Poetry in Transylvania

David Baker

Sibiu, Romania, is an ancient city, one of seven walled citadel-cities built in the twelfth century by the Germanic Saxons. It’s a gorgeous place, modern and ancient at once, nestled among foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in central Romania, and for five days in September 2014, it served as home for Poets in Transylvania, a new festival hosted by the poet Radu Vancu and his friend, the literary critic Dragos Varga.

We came from three continents and about fifteen countries. We were teachers, editors, scientists, journalists, dancers, copywriters, politicians, and we were all poets, emerging and established, male and female. We read aloud to each other and to the citizens of Sibiu, we met in bookstores, taverns, and restaurants, we translated, we compared notes and books and poems and reading lists, and we talked and talked.

Most of the poetry we offer in the Kenyon Review comes—by submission, occasionally by solicitation—from Anglophone writers. But we hope to offer ongoing selections of poetry in translation, too, from around the world. Rarely do we have the opportunity to find so many voices from so many cultures at once. It was my privilege to serve as one of three American poets at the Sibiu festival and my pleasure now to present a small sample of the work we shared.

Here are English translations of four of the Sibiu poets and a fifth in the original English. I hope you can hear the unique sounds of each poet—Ukrainian, Turkish, Romanian, and Israeli—as you hear the echo of each language with its distinct idiom, manner, and rhetoric. We’re grateful to feature Radu Vancu here, whose modesty didn’t permit his participation as a poet at the festival he co-curated.

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