’s leading voices.
A good translation of Stănescu’s poems was long overdue, and Cotter’s mastery of Romanian subtleties is perfect, equal to the craftsman’s skill.
— Bogdan Suceavă, Los Angeles Review of Books
Read about the Best Translated Book Award here.